Importing audiobooks with iTunes 7

by Michael Alderete on 10/12/2006 · 55 comments

The most popular page on this site is my instructions for How to Import Audio CD audiobooks into iTunes. The process has changed slightly with iTunes 7, and while I’ve been meaning to publish all new instructions, with an improved process and additional details, it just hasn’t happened yet. So, in the meantime, and to answer the many reader questions I’ve received, here are the main differences you might run into. It really boils down to just three changes:

Change to Import Settings

One option has changed in the Preferences > Advanced > Importing preference panel, what should iTunes do when you insert a new CD. There are a couple new options, and the one you want has changed, from Show Songs to Show CD. Here’s the updated settings panel for my Optimal iTunes Import Settings description:

iTunes 7 Import Settings

Change to Start Import

The button for importing a CD has moved, from the top right corner to the bottom right corner. It no longer has an icon (it’s a text-only button now), and it only appears when you have a CD inserted and ready to import. Seems to have hidden itself from a lot of people.

Change to Expectations

When you import an audiobook using my instructions, it will appear in the Music source list, which is not what people are expecting. The expectation is that it will go into the Audiobooks section, but that won’t happen without more work.

I’ll provide more details in the revised instructions; for now, you can read through the FAQ for the information about putting tracks into the Audiobooks menu on the iPod; the steps involved are the same.

Jim Magdziuk October 18, 2006 at 3:58 pm

When I change what itunes will do when I import a Cd it doesn’t save my settings. Have you heard of this issue and do you know of a hack to fix it?

Alderete October 19, 2006 at 7:32 am

@Jim: I have never seen that problem, at least, if I understand what you’re describing. But you don’t say if your on a Mac or Windows, which version, which version of iTunes, etc., so it’s hard to even guess at a cause. My only suggestion at this point would be to run a disk scanning utility, like DiskWarrior or Norton Utilities… Good luck!

Chris January 28, 2007 at 8:52 am

Since I switch to I-tunes 7.02 for PC. I can not import .mp3 files. I can only do the mpeg4 from I-tunes. Is there a way to change this. I have alot of music I would like to use in the old format.

Alderete January 28, 2007 at 7:49 pm

@Chris: Not sure what your problem would be. iTunes 7 can certainly import in MP3 format, and I’ve personally dragged .mp3 format files into iTunes in the last week, it worked just fine. Maybe you just need to adjust your import settings…? Otherwise, email me with a more complete description of your problem, and I’ll see if I can help…

Di March 6, 2007 at 8:38 am

Was given ipod nano recently and followed your instructions for importing audio cd into itunes 7 onto my PC. When I come to Join CD Tracks the command is Dimmed. I have read your notes on this problem but still can not get this command to work.
I can update the tracks to my ipod but there are so many! Any suggestions on how to Join CD tracks in itunes ?

Di March 6, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Problem with join CD tracks command now sorted.

Zoe Zapruder March 22, 2007 at 1:32 pm

I had the same problems that Di had with the “join CD tracks” command. There is one more vital step that has to be taken with iTunes7 (possibly other versions too but don’t know since 7 is all I’ve ever worked with). Not only do the tracks have to be in numerical order and check-boxed, but they also have to be HIGHLIGHTED (ctrl A will highlight all tracks on a CD). At that point, the “join CD tracks” will no longer be grayed out and one can proceed with the rest of your directions.

Alderete March 23, 2007 at 9:17 am

@Zoe: Yes, this has always been true, because the command joins the selected tracks. This allows you to join the entire CD, by selecting all the tracks, or join tracks in groups, which you might want to do if you were trying to group a chapter together, and there were multiple chapters on the disc. I did this for all of my Harry Potter books, for example. Of course then you run into chapters that are split across two discs, and there’s no way in iTunes to join those into one track. But “Audiobook Builder”:/blog/585 will do that for you.

Tonny March 25, 2007 at 3:54 am

Alderete, thanks for a really nice article. but i have a question of a different tipe. Some people already have some audio-book ripped\downloaded from some other places but iTunes Store. The question that i have is: Is there is a way how to put .mp3 into the Audiobooks cathegory in iPod. i have ID3v2 tags setted as “Books & Spoken” but when you imort them to iTunes it appears just in the common cathegory, but not in the Audiobook. P.S. I’m using Windows, iTunes 7.1.1.5, iPod Mini

Alderete March 25, 2007 at 12:12 pm

@Tonny: Answered in the FAQs, including: “How do I get my audiobook to appear in the Audiobooks menu on my iPod?”:http://aldoblog.com/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q11 and “Why do I need to convert tracks to Protected AAC? Why do I need to make the tracks bookmarkable?”:http://aldoblog.com/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q6

Tim April 7, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Just bought a Ipod 5th generation and have itunes 7.1.1.5 on my new custom made PC, cannot find the join tracks button and my audio book is 11 discs so i don’t want a ton of tracks floating around my Ipod, do you know where the join tracks would be for this version of itunes? and while i’m here i’m gonna suggest Matthew Reilly to everyone who writes action packed books that will 1 day be turned into blockbuster movies. thanks for putting this site up because the other sites are useless

Alderete April 7, 2007 at 11:10 pm

@Tim: I’m not sure I understand your question. The Join Tracks command is in the Advanced menu of iTunes 7, as it has been since at least iTunes 4. It hasn’t moved, and I doubt if it ever will. There is not, and never has been, a Join Tracks button. So, select the tracks on the CD, choose Advanced > Join CD Tracks, and away you go.

