Why I Won't Be Adding Audible.com to My Xmas Card List

by Derrick Story

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.

No dice.

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.


2003-01-03 11:05:45
Easy Solution -- Go Analog
There's one way they can't stop you, though there's a minor loss in quality (give or take...most heavy-compression audio formats already are lossy, so it really can't get any worse): run it through an analog mode on the way into a computer. Music won't really be "CD-quality", but for spoken word, who's going to notice. And this works fine for me when I'm making (personal use only) CDs from DVD and VHS concerts (that I own -- no piracy here you RIAA jackasses).

Basically, what you do, requiring either 2 computers, or an intervening high quality tape recorder or the phillips cd-recorder thingy, is wire one computer's "speaker" jack (not the headphone jack, as that's amplified and will distort) into the input (again, not the amplified "mic" jack) of another computer, play with the volume and input settings 'til you don't see red, then with appropriate software (n-track studio works for me on my win98 laptop @ home) record it into .wav files. With something in .wav mode, you can do anything you want. Remember to record into 16bit, 44.1 stereo to match the CD rating.

If you don't have 2 computers handy, you can use a tape recorder with Dolby-B to have a temp copy that you play back into the computer, or a digital tape recorder will suffice even better, but again, using the analog i/o lines instead of trying an all-digital solution. Keep in mind that an audio cd holds 650-700 (74min or 80min) plus of space, so you'll need a lot of free disc space, on a single partition, to make the .wav files.

Mind you, with any CD already cut, you can copy that independently, so the whole "you can only make one cd out of this" is a stupid and useless. But I read and noticed you already noted that flaw in their logic...

It really comes down to this: any one audio package by itself isn't enough to do all the audio you want to do, in order to stay DRM compliant, but the right combination of tools, and the willingness to pass through an analog mode on the way, will allow you to do anything.


2003-01-03 11:27:15
Is there any limitation that you'd accept?
Just curious... is there -any- kind of limitation on use on use of digital content that you'd find acceptable?
2003-01-03 12:59:26
Easier Solution
You can burn CDs of books which are too long to fit on one CD by using the "start time" and "stop time" fields under the options tab of the iTunes song information dialog. Simply enter values in these fields so that the interval will fit on a CD. Repeat this process until you have burned the entire book.

2003-01-03 14:08:08
Is there any limitation that you'd accept?
A simple but good question.

The short answer is no. We have reasonable laws on the books to prosecute those who pirate content, and we should enforce those laws as appropriate.

I don't think we need arbitrary DRM schemes that vary from company to company to harass consumers who are willing to pay for digital content.

I'm willing to keep an open mind about this, but I don't like the controls I've encountered so far.

2003-01-03 14:11:39
Easy Solution -- Go Analog
I love creative solutions.

Thanks for outlining this entire process. And the beauty is that, as I recall, it's perfectly legal. I believe the law says that we're allowed to make analog copies (Home Recording Act, right?)

2003-01-03 14:14:24
Easier Solution
What a great tip!

The only problem is, based on my earlier test, is that I need to get this right the first time. Correct? Because if I don't, I'm not allowed to burn a second copy of the same recording ...

Thanks for showing me a new iTunes trick.

2003-01-03 18:08:10
Analog via the iPod ...another solution?
In the realms of going analog, you already have the information on your iPod, and the iPod has an audio-out jack on it. Run the audio-out (usually attached to the headphones) into your Mac, (using a griffin iMic if needed for the Digital Audio PowerMac) and then record using one of the audio recording tools available on the Mac. (if you have Toast w/Jam you should have audio tools available to you already.)

Rip the audio you've just recorded to MP3, and then put it onto your CD's, or MiniDisc or however you have it :-) Given the need to change format, and you having already purchased the material in question, (and the Home Recording Act as you mentioned above) that should just about deal with the issue :-)

No, it's not _quite_ as clean as being able to do it natively inside the base tools that Apple gave to us ... but, it's better than getting angry, or not having any alternatives.

2003-01-04 00:36:55
Analog via the iPod ...another solution?
Another good workaround indeed. Much thanks for you thoughts here.

At the moment, I'm having the best luck with setting the "start" and "stop" times to one hour increments and burning multiple audio CDs for one book. Laborious.

And clearly I'm feeling more frisky than some of the readers here. I'm not happy about these controls placed on the content by the providers. Not everyone is as lucky as me and can have an ongoing discussion with an intelligent audience to explore DRM workarounds.

