The mp3 audiobook market has been DRM-free for years, and at least part of the audiobook market is going to follow suit. OverDrive, the leading ebook and audiobook supplier for libraries and institutions, has announced that they’re phasing out the WMA format audiobooks in favor of DRM-free mp3.

Aside from minor vendors like Playaway, OverDrive effectively is the the library audiobook market so today’s news is a big deal. Audiobooks in general, and Amazon/Audible in particular, are the last holdouts for DRM in audio. The mp3 music market is DRM-free, and there are even a couple audiobook retailers that have gone DRM-free (Audiobooks .com and And now thanks to OverDrive, library audiobooks are completely DRM-free.

Overdrive going DRM-free for libraries is a massive shift in this market, and marks a turning point in the relationship between the publishers/creators and the technology companies that act as conduits and retail channels for their work. It’s especially great that libraries are getting a break, as they have been royally screwed on electronic books and audiobooks up until now.

Now if only we could convince Amazon to let audiobooks go DRM-free, now that would be great. Audible is the lone holdout retailer/distributor that still insists on DRM, but now that they are all alone maybe we will one day see Audible follow suit.

OverDrive via BoingBoing

image via Readers Bill of Rights


  1. Nate, I would point out, as some of the commenters did when this came up on Boing Boing, that nothing whatsoever in Overdrive’s actual announcement says they’re going “DRM-free.” In fact, the Overdrive announcement has been updated at the top of the page to say:

    **UPDATE: MP3 audiobooks are still being borrowed, and users are prompted to delete when the lending period is over. Titles still expire in the OverDrive app at the end of the lending period.**

    That strongly suggests there will still be DRM of some kind.

    • Drat. I hoped Nate had seen something I hadn’t. I figured the no-DRM meant no expire. That’s one of the reasons I don’t check out audiobooks. I can’t get through most of them in just three weeks. A month or longer is what I need for most books, especially long ones. (How can anyone get through a typical epic fantasy ala Robert Jordan in three weeks?)

  2. Here’s what I suspect:
    When your checkout time expires, the Overdrive Media app won’t play it anymore. If you’ve moved the files from the Overdrive app to a different folder on your device and use a different media player you’ll still be able to listen to them.

    And the reality is, on the detail page for any audiobook, the section under DRM includes “All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.” Having DRM means your device enforced this, no DRM just means they’re trusting you to do it.

    Also, my understanding is that mp3 files can’t have DRM.

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