OverDrive announces the debut of the Overdrive Media Console for the Mac today.
Earlier this summer, OverDrive announced they had been able to break through roadblocks to make some titles downloadable in the MP3 format (the format that runs on Mac, iPods and iPhones). The Media Console makes downloading and managing those titles easier for library customers.
Unfortunately, there are fewer titles available from OverDrive in Mac’s MP3 format than there are in the Microsoft format (Windows Media Audio, or WMA), which is often difficult to explain to library customers.
In order to make titles available in MP3, publishers must be willing to offer titles without Digital Rights Management software (the software that puts limits on how the audio can be used). This is because Apple software can only read titles encrypted with Apple’s DRM, available exclusively on titles downloaded through iTunes and Audible. Thus, OverDrive cannot encrypt DRM on titles in MP3 format the way they can titles in the Windows format.
Many publishers have been reluctant to give up DRM for fear of piracy (true, publishers don’t seem overly worried that CD’s can be ripped and downloaded, but that takes a bit more effort). Random House recently made their titles DRM-free, so they could be sold to iPod users through more vendors than Audible and iTunes. However, they specifically excluded libraries from this arrangement, because, they said in their press release, without DRM, there’s no way to limit “borrowing privileges.”
Until Apple makes its DRM software available to other vendors, or until all publishers make their titles available DRM free to libraries, you will have to continue to try to explain why iPod users can only download a limited number of titles.
If you’re a glutton for punishment and want to learn more about DRM, check out A Closer Look at Digital Rights Management from Law.com.