And what if our silence just leads to more controls until we reach a point where workarounds are much more difficult to apply?

I know, "henny penny, henny penny." But I have a bad feeling about this.

And even with the workarounds, I'm having to burn a series of one-hour audio CDs for a single book when it could easily fit on one CD in a compressed format. I appreciate the good comments from today's discussion, but I still think this stinks.

2003-01-06 03:50:59
Give me convenience or give me death
It seems the key factors to reduce piracy are to make buying and using the legitimate product more convenient and economical. (Photocopying books, for example, is neither.)

However, a lot of DRM appears to be designed specifically to make it inconvenient for you to use it, ie. to copy anything. Not impossible, not difficult; just inconvenient.

Sony's plan to sell CDs with encryption keys is an example: after purchase, an encryption key is requested and downloaded from the internet; it allows you to copy once.

Thus, rather than ripping a CD to MP3 and then keeping the CD for backup, it sounds like we will now download a key, duplicate the CD once for backup (as Aiff files), rip the duplicate CD to MP3, scan the original disc and reprint the CD label, swap the packaging, and then throw the original CD away. Convenient? No. Impossible? No.

Invariably, someone will then file-share the MP3s on the internet and save others the hassle of conversion. And ironically, the MP3s will now be worth much more, as the inconvenience of converting CDs rises to match the inconvenience of downloading. So the legitimate product is worth less, the illegitimate MP3s are worth more, and as a result, it becomes more appealing to download instead of buying.

I keep suspecting that content distributors are actually working to intentionally increase piracy in order to raise the level of hysteria, and win more legal rights for themselves.

2003-01-06 07:42:19
Audio HiJack

Will let you record ANY sound output from your mac. Once you have a .aiff file, you can encode it as you wish. No loss of quality, no DRM.

2003-01-06 08:11:30
Audible CD burning
I too had a problem burning 3 hr book to CD using iTunes, I contacted Audible customer support who indicated that by selecting the track you want to burn, "Get info" on it and in the "Options" tab you can select the start and end time to fit on one CD, Burn it, then go back & adjust the time again to start just after the previous end time, and so on until you have burnt the entire book. They confirm that there will be an easier way of doing this in the next version of iTunes.
2003-01-06 09:23:36
1 CD Limit Really Not a Limit
Even though you're apparently limited to burning a single CD from an Audible encrypted file, that 1 CD is a non-DRM copy of the content. Just rip that CD back into an mp3 in iTunes, then delete the original .aa encrypted file downloaded from audible- you don't need it anymore because you now have the content in a format that gives you the full rights you paid for. Sure it is a little more painful than it could be, but easier than using analog, Audio Hijack, etc...
2003-01-06 09:42:41
Do a little more research next time.
Before you write and post a disparaging article, you should do a little more research. I too had this problem and had no trouble at all finding the answer.
2003-01-06 09:49:19
Easy solution
All DRM issues aside...Why spend time making CD's when you can plug the iPod directly into an audio-in port on a stereo with a $3 cable? Or better yet go wireless with and iRock Wireless Music Adapter.
2003-01-07 10:13:26
your probing story.
Seems to me that if you don't have someone to walk you through the entire process, your at a loss and have to critique that which you have no concept of.

Next time, look for the information before making yourself a bigger fool than you really have to be.

2003-01-07 11:38:01
p.s. I worried about burning to mp3 and not .aa, but when Audible explained in detail about the copyright laws, etc. I accepted it. They sign contracts with publishers so that we can listen to new books on audio, and it is a federal offense for us to remove the encryption and burn to cd.
2003-01-07 11:59:38
$11-25.00 per book?
I don't think so. You say you have a membership. If you do, you don't pay for each book purchased. You pay one price and receive one or two books per month according to the plan that you're on. I pay 19.95 per month for 2 audio books, and still can't walk into any bookstore and find a best seller on tape or cd for that price! Who are you trying to kid?
2003-01-07 17:26:01
Books on iPod
I've found the audio books to be a surprise "killer app" for the iPod. Audible.com makes my commute much more enjoyable now. While I find the DRM distasteful, I haven't yet had the desire to burn a CD.

One thing I *would* like Audible to add is chapter stops to the books though. I've lost my place a few times (usually by being interrupted and not hitting pause right away), and the one or two long tracks they use isn't perfect.

