Five reasons Apple should license FairPlay

I have some very specific, personal reasons why I want to see Apple license their FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) system to other device makers; I’ll publish those later this week. Here I want to lay out a logical argument for why Apple should do this, in their own best interests.

  1. Running into the wall of customers’ other (non-Apple) devices slows sales. Requiring people to give up things they like is more likely to lose sales than to convince them to buy new Apple stuff.

I’ve spent more than $400 on the iTunes Store, but I stopped buying FairPlay protected tracks 10 seconds after I realized they wouldn’t play over my new Sonos music system. And I won’t buy movies or TV shows from the iTunes Store because they can’t be played over the network via my TiVo.

I’m not going to buy an AirPort Express or an Apple TV for the privilege of buying content from the iTunes Store. Those devices do not work as well as my Sonos and TiVo, not even close. Instead, I’ll simply buy CDs, and keep my basic cable and Netflix subscriptions.

  1. Apple is going to have to do it eventually. Too much success means lawsuits and government action, neither of which is good for business.

With the success Apple has had with the iTunes Store, they have or will reach a level that some will consider a monopoly. That in turn will bring consumer lawsuits and government intervention. It’s already happening in Norway, the Netherlands, and other European states. There’s a U.S. iTunes lawsuit, too. This is a headache Apple doesn’t need.

  1. Apple is going to have to do it eventually. Too much success will turn the competitive market into “everyone but Apple.”

This happened to Microsoft. “Everyone but Microsoft” is constantly trying to make effective alliances, and constantly showing up to testify in lawsuits (see the previous item). While it hasn’t lead to Microsoft’s downfall, it has added drag to their momentum.

The efforts of Apple’s competitors have to date been pretty laughable, but when their current partners, the record companies, start saying they might consider selling music without DRM attached, it’s not because they’re happy with the status quo. Apple is so successful at selling music right now that Apple is in the driver’s seat, and that’s not something the recording industry has historically been good at accepting. At some point, “desperate times, desperate measures” will apply. And when your partners start conspiring against you, you’re fucked.

  1. Apple is apparently already doing it.

Apple has apparently already licensed FairPlay to NetGear. A step in the right direction. There is a rumor this is the first of many.

  1. People will like Apple more.

Customers. Partners. The market as a whole. Yeah, this is kind of touchy-feely, but if Apple opens up FairPlay voluntarily, before they are forced to, it will generate goodwill and positive buzz, and in the Internet age, that can spread pretty far and wide. Remember that the iPod didn’t start out as an iconic device, and a large part of its spread and success came from the same people who will be happy to see FairPlay opened up.

New tool: Audiobook Builder

I have not yet given it a try, but a new application for Mac OS X looks like it may be even better than Join Together 5, which I recommended back in July. Audiobook Builder appears to go quite a bit beyond what Join Together is able to do, including the ability merge individual CD tracks into chapters before merging the chapters into a chapter marked whole-book track, add artwork to each chapter, etc.

My initial suspicion, based solely on looking at the screenshots, is that it may be a little complicated if your needs are simple. For myself, I usually only want to merge entire CDs into chapters, which iTunes does if you use the %(itunes)Advanced > Join Tracks% command, and then join those into a whole book, with chapter marks and full audiobook format and metadata, which Join Together does quite ably, and very simply.

In any event, I’ll be giving Audiobook Builder a try in the near future, and I’ll post a full review then, but in the meantime, I wanted to point to it, and see what other people think.

How to Improve Audiobooks

Kirk McElhearn, a noted author on topics like the iPod, iTunes, podcasting and the Mac, has written a short article Digital Audiobooks: Taking Them to the Next Generation, musing about what should be done to audiobooks to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the iPod and other digital players. In particular, he calls out the need for better chapter markers, and better handling of material which cannot be read, or is often skipped, like illustrations and endnotes.

I’ve had similar frustrations.

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iPod 101

There’s not much about audiobooks (except how to buy them in the iTMS), but Apple’s new “iPod 101”:http://www.apple.com/support/ipod101/ is likely to be an extremely useful resource to all the many visitors who are coming here after getting an iPod for Xmas.

There’s not much about audiobooks (except how to buy them in the iTMS), but Apple’s new iPod 101 is likely to be an extremely useful resource to all the many visitors who are coming here after getting an iPod for Xmas.

Do check it out, and then come back to Aldo on Audiobooks to start on iPod 102, all audiobooks, all the time.

Announcing Aldo on Audiobooks

When I posted my instructions for importing audiobooks into iTunes and the iPod, it quickly became the single most popular post on this site, both in page views and in comments. I followed it up with a companion piece, covering the differences for MP3 CD audiobooks, and that quickly became the 2nd most popular page on the site. After weeks of on-and-off-again writing, I am replacing those posts with a whole new section of Aldoblog: Aldo on Audiobooks. Please check it out.

When I posted my instructions for importing audiobooks into iTunes and the iPod, it quickly became the single most popular post on this site, both in page views and in comments. I followed it up with a companion piece, covering the differences for MP3 CD audiobooks, and that quickly became the 2nd most popular page on the site.

I also ended up answering a lot of questions in the comments to those two posts, trying to make the instructions more clear, as well as covering special cases which occurred for some people. From the number of questions, it was clear to me that there are a lot of people looking for help in getting their audiobooks onto their iPod. But my answers, while useful, were hard to find, because there was no organization except chronological in the comments. I decided it was time to rethink keeping that information in a weblog format.

