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Technology fail - the funcrunch files

Mar. 23rd, 2010 08:19 pm Technology fail

A few months ago I wanted to check out a book from the library, which I hadn't visited in awhile. I went to the library web site to find out if it was available, and found that there was an audiobook version that I could download and listen to immediately! It was in MP3 format and played fine in iTunes, on my iPod, and on my Android. I was a Happy Camper.

Cut to last week or so. I was listening to a podcast and during their Audible ad (one of their regular sponsors), a book was mentioned that sounded interesting. I was delighted to see that it was also available for free download from the library. But I was unable to login to the site, and eventually found that my card had expired.

Today I finally got around to going to the library in person to renew my card. Upon coming home I excitedly downloaded the book, only to find that it was in protected WMA format and I had to download a special application just to play it. The application came in Mac, Windows, and Android versions. I tried the Mac version first. It said it couldn't play protected files. Then the Windows version, on Windows 7 running under Parallels. It worked fine, but when I wanted to transfer the file to my iPod, I found that wouldn't work unless my iPod were Windows-formatted. I tried mounting my Android in Windows, but the application refused to acknowledge it.

Next I went to the Android Marketplace to download that version. I never even got beyond the description, as from the comments it was clear the app only supported MP3 files. I Googled and found some info indicating that older Androids had native WMA support, so I tried mounting the Android and dragging the files onto it. Opened the Music app, and could not find them anywhere.

Sooooo to avoid further pain I will have to listen to this file while setting at my desk or laptop running Windows on my Mac. I should have just checked out the bloody book in the first place...

Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

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Date:March 24th, 2010 03:50 am (UTC)
You should complain to the library, to the local government, and to the local newspaper that your library is supporting Digital Restrictions Management. That's completely immoral and totally at odds with the purpose of libraries in the first place. It's one thing if the library isn't able to provide MP3 audiobooks of some books because of copyright problems; it's a completely different issue if they're supporting DRM.
Date:March 24th, 2010 06:48 am (UTC)
I was going to defend the library by saying they still offer non-DRM options, but from their digital quickstart guide it looks like all of their digital materials have some kind of DRM. :-(

On the other hand, I'm not sure that they could limit plain MP3 files so that they wouldn't work after a certain time period. The MP3 book I downloaded a few months ago still plays just fine.
Date:April 1st, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
No, they couldn't "limit plain MP3 files so that they wouldn't work after a certain time period." That's the point! That kind of thing is inherently a serious danger to libraries' ability to preserve the intellectual heritage of humanity in the face of the vicissitudes of history, and the methods used to attempt to achieve it are even worse — preventing you from programming your own computer, tracking individual people who read or listen to particular books in a huge central database, and so on.

If the consequence is that publishers will sue libraries if they provide digital audiobooks to their blind patrons, that's a fight worth fighting. Giving up on the library's social mission is not a better alternative.
Date:March 24th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
I totally agree if you're talking about content that you own, but we're talking about a library where the idea is you borrow the item for a specific period of time and then return it. This is one of the few situations where DRM kind of makes sense.