And the price is right. Compared to getting audio books in the store (very expensive), Audible + iPod is painless, convenient and cheap.

2003-01-07 18:24:09
This may help:


2003-01-13 17:42:22
.aa to .mp3

I hesitated to join audible as my existing mp3 player is not 'Audible-ready'. Not until i found the right "workaround" did i sign up and now it's great! If you're interested in direct .aa to .mp3 conversion, look into GoldWave software. 'nuff said...
2003-03-04 13:29:14
That's what you get for paying for content, next time "pirate" it!
"...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..."

Let's see...you PAID for your audio book, you PAID for your blank CD, you PAID for your stereo...I guess just because you pay for something that doesn't mean you have the privilage to use it. Download it on P2P, punish them!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2003-04-01 22:04:23
just tried audible for the first time; already disappointed
Today I heard a radio program that I wanted to record. I made an analog casette recording, but had to leave for work and couldn't flip the tape, and so the end of the program was cut off. (It was Fresh Air; on the Fresh Air web site, they explicitly give users permission to record their programs: "Individuals or not-for-profit institutions which intend to make limited, non-profit, educational use of Fresh Air programs may record the programs off the air or purchase them from Burrelle's."

I didn't want to buy a casette for $23.70, So I tried audible. I bought the program; it cost only $1.56 (cheap!) Unfortunately, although the item I purchased indicated that it could be burned to a CD using iTunes, I am unable to do so; iTunes says "None of the itmes in this playlist can be burned to CD." I'm familiar with using iTunes to burn CDs, even from MIDI files, so I don't think I'm making a mistake; I think this file has a permission set wrong. And, of course, it can't be converted to other formats.

I've submitted a request to audible tech support to see if they can help. But so far I'm disappointed and although I'm only out a very small amount of money, the DRM aspects of this have made it more trouble than it has been worth.

I generally don't actually pirate music; I purchase it; it is my own CDs that go into my iTunes library. I may resort to the low-tech expedient of recording a casette from the headphone jack of my PowerBook. I suppose I could play it back in to a computer and digitize it again with a sound card... but the whole point of this adventure was simple integration with the way I already use digital audio. If they want to succeed doing this and it involves DRM, it's got to work really, really well, or it is not worth it, even for $1.56. So I might have been a convert and used this service a lot. I still might use it depending on whether tech support comes through for me.

2003-04-17 08:17:29
.aa to .mp3
I have the same problem and having been looking all over for and answer thanks
2003-06-19 20:37:00
.aa to .mp3
Finally ... I was going crazy trying to find a solution. Thanks!
2003-11-15 19:11:16
$11-25.00 per book?
not everyone has that plan dumbass, plus some listen to more than 2 books a month...at which time they don't get the same price.
2003-11-15 19:14:48
"...it is a federal offense for us to remove the encryption and burn to cd."

somone better tell audible, they let me burn to cd.

copywrite laws or no, you buy a book at a bookstore, read it, let friends read it...why shouldn't you be allowed the same rights for 1's and 0's? The books at the store probably cost more per book in paper than audible's bandwidth expenses.

2003-11-15 19:17:16
Do a little more research next time.
You should actually do more research, if you had read (and comprehended) the entire article you would realize that it's the principle that is being disparaged:

"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."

2003-11-15 19:19:39
Give me convenience or give me death
Great thought process!! I never even thought about that angle until now, thanks!
2003-11-17 07:52:24
.aa to .mp3
Does any software exist for macs that allow you to convert AA to mp3?
2003-11-17 11:24:12
I find Audible to be satisfying - I convert to mp3
I personally happen to love audible. They offer a convenient way of getting books that no one else currently offers.

Are they perfect? - no. My primary beef is the extra effort that is required to convert the proprietary format to mp3 so that I can play it on my cd-based mp3 player. I also feel that I shouldn't have to do the workaround - yet it IS very effective. (Do a Google search for aa audible mp3 convert to find threads that offer detailed conversion instructions)

I'm very tempted to get an i-Pod with an i-Trip fm transmitter and avoid the conversion process altogether.

Even without the convenience of a portable/car mp3 player that natively plays aa format, I'm still a happy paying customer of Audible. I've found their customer service has been very responsive. I very much like some of the periodicals that they offer. My rating is A-.


2003-11-21 21:21:06
Easy Solution
Why not connect your iPod to your stereo?

Also arguing by analogy is a weak way to make your point.

