Downloadable Audiobooks that don't come with anti-purchase protection
December 22, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I want to listen to audiobooks, hopefully better than the self-help chicken-soup or Tales Of The Rapture or bodice-ripping fare I can find at my local big-box bookstore. Without a DRM-enabled machine like Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh, it seems my only choice is Librivox. What other options do I have for downloadable audiobooks without the DRM crippling that bravely protects products from my purchasing power?

I already mentioned Librivox, and for my music downloads I've been enjoying eMusic which is delightfully OS-neutral, although their selection in audiobooks leaves something to be desired. Their music selection started out poor, improved over the years, but I don't want to wait years for eMusic to finish negotiating with the publishing syndicates!
posted by Mozai to Shopping (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My library, and probably yours, has hundreds of audiobooks, and you don't have to download them. Do you wish to own these books, or just listen to them once?
posted by MtDewd at 11:52 AM on December 22, 2008

Doesn't answer the question, but my local library system has an excellent selection of audiobooks. Yours may have an equally good selection. In addition, Amazon sells a wide selection of used audiobooks on CD at prices that are often as low or lower than the price of downloadable content. Some authors (Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton, to name two) sell audiobooks directly, without DRM.

Most major book publishers simply haven't agreed to make their downloadable audiobooks available in DRM-free format.
posted by cnc at 11:53 AM on December 22, 2008

Best answer: My regional library cooperative offers members access to Overdrive which offers a few DRM-free MP3 audiobooks. They always highlight a few right on the front page under "NOW PLAYING - MP3 Audiobooks!".

Check with your local library.

I've heard the NY Public Library also offers access to Overdrive, and you can get a nonresident library card for $100.
posted by exhilaration at 12:01 PM on December 22, 2008

My fiance just listened to "The Death of Socrates" (which he checked out from our local library) which was really good.
posted by amtho at 12:02 PM on December 22, 2008

Overdrive has options for windows/mac users only because they make you use a stupid downloader program to get the files. Please let your library know in a nice way (I am a librarian) that this is a bad choice and maybe they can politely lean on the vendor. That said, this is not a solution for you at this time UNLESS you want to see if the library can download the MP3s for you (we do this at my library for people but it's a small rural library) which is an option. I'm a fan of the burn-audiobook-to-laptop option but that's not everyone's cup of tea.
posted by jessamyn at 12:40 PM on December 22, 2008

I am a network tech at a library. We have these devices that have the audiobook already on them.

They are these cheap mp3 player like device built specifically for audio books. When you take them out you get the headphones and fresh batteries. works just like an mp3 player.

You should check if your local library has it. I am sure if not your local library should atleast have audio books on cd.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:49 PM on December 22, 2008

Best answer: offers a big collection of free audiobooks, just asking for donations if you enjoy the books. It's effectively a self-publishing site so quality can be a bit patchy- no problem though, just read the reviews and listen to an episode/chapter. FWIW, I liked the Quarter Share series, Mur Lafferty's books and New World Orders. Nothing that'll challenge and change your worldview so far, but entertaining and free!
posted by metaBugs at 12:53 PM on December 22, 2008

Also, and I'm sorry to belabor this too terribly much but the OverDrive Media Console IS installable on a Linux box using WINE. So, um, you could potentially download [non-DRMed] MP3s from OverDrive using the media console running in an emulator. It's letter of the law okay as far as not using DRMed machines, I think. [instructions: 1, 2]
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on December 22, 2008

Response by poster: yeah, someone suggested WINE to me before, but the DRM of Audible means I can't play it on my mp3 player either. A bit like making a book only legible if you are sitting in a particular chair, which you purchased from a particular store.

I'm investigating my local library. So far the only items I've found that resemble audiobooks are government documents. Will continue to look.
posted by Mozai at 1:39 PM on December 22, 2008

You can use WINE + OverDrive + their MP3 selections (they have both WMV files which have DRM and MP3 files which don't) and you avoid DRM if your library uses OverDrive. I think it's far from perfect but it will work and the MP3s play on any MP3 player. I can't speak to what Audible does but I'm pretty well acquainted with OverDrive. You know that Hugh McGuire the guy that heads the Librivox project lives in Montreal, yes?
posted by jessamyn at 1:53 PM on December 22, 2008

All the Creative mp3 players support Audible. I have the Creative Zen X-Fi, which supports bookmarks and fast-forward/reverse within tracks, which you'll definitely want if you listen to audiobooks. You can buy used audiobooks on CD at Amazon, eBay,, etc., then rip them easily to mp3 for portable or bedtime listening (the Zen also has a sleep timer, which is very useful). Also see this Giganews page.
posted by Susurration at 4:13 PM on December 22, 2008

Once you have Overdrive, you're not limited to the downloadable MP3 selections. You could use a WMA to MP3 converter. Also, if you're going the "rip audiobook to CDs" route, you're not limited to the audiobooks your library owns. Just go to Worldcat, find the audio books you want, and ask your librarian to get them for you on interlibrary loan.
posted by Joleta at 9:14 PM on December 22, 2008

I second the Podiobooks recommendation. There are also quite a few podcasts that release short stories for free-- Podcastle (fantasy) and Escape Pod (scifi) are both very good, and I've heard good things about Pseudopod, though I'm not really into horror. All of those release a new story every week.

If you're looking for recommendations of specific stories on Podiobooks, check out Mur Lafferty's Heaven series, her superhero novel Playing for Keeps, Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe, and Matthew Selznick's Brave Men Run. (Though do poke around and see what else you're interested in-- it's not like you'll lose money trying one you don't like :))
posted by NoraReed at 10:00 PM on December 22, 2008

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