MP3 Tips

I am an audiobook lover. I’ve come up with some steps and software that will aid you on your quest if you’re like me and want to enjoy your audiobooks on your iPhone or iPod (most steps apply to listening on any device).

Before I get into the gorey details below, I will mention that Audible.com can be an excellent source of audiobooks. They make it very easy to buy books, get them on your device (without all of the steps below). You will own them as long as Audible exists and can delete them from your device and re-download them later.  I like Audible, but while they are somewhat reasonably priced they aren’t free. The below steps will aid you in getting audiobooks on CD that you own or have borrowed from the library onto your device.

Finally before we get started: if you are checking out audiobook CD’s from the library, please respect the system. If you have borrowed the audiobook for 3 weeks and gone through the process below to get it onto your device, please listen to the book and delete it once your lending period is over. I’m not encouraging you to steal audiobooks, I’m just trying to give you a more convenient way to listen to the ones you have. Certainly if you have bought the audiobook CD’s, keep them on your iPod as long as you like. I have recently found the Amazon is sometimes selling the audiobook CD’s nearly as cheaply as the hardcover. I’d love to see audiobooks become even more mainstream.

Ripping the book to many MP3s

  1. As I mentioned before, don’t forget your local library. Most libraries check out audiobooks on CD (skip the tapes these days). Many libraries even have “download” support for audiobooks that uses the “Overdrive” service. These are a great source of free audiobooks. Also of note, Cracker Barrel restaurants rent audiobook CD’s at a modest price last I checked.
  2. There are a ton of CD ripping programs out there. My personal favorite free one is CDex. If configured correctly, this will rip a CD right to MP3 using the LAME encoder which is a really great, free MP3 encoder. I suggest ripping each disc to its own folder. Make sure before you rip that you are giving filenames that include a track number. In CDex, go to Options | Settings | Filenames to change the filenames it writes and the directory to write the files to. I prefer a filename setting similar to “%1\%2\%7 %4”.
  3. When encoding music, a high bitrate in stereo is preferable (at least stereo, 160 kbps). When encoding an audiobook, I always generally encode at 64 kbps, mono, 44.1khz frequency, CBR (constant bitrate). I don’t recommend VBR (variable bitrate), especially  for audiobooks.
  4. For tagging MP3 files, I love the free program Mp3tag. It’s pretty easy to use and does pretty much everything.

Renaming & Re-tracking the MP3s (so you can merge them)

    1. Start Mp3tag
    2. Set the “Directory” (on the left) to be the folder that contains all of the folders. The right pane should then contain all of the files from the audiobook, across all of the discs.
    3. Sort the files in the right pane by “Path” but clicking on the “Path” column header. Scan through the list, it should now be ordered by disc and within a disc it should be ordered by track number (this order should be the correct order for the entire book).
    4. Select all of the files for the audiobook (click on one file, then press Control-A). We will now renumber the tracks numbers. Select Tools | Auto-numbering wizard (or press Control-K). Make sure “Leading zeros…” is checked and “Reset counter…” is not checked. Click OK.
    5. We want to rename the files to include this new track number. All of the files should still be selected. Select Convert | Tag – Filename (or press Alt-1). A format such as “$num(%track%,4) – yourbookname” is probably appropriate. The “4” specifies the total number of digits (padded with leading zeros) that will be used in the filename when writing the track number. “4” is good for books with 1000-9999 tracks. If you have fewer than 1000 tracks, you can use a smaller number than “4”.
    6. Now that we know the mp3s contain a track number that is unique across the entire book and that this new, unique track number is reflected in the filename, we want to move them all to a single directory. Still with all of the files for the book selected, select Edit | Move. Select the single folder you want all of the files moved to. Once you click “Select Folder” Mp3tag will move all of the files to that folder.

    Merging the MP3s

    1. The next thing we want to do is to merge all of these files into a single MP3 file. Currently my favorite program for doing this is MergeMP3. Start MergeMP3 and drag all of the files you want to merge to the MergeMP3 window. Make sure the order is correct (look at the track numbers in the filenames) – if the order is incorrect, click on the File Name column header once or twice until the order is correct.  Check the “Include ID3 Tag” and fill out the information for the ID3 tag. I always specify a Genre of “Audiobook” for my audiobooks. Select File | Merge to start the merge process. I generally write the merged MP3 file to a filename such as “author – booktitle.mp3”. This merge process will just take a few seconds (maybe a minute or so for a long book).
    2. You now have the entire book in a single file. You don’t need to keep the individual files you used for the merge – you can delete them.

    Adding the Merged MP3 to Your iPod / iPhone

    1. Assuming you are using an iPod or iPhone, drag that single file file into iTunes.
    2. By default, the new MP3 will appear in Music, but we don’t want it there. Search for it in Music then right click on it and select “Get Info”.
    3. First check the Info tab. Make sure it is tagged how you want it. Make sure Name, Artist, and and album are filled in. Make sure Genre is “Audiobook”. Second, go to the Options tab. Change the Media Kind to “Audiobook” and check both “Remember playback position” and “Skip when shuffling”. Third, go to Artwork. In a web browser do a Google Image search for your book’s author and title. Once you find an image you like, click on it to open it and then the click on “See full size image” (top left). Drag the image into the iTunes Artwork box. Now close the iTunes window by clicking OK. It may takes iTunes from a few seconds to a couple minutes to write the new details to the file.
    4. The book will now be located in iTunes not in Music but in Audiobooks. On the left, click Audiobooks to see that it now appears there.
    5. Sync your iPhone or iPod and you are ready to start enjoying your book “on the go”.

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