Are you going to cancel your membership to blockbuster because DVD's are copy protected? Its annoying that long audio books span multiple cd's, but how much does a 50 pk of CDR's cost these days? How fast is your CD-burner? For $50 you can buy a 50x CD burner from best buy, and another $20 can get you a 50 pack of cd's. So given the time you saved buy listening to an audiobook minus the time it took to get it to cd, you're probably still up by a few hours.

The real question here is what is more likely, the need for you to play audio books via CD, or via your iPod?

2003-11-26 00:40:37
Hard to Cancel
I first signed up for audible 2 -3 years ago. I think it is great, until you want to cancel or have any technical problems.
First, they make it hard to cancel. You can sign up online, but to cancel you must call them, and be put on endless hold, during office hours. Emailing them does not work, even though their poor email support form has a cancellation topic. There chat reps are very helpful when you get though, and one was nice enough to call me so he could transfer me to billing right away since I could never get though.
Second, they have opted to prevent piracy over user experience. They only allow you 2 activation accounts every year or so. This may have changed. But my pda would run out of batteries, or something would happen and I would need to reset it and install/activate the audible program again. For a while my pc was having problems and I would reformat it, but forget to deactivate audible. Every time this happened I would have to email them so they could reset my account. The burning issue falls under the same problem. What Audible has failed to realize is the piracy market for audible books just isnít there. Try searching Kazaa and itís hard to find any, few file-sharing users are interested in audio books. Plus there market is for Adults, which are willing to pay for things. Right now, Iím having troubles with the actual program in that it doesnít work. There is some weird software glitch (XP) where it downloads the program but when you try to play it closes. But Iíll tackle this problem another day.
2003-12-30 17:22:20
It also captures any audio to be captured to .aiff and best of all it's free. :-)
2004-03-26 16:10:15
.aa to .mp3
aah! I've been Googling for a while, no apparent linux solution.
2004-04-27 16:28:58
Okay, first things first. He's right. Dead right. And this is almost what made me quit when it came to Audible. Fortunately there is a solution:

1. Uninstall Audible manager (no, I'm not kidding).
1.1 NOTE: Disconnect any devices prior to uninstalling.
1.2 NOTE: SAVE YOUR BOOKS or it will kill them too.
2. Download Goldwave 5.06 (this is shareware, though I strongly recommend registering; it's a L337 piece). Link at end of message.
3. Download and install LAME MP3. Goldwave keys off this open-source MP3 software to save mp3's. Link at end of message.
4. Install Goldwave.
5. Download and install Audible Manager 3.5. IT MUST BE v3.5! Link at end of message.
6. Open Goldwave, then open your *.aa file.
7. It will ask for your audible UID & PWD.
8. Allow the file to covert.
9. Save as MP3. Figure on about a half hour per 8 hours of audio.
10. Burn, split, play to your hearts content.

Necessary Links:
GoldWave v.5.06
Audible Manager 3.5

2004-05-03 19:57:25
I can!
Just to say, i managed to burn a book over 10 hours wih no problems, and it's letting me do it again.
In fact, a dialogue comes up that says:
The songs in this playlist will not fit on one audio CD.
Do you want to create multiple audio CDs with this playlist split across them?
Yes/No thing.
Am i special? OS X various versions of itunes?
2004-05-22 03:56:32
Easy Solution
When I try to write a cd book to cd so I can listen to it in my car it will do two or three of the multiple cds that it has to do then refuse to continue because any blank cdr that I put in after it thinks is DVD media instead! I absolutely hate being dependant on one means to an end. I bought the books so I should be able to convert them to whatever filetype I need. I should not be punished just because I have bought it legitimately. If I were to have pirated it instead I could do whatever I want. Or if I had bought the cd I would have been able to copy it or lend it to a friend or whatever (not that I would because I have no friends but that is beside the point.) I WANT TO BE ABLE TO CONVERT IT! I do not want to pirate books but it looks like I will have to if I want to listen to them where I want to!!!
2005-01-22 12:15:40
It sucks.
It is a nightmare - no question about it. Why is everyone talking about these work-around pains like conversion to .MP3. Why aren't we talking hacking?

I'm the legitimate owner of the material I've purchased, and I would gladly implement a registry hack to get around the software telling me that I can only activate a device twice a year, or that I'm not the true owner of the audio.

I'm a gadget freak, and, as a result, I'm always using a new device, and I can't STAND this crap audible software. I upgraded it a couple months ago, only to have to downgrade again, cos the new device software required me to have my iPAQ plugged in before I could dump anything to the CF card in a seperate card reader.