Martha April 9, 2007 at 7:13 pm

I have been using winmx to download a “few” songs. I downloaded two audiobook and I have been unble to open them with ITunes. Usually the only thing I have to do is go to my music folder and then choose “open with ITunes” and voila! For some reason I cannot do that for two downloaded audio books. It’s happened before with a couple of songs, but it never bothered me, but it took soooo long to download these files and I really want to open them. Any suggestions? Thanks!!!!!

Alderete April 9, 2007 at 9:19 pm

@Martha: I would be happy to try to help, but unfortunately, you’ve omitted many of the details that are necessary to help you. What are the books? Where did you download them? Can you be more specific about how you downloaded them? In what format are they? What version of iTunes are you using? Have you tried dragging the downloaded files into your iTunes Library window? Etc. Send an email with the details, and I’ll try to help.

Martha April 10, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for answering. I did try and drag the file into ITuens, but no luck. It’s a fiction audiobook: the file is 356mb mp3 file. The bit rate of the file 48kbs and the Channel is mono. I am using iTunes 7. I tried to import the file and then encode it to AAC but I was never able to import it into iTunes. Any help would be greatly appeciated it -thanks!

Alderete April 12, 2007 at 10:58 pm

@Martha: Hmmm. Are you able to play the file with another MP3 player, like Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer, or WinAMP, or something like that? For iTunes to not want to import the file, it makes me think the file is corrupted in some way, but if it’s playing in other players, that would prove otherwise. But if that’s not the case, then I don’t know what the issue could be…

Holly Turner April 26, 2007 at 12:26 pm

I am an audio book fan. I followed your previous instructions and CDs would download like a charm. Now, after about 10 tracks (short ones, the audio book tracks), the speed slows until they often freeze. I can hear the CD player start to struggle. Or it copies but the sound quality is terrible, it skips and jumps.

I have 7.1.1 but when I try to follow your instructions, I don’t seem to be able to get the details screen under “custom” to be the same. If I select 32 it comes up 32 (mono) 64 (stero) 22.050 KHz using voice filtering optimized for MMX/SSE2.

Help!

Alderete April 26, 2007 at 12:50 pm

@Holly: You’re not specific in your comment about whether this is happening on just one disc, or on every disc you’re trying. But either way, it sure sounds like either a scratched disc or a failing CD drive, i.e., a physical problem, not a software problem. I’d suggest trying a few other discs, and then trying the discs that won’t import on a second computer. That should tell you if the problem is the disc(s) or the drive, and at that point, your next steps will be clear. HTH!

Holly April 30, 2007 at 11:32 am

OK I’ll try those steps — but what about the selections? I don’t get the same choices that you do. Is it because I’m on a PC and not a Mac?

Alderete May 2, 2007 at 7:34 am

@Holly: If you are talking about the AAC encoder settings, I don’t know why you’re getting the options you’re getting. After fiddling for a while with different options, I don’t see what you describe in my Windows installation of iTunes (iTunes 7.1.1.5, WinXP SP2 Build 2600). It could be some difference in your installed version of Windows, or Media Player, or something like that.

Be sure you’re setting your options like I illustrate them in the “Optimal Import Settings”:/audiobooks/itunes/import-settings/#import-settings page, the AAC Encoder settings dialog remains exactly the same in iTunes 7. Just going off the screenshot above on this page is not the right way to get your AAC Encoder settings correct, as it only shows the results of the dialog, not what you need to enter in the dialog itself.

Deborah McNaughton May 29, 2007 at 11:15 am

Whenever I join the tracks and enter Submit CD Tract Names, I receive a CDDB error HTTP processing error. I have tried several audiobooks and sometimes I get the message immediately, and sometimes after I enter in the info about the artist, etc. I have iTunes 7 and Windows. I bought my iPod specifally to download audiobooks from the library. I reconfigured my settings and followed you directions. Thank you for your help.

Apple Knocker July 16, 2007 at 4:12 pm

With all the intelligent ITUNE users out there, I’m surprized someone hasn’t written a program to Rip Audiobooks into Itunes. I’m sure we have someone capable of doing it. Seems like there’s enough interest in having a program to do it.

Alderete July 16, 2007 at 7:09 pm

@Apple Knocker: I think you missed “this post about Audiobook Builder”:/blog/585, which is a review of software which does exactly that.

