Friday, May 19, 2006

Digital audio books and standard digital audio format

There was a nasty email sent to the State Library recently, accusing us of bigotry (that's the word that was used!) because we have launched a statewide digital audio book project...and the books are not compatable with iPod.

The project is called Audio Books, Music and More, and it's powered by a company named OverDrive. This company offers statewide access to it's materials, and usage is based on the model of a library in which one book is "checked out" at a time and the book is virtually "returned" after fourteen days. The reason these books don't work with the iPod is that the formats are not compatible. Apple has one digital rights format and Windows has another, namely WMA (windows media audio format) which includes copyright protections. When we were putting together the project, we looked at a company that offered digital audio compatible with iPod (Audible.Com), but they were not interested in populating a statewide project. It's a problem of standardization of formats reminicient of the old VHS and Beta wars. See the following article on the dilemma:

I own an iPod. So do millions of other people. And I would LOVE it if the audio books in our collection were compatible with iPod. But it ain't gonna happen unless corporate minds change and a standard digital audio format is chosen. In the meantime, I'm using my iPod for iTunes and a Dell MP3 player (about $60) to listen to digital audio books.

So I'd like to ask iPod owners who feel personally slighted by this project to please be patient. We will add iPod compatible books and music as soon as they are available for a statewide purchase. Meanwhile, celebrate the project: since it was launched on May 1, every single book in the collection, and most of the music, has been checked out. Now that's a success!

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