For Windows, a registry hack, anyone?
How 'bout a patch?

'cmon there has to be a simple way to get this junk software to treat you like a customer!

2005-05-18 13:07:51
Your link to GoldWave v5.06 no longer works at
Is there an alternate link?.

What a bummer. They are obviously conscious people in the free public discourse files, like the Kansas School Board Evolution stuff, but this. It's like getting a car that will only accept the gas nozzle at one station. Premium my ass.

2005-05-21 22:03:05
Best solution of all
If you don't like copy protection don't pay for anything that uses it, encourage your friends not to use it. If no one pays for it, it will go away.
2005-08-25 04:02:22
aac files
I have just downloaed a book and it is in aac files.
I cant play then or put them on to disk,
CAN I!!!???

P.S. this is my first post so I have probably put it in the wrong place anyway!!1

2005-11-18 05:54:07
No Problems Mate!
I really can't understand what the fuss is about. The Audible Manager 4.0 software allows you to burn long files across multiple CDs. My record is 8 CDs for a single book segment.

You can burn more than once if you encounter bad media, but the general rule of thumb is burn once. Once you've burnt the CD, you can use iTunes, RealOne Player, WinAmp or whatever to extract the relevant segments as an MP3 or whatever.

GoldWave has an undocumented feature to convert .aa files into .mp3 files.

I think Audible is brilliant because in South Africa you can't buy anything from iTunes, but I can get most of the books I want from Audible, and listen to them on my iPod Shuffle.

It would seem that all your ranting and raving is a little out of date.

2006-01-27 17:10:17
Use the Audible software, not iTunes. You download it from audible.com site. It supports buring your content to CD format. I can burn multiple copies of the same book, no problem. The CD's are playable in any player, work great. They play like any other CD in the world. (and yes, you can then rip them to MP3 format, but why???)

it seems to me that the issue is iTUNES, not audible.

Doc Wally
2006-02-02 19:00:52
The fix using Goldwave worked. The latest version of Goldwave worked and I got a slight error message from the older version of Audible's crap software. When I fired things up, I was prompted for my Audible.com username and password and things worked swell.

I think its absolute nonsense, since what I was trying to do was simply convert my audio book into MP3 format to listen to my heart's content. I think that having it now in MP3 format, and the nonsense I had to go through to get it finally converted to MP3 has encouraged me to share it on the web openly.

Give me a big warning, tell me that I will go to hell if I share out my audio books, but don't chastise me like a small child. What the folks at Audible and others need to realize is that no sooner do they come up with a protection scheme, that there are a plethora of smart people out there looking for a work around.


2006-02-21 05:22:14
Response to: paulrpotts April 1, 2003 and Anamous2 iTunes says "None of the itmes in this playlist can be burned to CD." if you go to the downloads section of the audible help site you will find an "Audible Otis plug-in" this will allow you to burn audible CDs from iTunes.

Response to susan | January 27, 2006: I personally would prefer to burn MP3 cds because when I'm driving long distances it isn't terribly safe to be fumbling around trying to find cd3 and cd4 and cd8 ... when they would all fit on 1 mp3 cd. That doesn't even address sitting in front of the computer feeding it CDs for the whole evening when I would much rather be knitting. Why don't I use my ipod in the car with iTrip or something like that, because I don't live in a rural area with lots of empty band width!!

2006-04-16 18:55:26
Any easy/direct solutions for AA->MP3 conversion? If not, I'd be willing to look into it and code a single-purpose utility, but I have no AA file for analysis and testing (haven't subscribed until I'm sure I will be able to listen to the stuff on my iAudio G3 w/o AA support).

I'm a freelance programmer with lots of audio-coding-related know-how. If anyone here would be interested (I know I am), and willing to help me sending a sample AA file, let me know on my attached e-mail! I prefer programming in Linux, so the conversion (or de-DRM) tool would be definitely multiplatform - running on both Windows and Linux.

Btw, is it true that Audible.com are providing stuff not only in AA, but sometimes in AAC as well/instead??

Thanks for any help!
mail: foceni/at/gmail.com

2006-05-01 12:15:44
I soooooo agree. Audible was so good at first. But is rarely works. Doing a download is a nightmare and then getting it to play on your player is a joke - very painful.

Some profit minded person should do what audible does but do it right.