Over the weekend I made my first and, for the foreseeable future, last purchase from Audible.co.uk.

It seemed like such a good idea; I was doing some work for Distributed Proofreaders and needed some background noise; I didn’t fancy listening to music and couldn’t find a film that I fancied either. I decided to purchase one of the Doctor Who audiobooks that had been recommended to me recently and listen to that instead.

I headed over to Audible, which had also been recommended to me, checked that my MP3 device (an iPod) was compatible, checked that I could access the free samples on the website and then selected the book I wanted (The Stone Rose, by Jaqueline Rayner, read by David Tennant). I signed up for an account and paid for the book.

Then the fun started.

It turns out that all Audible downloads are protected by a form of DRM (Digital Rights Management). This means that you need to use software supplied by Audible in order to “unlock” the files. Since they only supply software that will run on either Microsoft Windows or Apple operating systems, I had now purchased a file that I couldn’t even download to my PC since I use Ubuntu, which is a Linux-based system.

A bit of web-searching and hunting through the Audible support forum confirmed that when they said that all iPods were compatible with their audiobooks, what they actually meant was “all iPods whose owners use iTunes” which is not the same thing at all. In fact, the only way I managed to listen to my newly purchased audiobook at all was to download it via iTunes on Steven’s Mac and burn it to a CD. From there, I can now re-rip it and load it on my iPod if I want to listen to it while I’m on the move.

Suffice to say this is less than convenient and I won’t be doing it again.

DRM doesn’t stop piracy; it just pisses off people who want to use items they’ve purchased in they want that they want to use them rather than the way that the seller wants. There’s a further issue with Audible’s DRM in that they won’t publish audiobooks without DRM even when the book’s author and publisher want them to.

There is one silver lining though, while researching all this, I discovered that emusic (a site I’ve used before for non-DRM music downloads) now does audiobooks as well. I’m off to renew my subscription now.

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