If Amazon is DRM-Agnostic Then Why Do They Still Insist on DRM on Audiobooks?
PC Magazine published an interview in which Mr. Bezos said that Amazon only uses DRM because publishers insist on it:
Amazon would be happy to sell more media without restrictions, but Bezos said he doesn’t see any trend away from DRM in books or video, even though the music industry largely abandoned DRM starting in 2009.
"We are agnostic to that. We do what the publisher wants. If the rights owner wants DRM, we do DRM. If the rights owner doesn’t want DRM, we don’t do DRM," he said.
It’s certainly true that Amazon lets authors and publishers choose whether to add DRM to the ebooks sold in the Kindle Store, so I’ll give Amazon credit for that.
But it’s not quite accurate to say that Amazon is DRM-agnostic. Audible, the audiobook subsidiary Amazon bought in 2008, requires that audiobooks use DRM:
Audible audio files cannot be converted to MP3 or any other file format because of security technologies used to protect both the intellectual property rights of our Content Providers as well as the Authors.
Additionally, Audible announced that it is working to provide an option of DRM-free spoken word audio titles on Audible.com for content owners and publishers who prefer this method. We currently do not have an implementation date.
I have reached out to Amazon and asked them to clarify this issue, but I have not received a response. So at this point all we have to go on is Audible’s own FAQ, which clearly contradicts Jeff Bezos' statement.
Audible justifies their policy with the statement that their proprietary audiobook format was required to provide the best listening experience for customers. This might be true, but it’s also not relevant to the fact that, so far as I know, Audible doesn’t give creators the option of not using DRM. And that same policy applies to audiobooks sold on the Amazon website, so it’s not like Amazon can claim that a subsidiary was making different decisions.
There’s no technical reason that Audible can’t offer the option; conversion would be required to produce an MP3 file but that is a relatively straightforward issue. And it is also one that has already been solved by the developers of several audiobook DRM-stripping tools. If Amazon cannot match the skills of those outside developers then perhaps Amazon should hire them.
image by Modern Relics