Kindles, DRM and audio books

February 22, 2011

Ugh, DRM makes me so annoyed.

Before your eyes glaze over let’s talk for a  second about a way that library customers  who own a Kindle might use our download service.  A question came up this weekend about the whether the  Kindle can play mp3 audio book files from our download service.

I have heard anecdotally from staff that this is possible, though not having attempted it myself I can’t say whether there are any extra hoops a customer needs to jump through to make it happen.

Some things to know if you get asked about the Kindle and library downloads.

Kindle uses it’s own proprietary DRM to manage downloads.  This DRM is incompatible with the following types of files.

  • EPUB & PDF ebook files and WMA audio book files.

The Kindle is primarily an ebook reader, and since it’s DRM is incompatible with our ebooks, this is the reason that you’ve heard over and over that the Kindle won’t work with our downloads.

When the Kindle2  first came out it had a text to speech feature which made it possible to convert your ebook to an audio book.  It was an automated voice so it was never going to be the listening experience you’d get  from an audio book read by a professional reader, but it was an option.   Not long after that the Author’s Guild objected claiming that Amazon was ripping off authors by creating an audio book without paying royalties for the privilege.

Audio books and the Kindle

5,600 of  the 7,400  downloadable audio books available from the library are WMA files with DRM attached making them incompatible with the Kindle.

The 1,700+ mp3 audio book files may work with the Kindle because they have no DRM software attached.

No DRM = no compatibility problems.

Currently OverDrive lists the Kindle as being incompatible with ebooks, which makes sense for the reasons explained above.   They do NOT list the Kindle as being compatible with mp3 files. Other devices such as the Nook are listed as playing mp3 files but with limited functionality.  This leads me to believe that though it may be possible to play mp3 files on a Kindle there are undoubtedly some bugs that make the experience less than optimal for customers, otherwise the Kindle would be listed as compatible but with a similar qualifier as with the Nook.

SO it may be possible for a customer to listen to these files on their Kindle, but I suspect there may be problems associated with managing the files.  When speaking to customers about Kindles and library downloads be sure to discuss the various formats separately making clear that EPUB & PDF ebooks aren’t going to work because of DRM, and that mp3 files may work, but only because there is no DRM attached to the files.  The library cannot offer technical support for customers attempting to download mp3 files on their Kindle.

posting by jim


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