When I first discovered audible.com, I was one happy guy. The online book-download service solved a nagging problem for me — not enough time to read all the books on my list. I could download the digital files into my iTunes library, transfer them to my iPod, and listen happily while on the road. Perfect!
Well, not exactly.
As long as I stuck to the scenario I outlined above, everything worked fine. But the minute I wanted to repurpose the material that I had paid for ($11 - $25 per book), my rosy attitude began to wilt.
I have to blame George Carlin for this. His wonderfully funny book, Napalm & Silly Putty was a hoot to listen to in the car. I decided to burn it on to audio CD so I could play segments for house guests on my living room stereo. Sounds fun, right? A couple of beers, bowl of pretzels, and George making fun of the white establishment.
The book is too long to burn on to a regular audio CD via iTunes (it’s over 2 hours long). “No problem,” I thought. I’ll use the MP3 format instead and burn to a MP3 CD. After all, I paid a premium price for that feature on my stereo.
No dice again.
DRM rears its ugly head. Seems that the .aa format that audible.com uses to encode its books doesn’t allow conversion to MP3. Hmmmm. In other words, I can only listen to the book the way they want me to. It’s like saying that I can only read a printed book while sitting up straight at my desk, but it I want to take it into the bathroom, forget it!
Now it gets even better.
Being the easy-going guy that I am, I said, “OK, I’ll just burn a few episodes of News from Lake Wobegon on to CD and we’ll all listen to those.” I made a test disc, using the audio CD format, and it seemed to work pretty good. So I set-up the final disc and guess what? I couldn’t use those tracks I had just burned for testing. Seems you can only make ONE audio disc from any file you purchase.
Oh heck, that really dampens my plans to buy books on audible.com, then burn hundreds of discs and sell them on street corners in New York for $5.
Now, I can probably think of a couple of workarounds that will address some of these restrictions. But the bottom line is, I shouldn’t have to. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do about my monthly subscription to audible. But I’m not happy. I’m certainly open to alternatives. And I won’t be adding them to my Christmas card list any time soon.
If you have alternatives that will work with Mac OS X, please post them here.