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Audible DRM

Ever bought an audiobook on Well, I have but I may never do it again in the foreseeable future. What happened?

After completing the ordering & payment transaction, I was presented with some "Your order is complete" screen. Clicking on "My Library" didn't show the title I just bought, which was kinda confusing. An email confirmation arrived, stating that I could access my library on Clicked on that...and was presented with the login screen again.

Wait, I am already logged in, I just bought an audiobook. Checking the email and the URL again if this is some kind of scam, but no, it's all legit. Oh, what the hell, let's type in the login credentials again. But now I'm on the main page again, but I wanted to go to Pasting the address again and the whole procedure repeats again. OK, closed the browser, deleted the cookies...opened again...and the whole procedure repeats again. Hm, shall I call the hotline number? I did...but they're only available during the week and during business hours. I was almost ready to write an email to their support drones but just before sending I tried again and this time I got to my library. And there it was, the title I just bought half an hour ago.

But what now? There was no download button! Only a link asking me to configure an Audio player. Huh? I just wanted to download the .mp3 or .flac file and listen to the audiobook! Following the link to configure and audio player I understood what was happening: they're using DRM and need to know what system (Mac/Windows) or device (brand) I am using so that they can present me a file that my device is able to play. Among the choices were:
  • Computer (iTunes), for Mac/Windows
  • Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod, Amazon Kindle
  • CD
OK, I'm on a Mac right now but I don't use iTunes and I don't have a dedicated music player, at least not one Audible knows about. So this "burn to CD" looked like a sane choice. I might get a big PCM file which I then could convert into a format I like, maybe?

But it wasn't a real choice, since it is expected to use iTunes again to burn the title to an Audio CD. No, I didn't intend to burn a 6.5 hour long audiobook on a couple of compact disks. (Insert witty "the nineties called, and..." joke here!)

OK, iTunes it is then. I went with "Computer (Mac)" and AAX+ as it is said to be the "best" format, according to Audible. I was able to download a 180 MB .aax file. Hm, 180 MB for 6.5 hours? Opened iTunes, imported the .aax file...but iTunes wouldn't play and displayed an unknown error. Hm, they're using DRM, right? So, let's open the floodgates for iTunes...and sure enough it contacted some server to request permission to play this file. I had to enter my Audible login credentials again and finally iTunes was able to play the audiobook. Phew! Halfway there...

But I still needed to convert this file to a sane and portable format. The iTunes function "Create MP3 version" would only say: "could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats". Hah! We'll see about that :-)

Burning to CD was still an option: in iTunes, create a new playlist first, then drag the music to the playlist. Right click on the playlist and "Burn Playlist to CD" should appear. But 7 disks for an audiobook? And then ripping those off the CD again & converting into MP3 files seemed an awful lot of work. So, what options do we have?

What follows was some kind of personal time travel back into the days of promising (Windows) programs, serial numbers, keygens and computer viruses. Oh, the agony!

The first contender was Wondershare AllMyMusic, a Mac program even, which comes as a 7-day trial. It basically creates a new "Wondershare" audio device and hijacks all sound output to that device, where it then records from. Not bad for a start, but I didn't intend wait 6.5 hours until the recording is done. Also, I was hoping that some other program could just magically remove the DRM part and be done with it.

Other sources suggested GoldWave. Wait, what? Goldwave? This kinda rusty looking windows program that I used 10 years ago? Wow, it's still there, and still has that retro look, hah! But its functionality is the same as this "Wondershare" thingy - I made a mental note about Goldwave and continued to look for some De-DRM magic.

Another tool is called Aimersoft DRM Media Converter, there's a trial version for Windows, but it somehow wasn't working for me. (I later found out that the RDP session I used to connect to the windows box didn't forward the audio signal back to my machine and the media converter would error out with "Virtual driver not installed")

One of the more esoteric program was DVDneXtCOPY iTurns Pro, but they didn't have a trial version and I didn't want to spend money for a program I might never use again.

So, the only viable option was to play this thing in iTunes and somehow grab the audio signal and record it. Only then I remembered that I had a working version of Audacity installed. There I could choose from the following input devices: "Built-in input" (the microphone) or "Soundflower" (as 2 channel and 16 channel; I honestly don't know why I had these devices installed).

But how could I set iTunes to output the one of the soundflower devices? There's now way in iTunes to do this but in system preferences there is: click on sound an select "Soundflower (2ch)". Now, playing something in iTunes should not output any sound to the speakers as it's now sent to this soundflower device. Audacity can now be set to record for a given timespan. Afterwards the raw audio can be converted to a different format.

Phew, what a ride. So, what did we learn here? Don't buy from Audible or any other site with DRM infested media. Oh, and read up on what these sites are actually selling before buying - yeah, should've done this myself...