DRM Loophole Found for Audible Audiobooks (?)

DRM Loophole Found for Audible Audiobooks (?) Audiobook DRM It used to be that you could strip Audible DRM by paying for a $30 app or by running the right python script, but now there may be a simpler option.

Andrew Hickey noticed a couple weeks back that Audible gave you different versions of an audiobook based on which OS you were using.

Windows and macOS users downloaded a DRMed AAX file, but when Hickey was browsing the web from a Linux system, he was offered a DRM-free AA file.

Today, while looking through the comments on File770, I noticed someone linking to a free audiobook short story by Ben Aaronovitch, part of his Rivers of London series. It came out yesterday, and is Audible-only (get it here), I got it because I quite like the Rivers books, and I can always listen to it in my web browser, because it’s only twenty-nine minutes, and I’m not going to complain too much about free (to quote from Nez’s Infinite Tuesday, which I reviewed yesterday, “never complain about the air conditioning on a private jet”).

So I got it, and went to the Library section of the Audible website to see how to listen to it in the browser. I saw a “download” link. Just out of interest I thought I’d download the file — if nothing else, I could store the encrypted file until such time as someone *did* write software to crack the encryption.

Being me, I thought “well, as long as I’ve downloaded it, I might as well just see what happens if I try playing it in VLC” — the filename was ARareBookofCunningDeviceUnabridged_mp3[tons of gibberish].aa, so I thought it *might* be just a wrapper round an MP3 file, though that didn’t seem likely given what I know about Audible’s DRM practices.

I tried it, and it Just Worked.

I thought maybe that was because it was a freebie, so I tried the Sherlock Holmes books. They worked too.

We're still not sure what is going on here, but I have a similar report from a friend, and Hickey found a 4-month-old forum post which appeared to confirm his findings.

It appears that Audible has a DRM loophole for Linux systems, but at this point we don't really have enough data to reach that conclusion with absolute certainty.

If you run Linux, would you mind downloading Audible audiobooks -  just to see what happens?

image by davidmulder61


About Nate Hoffelder (10071 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

27 Comments on DRM Loophole Found for Audible Audiobooks (?)

  1. Thanks for the tip! I might try it, I bought some years ago the Audiobook version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I haven’t bought anymore when I couldn’t find a simple way of making a backup of my purchases.

  2. I don’t have Linux but inAudible works for me. Any alternate methods would certainly be appreciated as no doubt some folks can’t use that one for whatever reason. Plus there’s the putting-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket factor — who knows when the next iTunes or Audible update will bork inAudible completely? — and gosh darn it all I want to be able to back up books I’ve bought or else it’s just renting and they oughta say so right up front instead of putting a great big “Buy” button under people’s noses.

  3. It’s a free tool that will convert Audible files into MP3s that can be played anywhere. Needs iTunes installed to work the de-crapping magic, no doubt some people don’t like or want iTunes on their systems but in this case it’s a “necessary evil”. I haven’t had any problems with it so far and I have quite a few audio books in my library.
    You can find the details including a link to the latest version here: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/360286-Converting-Audible-audiobooks-to-MP3/page3

    Illustrated instructions for use here: http://www.wikihow.com/Convert-Audible.Com-Audiobooks

  4. Haven’t heard of InAudible. But AAX2MP3 works beautifully. You need Audible Manager but don’t need ITunes.

  5. I can confirm, and I have a few more details. On the library page, I have an “Audio Quality” drop-down list, with two options: “Enhanced” and “Format 4”. If “Enhanced” is selected, then I get a .aax file when I download, which appears to have DRM.

    If “Format 4” is selected, though, I get a .aa file, which VLC can play, and ffmpeg can convert to other formats.

    I’m using Ubuntu Mate 16.04, and I tried Audible.com and Audible.co.uk, in Chromium and Firefox. All worked 🙂

  6. Assuming this really works (and it sounds like it does), then I think this provides a legal way to free Audible books even in countries where DRM removal is illegal.

  7. I take it that is only going to work on a Linux system, us Windoze & Mac folk get the DRM version. Pretty sure that’s the case because my preferences are already set to Format 4 and VLC won’t play them.

  8. Thanks, I’ll give that a try whenever I get a chance. Probably after I finally get Windows 10 installed & up to date … yeah, I’m always late to the upgrade party.

  9. Just give a try on my friend’s computer, but failed. The downloaded Audible books are still in aa or aax format. No lucky.

    Anyway, some time I use Epubor Audible converter to convert aa and aax to mp3 format. You can see the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZBsG7DKYT0

  10. Maybe I can help and hopefully be helped. I can confirm that you can download the DRM-free .aa file in Windows. I used a user agent spoofer in Chrome to impersonate a Linux machine (I can provide details if wanted).

    The problem is that I can’t get the file to play in VLC in Windows (or any other Windows program, for that matter). Now, to be clear, I can play the file in Linux VLC regardless of which OS I downloaded it with, but I can’t play that same file in Windows VLC.

    Does anybody know if DRM-free .aa files CAN play in Windows VLC? I would feel silly if this was just a matter of me using the wrong software and thinking that the DRM was the problem.

  11. Lots of confusion in this thread. Let’s put an end to it.

    AA files are not DRM-free. AA is an Audible-proprietary encryption scheme based on TEA. You can reverse the key from the checksum in the file, which is how inAudible does it. The inaAudible code was then contributed to ffmpeg. I’m not sure about VLC, but it’s possible that the ffmpeg code made its way over there, too.

    Format 4 AA files are really just decrypted MP3 files. You can convert them back to MP3 (losslessly) with current versions of inAudible, no credentials required. Format 2 & 3 AA files are ACELP. They are tiny, but they suck.

    AAX files are AAC/M4B files. Again, you can losslessly decrypt them to M4B or transcode them to MP3 with inAudible and, again, no credentials required (the key is reversed with a different method).

    All the Audible decrypters get their code from inAudible and none of them are as good. Get the original, free version here – http://bit.ly/inAudible197

  12. It’s also worth pointing out that inAudible does not need iTunes or the Audible Download Manager. It has no dependencies.

  13. You can bypass the Audible download manager as well. Using Chrome, if you log into the Audible site, navigate to the downloads page, press F12 to bring up developer options, switch the device view to mobile. Now when you click download you’ll download the aa or aax (depending on format selected) directly.

  14. OpenAudible.org has an open source Mac Linux windows manager decrypting app. Might use that technique or maybe it could be modified to grab the aa file and go straight to mp3.

  15. Has anyone actually confirmed/reproduced this? I am on audible.com on ubuntu running firefox and chrome– both have a download link that links only to AAX files. AAX=Encrypted. AA=Not encrypted.

    If you are able to download .aa files: what browswer/OS are you using (and browser user agent if you know it.) Are all your files offered as AA or just free books? What web page are you on?

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Paul Biba’s eBook, eLibrary, and ePublishing news compilation for week ending Friday, May 19 | The Digital Reader

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: