Overdrive Media and iPods

Q: My local library uses Overdrive Media for their audio books, which isn’t compatible with the iPod. I am sure there must be a way to get around this, but I don’t really know how. Could you give me some information on how I could do this?

– Patti

A: Unfortunately, there is not an easy way around this with the current implementation of the Overdrive Media format. This format is basically a copy-protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, and therefore cannot be played on the iPod or even converted to a more iPod-friendly format due to the Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy protection.

There is a somewhat time-consuming workaround for this that might work for some content, depending entirely on whether or not the DRM license allows that content to be burned to a CD. Whether or not this is permitted is based entirely on the policy of the content publisher themselves, and if you cannot burn a specific audio book to a CD, it is because the publisher has chosen to specifically prohibit this as part of the DRM policy/license on that particular audio book.

You should be able to tell whether or not a title can be burned to CD by looking at the content restrictions on your local library’s web site, or by viewing the “Properties/Licenses” option in the Overdrive Media Console for content that you have already checked out.

If the content you are using can be burned to a CD, you will need to do this via either the Overdrive Media Console or Windows Media Player, using the instructions provided with these applications.

Once you have burned the audio CD, you can then import it into iTunes as you would any other music CD.

The good news is that Overdrive Media has recently announced that they plan to begin supporting the MP3 format in the near future. MP3 is a more open format compatible with a much wider variety of devices, and will likely not include any form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions. Note, however, that it may likely still be up to individual audio book publishers whether they choose to distribute in the MP3 format or the DRM-protected WMA format that they are presently using.