Random House dropping DRM for audiobooks

by Michael Alderete on 2/27/2008

In a weblog post titled A Big Day For DRM, writer Maya Reynolds provides a concise (after three paragraphs about a hotel upgrade) and personalized look at this week’s news that Random House Audio Group is dropping DRM from their audiobooks.

For a non-technology writer (she’s a novelist), it’s a remarkably clear explanation of what DRM is, and why Random House is dropping it, along with what it means to her as an author.

From the general perspective of audiobook lovers, what it means is that there will be more online options from which to download audiobooks, at least the ones published by Random House. I don’t expect this to change my recommendation of Audible.com, at least not in the short run. In the long run, if it exposes more people to audiobooks, and sales volumes grow, then perhaps it will result in lower prices, too.

Update: Grant’s rant in Not books too! is an entirely different perspective on the announcement, gloom and doom, and fairly representative of old school thinking. He seems to not have actually read the release he copies verbatim into his post, which clearly stated that Random House had not found the for-pay, no DRM versions of audiobooks on piracy sites, i.e., eliminating DRM wasn’t increasing theft of audiobooks.

Maybe that will change when more sites offer them as downloads, but I suspect not. People who are going to steal are going to steal. People who just want more audiobooks will steal, occasionally, but only as long as it’s more convenient than not stealing, i.e., buying legitimate copies of books. Look at the growth of the iTunes Store for music, rising to the #2 seller of music in the world, and on their way to #1 before the end of the year. There are more people downloading from the iTunes Store than there are downloading stolen music.

Make it convenient, and reasonably priced, and people will pay for content.

Previous post:

Next post: