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

 

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

28 Comments

  1. Ana15 May, 2017

    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.

    Reply
  2. Byrdie15 May, 2017

    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.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder15 May, 2017

      What is inAudible? this is the first I have heard of it.

      Reply
  3. Byrdie15 May, 2017

    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

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder15 May, 2017

      Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Darryl16 May, 2017

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

    Reply
  5. Russell Phillips16 May, 2017

    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 🙂

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder16 May, 2017

      Thanks, Russell!

      Reply
    2. Ana16 May, 2017

      Thanks Russell! I thought it didn’t work, but after this tip I’ve been able to make it work with the Format 4 value in the drop-down.
      Regards

      Reply
      1. Russell Phillips16 May, 2017

        I only found it because this post prompted me to go look.

        Removing DRM from Audible books was my primary reason for booting into Windows 😉

        Reply
  6. 116 May, 2017

    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.

    Reply
    1. Russell Phillips16 May, 2017

      I hadn’t thought of that, but I imagine you’re right, since there’s no DRM removal – just downloading the file as supplied.

      Reply
  7. Byrdie16 May, 2017

    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.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder16 May, 2017

      Correct.

      Reply
    2. Russell Phillips17 May, 2017

      If you don’t want to install Linux, you could use a bootable USB. These days, most Linux installers will boot into a full Linux desktop, with an Install button on the desktop.

      Instructions for making a bootable Ubuntu USB on Windows are here: https://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-windows

      Reply
    3. Mike2 July, 2017

      all you need is for audible to THINK you are on a linux system. The thing that will be checked is your browsers ‘user-agent’ which can be changed with an add-on. find a user agent switcher, and use:
      Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i586; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/31.0
      as your user agent, or any other linux one

      Reply
      1. Byrdie2 July, 2017

        Sounds promising. I’ll let you know how it works out.

        Reply
  8. Byrdie17 May, 2017

    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.

    Reply
  9. Iris17 May, 2017

    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

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 May, 2017

      AA is DRM-free – or at least VLC can play them without conversion.

      Reply
  10. […] DRM Loophole Found for Audible Audiobooks (?) (The Digital Reader) […]

    Reply
  11. Brian Allred1 July, 2017

    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.

    Reply
  12. FA-782 July, 2017

    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

    Reply
  13. FA-782 July, 2017

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

    Reply
  14. Bill5 October, 2017

    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.

    Reply
  15. Dirtdigger13 January, 2018

    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.

    Reply
  16. Steve22 January, 2018

    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?

    Reply
    1. Russell Phillips23 January, 2018

      As stated above, I have managed to download .aa files without DRM, from Audible.co.uk and Audible.com. To answer your questions:

      Browser/OS: Chromium Version 63.0.3239.84 (Official Build) Built on Ubuntu , running on Ubuntu 17.10 (64-bit)
      User agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Ubuntu Chromium/63.0.3239.84 Chrome/63.0.3239.84 Safari/537.36

      I can get free and paid audiobooks as .aa files.

      Web pages:
      https://www.audible.co.uk/lib?serial=&ref_=a_hp_lib_tnaft_1
      https://www.audible.com/lib?ref=a_home-page_t1_navTop_pl1r0&serial=

      As I said before, I have to set the Audio Quality drop-down to “Format 4”. If it’s set to “Enhanced”, I get .aax files with DRM.

      Reply

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