Well, after weeks of on-and-off-again writing, I am finally ready to launch a whole new section of Aldoblog, Aldo on Audiobooks. This collection of information represents a complete reorganization and rewrite of all of the information I’ve posted here previously covering audiobooks on iTunes and the iPod, along with all-new information covering recommendations for what audiobooks to get, and where you can find the best places to get them.

This new section entirely replaces the earlier posts; I’ll be going back and amending them to note that fact. I’m also planning a number of additions to the section, which I hope to post in the run-up to the holidays, in time to help folks who get brand new ipods as gifts.

So, please, go on in and give the new stuff a look. Currently there’s no way to comment on the pages themselves, but I’d love feedback, either as comments on this post, or via email — my contact information is in the sidebar of every page on this site.

Importing MP3 audiobooks into iTunes

Our preferred method for obtaining audiobooks is from Audible.com. Second is from the public library. Third is buying them on MP3 CDs.

Note: These instructions have been superceded by a new version available in the Aldo on Audiobooks section of this site. Use that version instead of this page.

Our preferred method for obtaining audiobooks is from Audible.com, as part of our monthly subscription. For about $11 each, we receive an electronic-only version of a book, broken in to manageable chunks of 5-6 hours long each. The files arrive pre-encoded in a format which is bookmarkable in iTunes and on an iPod, and have all appropriate meta-data attached. The subscription format is both cost-effective and highly usable. Audible.com’s major liability is the selection; while there are thousands of books from which to choose, if you get interested in an author who has been writing for a while, chances are good Audible.com won’t have the older books, at least not yet.

The next best method for getting audiobooks is to borrow them on Audio CD from the local public library. While the procedure for importing them into iTunes is laborious, the price is right. This is an ideal way to experiment with authors you don’t know, to find books worth paying for. However, like Audible.com, the selection can be limited.

So, what do you do when you want a book that’s not available from either method?

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Subscribing to Audible.com Podcasts in iTunes

Phillip Torrone’s “Audible does Podcasts – the complete guide (and HOW TO)”:http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2005/06/audible_does_po.html is a nice write-up of a new feature at “Audible.com”:http://www.audible.com/ that supports the automatic download of periodic audible content. Although his article uses the very nice “iPodder”:http://sourceforge.net/projects/ipodder/ application to demonstrate the features, there’s no reason why you can’t use the built-in podcasting features of iTunes 4.9. Here are instructions and a couple of screenshots.

Phillip Torrone’s Audible does Podcasts – the complete guide (and HOW TO) is a nice write-up of a new feature at Audible.com that supports the automatic download of periodic audible content, such as NPR’s Fresh Air (probably the best talk radio show on today).

Audible.com’s features provide support for receiving paid content using the same process for subscribing to the free podcasts which have recently become very popular. Although his article uses the very nice iPodder application to demonstrate the features, there’s no reason why you can’t use the built-in podcasting features of iTunes 4.9, and skip the extra application.

Here are instructions and a couple of screenshots, which you can splice into Phillip’s article where he’s working with iPodder.

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Importing Audiobook CDs into iTunes

Rochelle and I have fallen in love with listening to books on our iPods. We’ve signed up for two books a month through Audible.com, and for me, that pace is actually pretty good. Rochelle goes through them faster, though, and recently started going to the SF Public Library to get more books to listen to. Importing them onto an iPod is not terribly intuitive. This post describes what I think is a fairly optimal process, using only iTunes to do the importing.

Note: These instructions have been superseded by a new version available in the Aldo on Audiobooks section of this site. Please use that version instead of this page.

Rochelle and I have fallen in love with listening to books on our iPods. We’ve signed up for two books a month through Audible.com, and for me, that pace is actually pretty good. But Rochelle has more time to listen while commuting and at work; she blows through our two books a month.

She recently started going to the library to get audio books there, on CD. The San Francisco Public Library has quite a lot of them, and you can reserve them online. The only downside with the CDs is they cannot be played (directly) on an iPod. Enter the second half of Apple’s one-two combination, iTunes, which makes importing CDs relatively easy, and keeping them organized, syncing them with an iPod, and making custom playlists extremely easy.

The only problem is, it’s optimized for music CDs. It’s taken quite a bit of trial and error — mostly error — to come up with a recipe that works well, and produces audiobook files that are reasonable in size and quality, and as easy to use on our iPods as the books from Audible.com. I’m going to save you some time, and share the recipe.

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Macworld Expo Hits From Apple

Like a lot of other Mac aficionados, I followed yesterday’s announcements by Apple quite closely. A lot of people are writing about them, so I’m just going to jot down a couple of thoughts I’ve had that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Like a lot of other Mac aficionados, I followed yesterday’s announcements by Apple quite closely. A lot of people are writing about them, so I’m just going to jot down a couple of thoughts I’ve had that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Mac miniBut first: I think the Mac mini is a grand-slam; I expect Apple to sell a million units a quarter through the rest of this year (assuming they can make that many), with only a modest impact (cannibalization) of sales of existing products. Most of these will be to first-time Mac owners. The price point and the packaging are both trying to suggest that the Mac mini is an impulse buy (even if the idea of switching platforms on an impulse is ridiculous).

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