audiobooks without the DRM

I love audiobooks, but I hate DRM (actually, I think it's an existential threat to humanity), and since Audible requires all its books to be sold with DRM (even when the publishers object), that's left me with limited options -- until 2014, when I discovered Downpour.

Downpour has a huge selection of audiobooks -- pretty much everything that isn't locked up as an Audible exclusive (Audible has a lot of these, including several book-ones of long-running series that they've bought up and then effectively blocked off). They're cheap -- priced competitively with Audible. They're convenient. They have a great subscription service that gives you a discount if you prepurchase one book per month (after a long drought brought on by my refusal to deal with Audible, I've been gorging on many more titles than this!).

Most of all, they're a competitive hedge against Audible. The company controls 90% of the audiobook market and are the sole supplier to Itunes. Amazon, Audible's parent company, isn't shy about squeezing its supply chain when it attains market dominance. The fact that they demand DRM on all their products gives them even more competitive leverage to use against publishers and writers, since every Audible book you buy is locked to Audible's platform, and it's a felony to unlock them and move them to a competing one.

DRM-free protects your investment in audiobooks. If you bought DRM-free CDs in the 1990s and 2000s, you can easily load the music on them onto all the devices you own today and will own tomorrow -- all the major OSes come with free CD ripping software to make this easier for you. But if you bought DRM-locked DVDs before everything went digital, there are no legal products to help you accomplish this trick: Apple (whose Rip, Mix, Burn Itunes app is designed to get your music into your Ios devices for free) wants you to buy all those DVDs again from Itunes -- or you can buy them from Amazon, Hulu, etc. What you can't do is take your stuff with you into the digital age -- not unless you want to lug an increasingly useless DVD player around with you for the rest of time (like being tethered to an 8-track player for all eternity!).

When you buy from Downpour instead of Audible, you get the same book, at the same price, but you get a better product, because you don't have to worry about having it taken away from you by the march of time or the greed of faceless corporations that view you as an ambulatory wallet.

All my audiobooks are available on Downpour, without DRM. Unlike Audible, they respect my decision not to lock you in (Audible flat-out refuses to carry my books unless they are allowed to add their DRM to them). Questions about whether our computers are designed to control us or liberate us will only gain importance from here on in, and I'm so glad to have a retailer I can rely on to be on the right side of that fight.

For the record: Downpour is not a Boing Boing advertiser, and did not ask me to write about them. This post is the result of my sincere affection for the company, its products, and its business practices.