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HPR1144: Who Owns Your Files

Hosted by Ahuka on 2012-12-20 00:00:00
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Indie and Creative Commons

  • Soundcloud - This is a music and audio sharing site, primarily.
  • Free Music Archive - Lots of CC-licensed music.
  • Jamendo - One of the premiere CC music sites.
  • Bandcamp - I just learned about this site from my friend Craig Maloney, who does the Open Metal Cast. This site has Creative Commons music from bands who want to build a relationship with their fans and sell them music. Good artists like Amanda Palmer are here.


When it comes to books, you really are at the mercy of the individual publishers. Most music labels have finally come to accept that no DRM is the best way to go, but must book publishers are still being dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming. But there are some good places to find e-books that respect your freedom.
  • Project Gutenberg - This is the granddaddy of the DRM free book sites. Project Gutenberg makes available books that are in the Public Domain, i.e., where the copyright has run out. These are mainly older books, but a lot of classics are in here. They make books available in all of the major formats.
  • Baen Books - This publisher specializes in the harder Science Fiction, but they really understand the new media landscape. They not only offer most of their books DRM-free and in multiple formats, but they also have the Baen Free Library, where they offer selected books free of charge. The hope is that with the first taste free, you will want to buy more. And it works. I went there to see what they had, discovered that they had the entire collected works of one of my favorite authors (James H. Schmitz) for sale, and bought the lot of them.
  • Tor/Forge - A major publisher in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields, they just moved to going DRM free a few months ago. They did this because other publishers had been successful in so doing.
  • Angry Robot - Along with Baen, a pioneer in selling DRM-free books in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields.
  • Avon Romance - A major publisher of romance novels, they just announced that they are experimenting with DRM-free ebook sales.
  • O'Reilly Media - The premiere publisher of technical books, they pretty get everything right. They sell e-books without DRM. When a new edition of a book you already bought comes out you can "upgrade" for a nominal fee (e.g. I upgraded my Kevin Purdy "Android" book for $1). And with older books that they think are no longer worth in print, they are removing the copyright and making them freely available.
  • ManyBooks.net - This site has a lot of overlap with Project Gutenberg, but also has some newer works that have been made available, such as Charles Stross's Accelerando.
  • Fictionwise - Although heavy on the Science Fiction and Fantasy, has a lot of offerings in other genres as well. Reasonably priced and DRM-free.
  • Cory Doctorow - Cory was one of the first authors to make a point of offering all of his works not only DRM-free but free of charge in e-book formats from his Web site. But you know, when the book he co-authored with Charles Stross Rapture of the Nerds came out recently I went to the Google Play store and bought it.
  • DriveThru Fiction - An interesting site that also has Comics and RPG games available.
  • Apress - A publisher of technical books that also offers reduced-price e-books if you have already purchased the print title. This is something I'd like to see more of.
  • Packt Publishing - Another technical book publisher with DRM-free books.


This is where there is still a big disappointment. Audible, which is by any measure the clear leader here, insists on DRM on all of their books, which is why I refuse to get an account. Audible is now owned by Amazon, which sells music tracks as MP3 files without DRM, so there was hope when they bought Audible that we could get DRM-free audiobooks, but that was not the case. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
  • eMusic - This is the same site I mentioned above for DRM-free music tracks. They also offer a subscription plan for audiobooks, $10 a month gets you one book. Selection is not as good as Audible, but their list is growing all of the time and I have had no trouble finding books there that interest me. I recently listened to Walter Isaacson's biography of Albert Einstein through a book I bought here.
  • Podiobooks - This site offers audiobooks in serialized form, much like podcasts offer you a file every week. Heavy on the Science Fiction and Fantasy at this point, but worth checking out. Scott Sigler and J.C. Hutchins are both available here, for instance.
  • Scott Sigler - Scott used free content to get his name out, but still offers free audio versions on his web site even though he now has a publisher.
  • Cory Doctorow - Cory in addition to offering free ebooks also offers audiobooks that are DRM-free on a "name your own price" basis. Among the readers on his books are Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, Spider Robinson, and Leo Laporte. He even sells files and CDs in Ogg format if you prefer to get your files that way. Due seriously gets freedom, but if you know anything about Cory Doctorow you know that.

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