Thursday, December 27, 2007

Digital Rights & the Audiobook

Digital Rights Management. Downloaded audiobooks from the public library or web-based vendor can find listeners hobbled by piracy protection. Stephen Downes has an interesting post in his Half an Hour blog on Economics in a DRM-Free World (thanks to Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog for the link).

But the tide is turning. Read about the first major online distribution of audiobooks without copy protection in this NY Times article on DRM-free audiobooks at EMusic. Major publishers are testing this low-cost MP3 method of distributing audiobooks. Want to find out more? Visit EMusic's audiobook site to see what they are offering. Soon, Amazon followed with their MP3 website, which carries audiobooks - but clearly is slanted towards music. Just try to easily search for audiobooks on the site! But Amazon's purchase of Brilliance Audio clearly shows the online behemoth's desire to expand its reach into the audiobook world. Read more in this Publishers Weekly article.

Some writers are bypassing the print medium entirely, Authors who serialize their works for free on the Podiobooks website follow many of the ideas in Downes' post, in a digital route that reminds me of how Charles Dickens' novels were first available in popular magazines (the blogs of the 18o0s!).

The issue of fair compensation for authors when their works are distributed digitally is most certainly important. Publishers are to be commended as they seek new methods to "print" works digitally, while ensuring an author's livelihood. Audiobooks are yet another entertainment medium in the intellectual property proving ground. It will interesting to see how things stand in 2009!

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