eMusic to start selling DRM-free audio books

eMusic to start selling DRM-free audio bookseMusic has revealed plans to start selling audiobooks, which, like the company’s existing digital music offerings, will utilize the DRM-free and ubiquitous mp3 format — the first time that major book publishers have offered their audio content for download without copy-protection.

Customers will be given the choice of various download-to-own subscriptions packages, starting at $9.99 for one audiobook download per-month. The service will initially launch with around 1,000 titles from various publishers including: Random House Audio, Hachette Audio, and Penguin Audio — with “hundreds more” added each week, according to Macworld UK.

audio books coming to eMusicIn entering the audiobook download space, eMusic’s main competitor is Audible.com and its partnership with iTunes. Content on Audible uses the company’s proprietary DRM technology, which, although supported by the iPod and a number of other popular digital audio players, restricts the number of times an audiobook can be burned to CD (once-only) and how content can be moved from one device to another.

In taking on Aubible/iTunes, eMusic’s strategy is to compete both on price and convenience, even if at first it won’t have the catalog to match. Audible has around 15,000 titles to eMusic’s initial 1,000.

It’s also clear that not all of eMusic’s partners are jumping straight into the DRM-free deep end.

The New York Times reports that Random House Audio is treating the eMusic partnership as a trial and will only offer around 20 percent of its catalog (500 titles), compared with Penguin Audio, who are matching their current iTunes offering (150 titles). In addition, “watermarking” will be used to monitor any illegal filesharing that may take place.

On the issue of the risks associated with going DRM-free, eMusic CEO David Pakman tells the Times:

“Here you have Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., taking part in this… What they’re doing is prioritizing the need for sales and growing the market share over copy protection. It speaks to the larger trend that media companies are now getting comfortable with something they probably should have done seven or eight years ago.”

On that last point, you’ll find no argument here — and could easily be applied to the music industry and soon the film and television industries too.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

3 Responses to “eMusic to start selling DRM-free audio books”

  1. steven65 says:

    Being an audio book fan i would like to welcome eMusic to the world of audio books. There is tremendous competition in this field. There are lot of companies which are giving lucrative offers to customers. For instance, a website called hear-now-audio-books offering no monthly subscription to customers. They also offering the latest best-selling audio books by major publishers such as the BBC, Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Brilliance and Time Warner.This company has given lot of free offers to me in this year.

    eMusic has to give lot of offers to attract customers. I wish good luck to eMusic.

  2. Nick says:

    As a small audio book retailer this would be a really good development if the titles can also find their way into non Audible.com retail sites too (Spoken Network) DRM restrictions have been a real pain for, well, as long as they’ve been about as, apart from anything else it confuses customers and adds extra complexity to downloads and play. I myself have had problems with some titles and I’m meant to be an expert. So all in all it will be very interesting to see how this develops.

  3. We welcome eMusic’s decision to sell DRM free audio books. The more choices the customers have online, the better. We are also looking forward to the DRM free titles. We prefer audio books in MP3 format, and I’m sure that all our members will agree 100% with us. We are glad that the audio publishers are playing an active role with this great new development. This can only help with the growth of this amazing market.

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