Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fairfax Public Library - Windows Media books

Phil Shapiro writes:

The Fairfax County Public Library system is a large library system in Northern Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC. Leaders of the Fairfax Public Libraries think it's a good idea to distribute downloadable audio books to the public in Windows Media format. These digital rights managed (DRM) files will not play on Macintosh computers, GNU/Linux computers or iPods. Taxpayer funds are being used to purchase these audio books.

[via BoingBoing]

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Colleen said...

I agree with this editorial wholeheartedly. As as mobile user, librarian, and audio book junkie, I'm thrilled to see a service like this growing in popularity among public libraries. However, I'm very frustrated at the limited hardware that supports this media. I too agree it neglects a large part of our user base... Palm OS users and iPod users for one (both of which retain the largest user share within their markets). The fact that these books aren't available in mp3 format requires users to own the more pricey mobile units that support WMA instead of just mp3.

I've tried to get the library at which I presently work to consider joining this service through one of our local consortia, but the idea doesn't fly among many of the staff here who aren't as comfortable with these kinds of technologies. However, after reading up on the service more, and attempting to use it myself (I'm a Palm user, so no go), I'm now leaning towards pushing for audi books on mp3-CD formats intead.

Grace said...

It's possible to listen to MP3s on the OS5 Palms such as the Tungsten. Email me and let's figure out what information you need.

Colleen said...

I already listen to MP3s on my Palm, but the Overdrive program doesn't offer audio books in MP3, only WMA. There's been discussion about this on the PalmOne community boards, but so far, none of the contributing members have been able to listen to the Overdrive files on their Palms.

Anonymous said...

There a bit of confusion here. First, the problem per se is not that iPods will not play audiobooks; the problem is that Mac/Unix users cannot download the audio books at all, even to an 'approved' device.
Why? Not because of anything Apple or Unix has done, but because Microsoft, who makes/supplies the Windows Media Player which is used to download the audio books from NetLibrary has not released a version for Macs/Unix users which allows their 'protected' files to play.
Perhaps the Fairfax county library should insist that NetLibrary work with Microsoft to 'unlock' the WMP for Macs such that these digital audio books could be share by all. One could argue that any form of discrimination is wrong, even digital discrimination.