Clash of the Titans

Snippy emails are bouncing back and forth between Recorded Books and OCLC/NetLibrary.

The two companies had been supplying us and lots of other libraries with eAudiobooks – downloadable audiobooks for patrons to play on their computers or transfer to an mp3 player. The content was created by Recorded Books – basically a DRM heavy, digital version of their wonderful audio recordings. The technical side was all NetLibrary. It’s only been a moderate success here.

This one from Recorded Books, dated May 4:
I am writing to inform you that Recorded Books is ending its relationship with NetLibrary on a going forward basis. For those customers in an agreement, whether it is one year or multi-year, nothing will change. Recorded Books will continue to provide customer support as in the past. We will also continue to refresh your collection with great new content every month. You should not see a single difference in the service you have been offering. Your agreement will go on as scheduled, and end as scheduled at the end of your subscription term. For those customers wishing to renew, please do so by May 18th, 2007. Please contact us if for some reason you cannot meet that date. After a cut off date of May 18th or otherwise agreed to, it will not be possible to renew the present service. Obviously the marketplace offers you choices – now with NetLibrary, and at some point in the future with Recorded Books. It just won’t be together.

That was a surprise! Then on May 9, this email popped in from OCLC/NetLibrary:

“Two weeks ago, Recorded Books unexpectedly sent OCLC a letter purporting to immediately terminate our agreement. It is the judgment of our attorneys that this termination is not justified. We are in discussions with Recorded Books about this action. Unfortunately, we understand that the Recorded Books sales force has informally told many libraries that Recorded Books has terminated its agreement with OCLC. This is incorrect. We also understand that many libraries were sent an e-mail from Recorded Books management last week stating that all upcoming eAudiobook renewals must be completed by May 18, 2007. Again, this message is incorrect. Recorded Books does not have the right to immediately terminate the agreement, and has not satisfied the agreement’s provisions for termination. Consequently, there is no need to accelerate the timing of your subscription renewal.”

Lovers’ spat?  Or a serious divorce?  In any case, I hope it leads to an improved product.  It would be GREAT if somehow the suppliers of e-media to libraries could take a cue from Apple and lose the DRM.  It sucks out any fun you have downloading media.