image Kudos to OverDrive for offering DRM-free audiobooks in MP3 through its partnership with Borders. Sales start in May.

Let’s hope that experimentation with DRMless e-books follows—and not just at Borders. OverDrive is a leading provider of library e-books, and I hope it will look beyond retailers, with adjustments in library business models if need be.

DRM vs. none

Might some library e-books be available for “permanent” checkout and use social DRM and digital watermarks to discourage posting to P2P networks? DRM makes library e-books a nightmare for many readers to enjoy, especially if they use imagemore than one device. The technology also means that taxpayers must spend more money—directly or indirectly—on tech support.

Backing off on DRM would help address the issues that the Free Software Foundation is having with the Boston Library—see Defective by Design‘s writeup. It would also whet people’s appetite for nonDRMed books from standard retail outlets, since libraries can’t buy everything.

Ahead is the OverDrive news release. Meanwhile major thanks to Ed Klopek for spotting it.

OverDrive to Distribute MP3 Audiobooks to Booksellers and Libraries

Download audiobooks compatible with iPod, Zune, and thousands of MP3 players

Cleveland, OH) – March 19, 2008 – OverDrive® (www.overdrive.com), the leading digital book distributor to online retailers, libraries, and schools, announced today that it will expand its catalog of download audiobooks to include titles in MP3 format without DRM. Borders, Inc. (NYSE: BGP) will be the first bookseller to offer OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks without DRM at http://audiobooks.borders.com and at Digital Centers inside select Borders store locations. OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will be compatible with nearly every MP3 player and mobile phone on the market including iPod, Zune, iPhone, and Creative Labs products.

OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will go on sale in May at Borders.com with thousands of best-selling titles from Random House Audio, Blackstone Audiobooks, Hachette Book Group, Books In Motion, plus dozens of other publishers. The new catalog of MP3 titles for retail will be added to OverDrive’s catalog of approximately 20,000 DRM-protected digital audiobooks and over 100,000 eBooks in popular formats.

“OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will dramatically increase the market for download spoken word titles through our global retail network,” said Erica Lazzaro, OverDrive Senior Licensing Counsel. “Publishers, authors, and customers will benefit from MP3 compatibility of audiobooks with millions of mobile phones and MP3 players including the iPod.”

OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks are engineered for ease-of-use, convenient navigation, and simple transfer to portable players. Long unabridged audiobooks are divided into parts for easy access by both dial-up and broadband users, simple point-and-click transfer to portable players, and easy burning to CD. OverDrive Media Console, a free software program installed on more than 2 million PCs, is specifically designed for audiobooks and includes advanced listening features such as bookmarking and play speed control. OverDrive also plans to release OverDrive Media Console for Mac in conjunction with the launch of OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks.

Following the Borders.com retail launch in May, a limited selection of OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will be added to OverDrive’s extensive library network. OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks for library lending will include thousands of award-winning titles from Blackstone Audio, Books In Motion, CSA Word, and Audio Evolution, among others.

About OverDrive, Inc.

OverDrive is a leading full-service digital distributor and supplier of eBooks, audio books, music, and video. We deliver secure management, DRM protection, and download fulfillment services for hundreds of publishers and institutions (rights holders) and thousands of libraries, schools, retailers, and aggregators serving millions of end users. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, OH. www.overdrive.com