OverDrive is Getting Rid of DRM on Audiobooks

DRM Sucks

OverDrive is the leading distributor of ebooks and audiobooks to schools and libraries. They make borrowing ebooks from libraries easy for anyone with an ebook reader, tablet, computer or phone. And soon borrowing audiobooks is going to be a lot easier too.

Earlier this week, OverDrive announced on their blog that they are going to discontinue distribution of DRM-encrypted WMA files for audiobooks. Instead they are going to solely use the much more widely-compatible DRM-free MP3 format. This will make is so audiobooks will have a wider reach on more platforms.

OverDrive users will still be prompted to delete MP3s when the lending period is over, and they’ll expire in the OverDrive app, but the MP3s are still DRM-free.

Most of OverDrive’s ebooks are already in MP3 format so the transition should be smooth. OverDrive is working with publishers that require them to use WMA files, trying to convince them to go with MP3.

The only downside to this is if those publishers refuse to go to DRM-free MP3, then OverDrive may be forced to drop them from their catalog. OverDrive has this to say about that: “In the event that some titles are unavailable, an alternate solution will be offered to make up for the lost titles.” Not sure what that means exactly but I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

It’s good to see OverDrive standing up and making the transition to DRM-free because they can see how much more that benefits users by being able to enjoy the audio titles on any OverDrive app, and not just the platforms that support WMA. Now if only ebooks could follow the same path…

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7 Responses to “OverDrive is Getting Rid of DRM on Audiobooks”

  1. Did you see the update? The mp3 files have DRM.

    • I don’t think that’s what the update means exactly. OverDrive users will still be prompted to delete MP3s when the lending period is over, and they’ll expire in the OverDrive app, but the MP3s can be transferred to other devices beforehand and still work after the expiration date—that’s how it works now with MP3s anyway. I guess maybe there could be some form of watermark DRM implemented perhaps, but that won’t affect the users in such a way as to create a problem listening the audiobooks on any MP3 device of their choosing.

  2. Nathan, is this change at Overdrive due to a service of audiobooks known as One Click digital? My library has both of these.

    Also, is this the precursor to getting rid of DRM on ebooks for Overdrive. The articles on Adobe changing DRM you’ve recently written makes me go hmmmm… something is up or is coming! And it makes me want to go Kindle as well!

    • Not sure about OneClick digital because I haven’t heard of them before, other than my library says they’ve discontinued OneClick in favor of OverDrive.

  3. I don’t see where they addressed the big question.

    Currently, WMA audiobooks are available in unlimited quantities. A library can have 500 copies checked out at once. MP3 audiobooks, however, are available in limited quantities. Only “x” copies can be checked out per rental period — there being no way to “return” an audiobook early — and long reservation queues can form on the more popular titles.

    If they’re going to retain the copy limits on MP3, this is going to be a backwards step.

    • Perhaps, but in 5 minutes you can discover how many devices are being sold that play WMA ut of the box…. espeiclally worldwide. Not sure how this isn’t still a step in the right direction.

  4. It’s about time! Try explaining what WMA is to older library patrons or troubleshooting why it’s not working over the phone!