Adeline July 28, 2007 at 6:42 am

A friend sent me an audiobook .aa file about 15MB. I downloaded it from email and tried to use iTunes to open it but no response. Doesn’t show up anything whether I drag n drop or import it. So I tried copying it to a CD and then applied your Import Audiobook CD instructions onto iTunes..it sounded on my pc that it was reading the CD with .aa file but then nothing appears either. Any clue? p/s: my iTunes is version 7.3.1.3. Gee, I have no idea playing an .aa file can be so difficult. What other player can I use if not iTunes?

Alderete July 28, 2007 at 11:43 am

@Adeline: Normally “.aa” files are from Audible.com. It’s a proprietary, and DRM-wrapped audio file format which only they produce (so far as I know), and it’s intended to be played only by the Audible.com account holder who downloaded it. (Technically, your friend is in violation of his terms of service in sending you the file.)

What this means is, the main reason you’re not able to play it is that your computer isn’t authorized to play it. When you first play a .aa track in iTunes, you will be prompted for your Audible.com username and password. Once entered, playback of that file, and any other .aa files you acquire which are licensed to the same account holder, will proceed just as normal non-DRM wrapped files play back.

Some people have an anaphylactic shock allergic reaction to DRM in any form. It can certainly be inconvenient, but I personally find Audible.com’s to be pretty reasonable, working well with iTunes and the various iPods my wife and I have had. (Disclosure: I’m an Audible.com affiliate, and make a bit of money referring people to the service. But I do it because I use and like it, not for the money; I’m never going to get much beyond pocket change from that…)

All of that said, it is odd that you haven’t been able to get the track into iTunes, and at least see the authorization prompt. But it’s no wonder my instructions didn’t help you, that’s not the situation they cover; they are designed for specific standard audio CD formats, not for the data CD you burned yourself.

Jane August 10, 2007 at 3:04 pm

I have been able to import audio CD’s to iTunes by following your directions. I just put one book at a time onto my iPod. I join the tracks on each CD and import the. The problem comes when I’m finished all CD’s, they don’t appear in numerical order on iTunes. Say there are 5 CD’s,they show up for instance in a list as 5,1,2,3,4. How do I get them in order? When I click on disk 1, it just starts to play! Also, how do I delete the previous book on my iPod?

Alderete August 11, 2007 at 12:10 pm

@Jane: There is a “FAQ about ‘random’ track order”:http://aldoblog.com/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q16 that should help you with this issue.

NJ August 22, 2007 at 6:19 am

I followed your all your steps but now the import process is very very slow. What have I done wrong?

Also, do you know of a site like your own that will help me learn how to import photos into my Ipod. I cant seem to figure out how to create sub files within the Ipod and when I try to import a second batch of photos the first batch disappears.

Alderete August 22, 2007 at 7:15 am

@NJ: Do you have the “Use error correction when importing Audio CDs” setting turned on in Preferences > Advanced > Importing? If so, try turning that off. That’s not normally needed, and will really slow things down.

Mike Flanery August 23, 2007 at 2:45 am

I am having problems with audiobooks on my nano stopping between CD’s. I am using windows XP SP2 with itunes 7.2. It will play one CD on the Ipod and then stop. I will have to scroll to the next CD and play it. I did not have this problem with earlier itunes versions on a previous mini ipod.

Pat Lee September 16, 2007 at 11:49 am

I am running iTunes 7.4.1 (2) on a Mac OSX 10.4.10

I have the classic video iPod with approximately 58 GB of space available. None of the categories is anywhere near full.

My problem is that I have an audiobook of my own loaded into iTunes (from a CD). It’s not a long one, about 1 hour in length. When I load it into the iPod it appears to be there, it even looks like it is playing when I select it, but in the iPod there is absolutely no audio with it.

It plays fine in iTunes.

The format it is in is AIFF . Not sure what all information I need to provide here. . . .it’s -12.7 dB, if that helps.

I have a feeling I’ve selected or not selected something for this particular audiobook that is causing the problem. I’ve had no other problems with any other movies, audiobooks, podcasts or music.

Danette September 21, 2007 at 4:33 am

I followed your instructions but something went wrong and I can’t figure it out. I have a pc, the latest version of itunes, and a video ipod. As far as I can tell the download of the audiobook was smooth and really fast but I try to listen to the tracks on the ipod now and I get about ten seconds and its done. Where did I go wrong?

Andreas November 18, 2007 at 8:08 am

When I select “Submit CD Track Names” from the Advanced menu I only get the message: “The CD information was successfully sent to the Gracenote CDDB service.” and no CD Info dialog appears. What am I doing wrong?

Audrey Campbell November 18, 2007 at 7:08 pm

I’ve successfully converted CDs to audiobooks following your directions, but I can’t quite seem to get the multiple track issue sorted for longer stories. When I insert a CD, iTunes begins to automatically import it. I’m sure there’s a setting somewhere causing that, but I cannot for the life of me find it.

Once that happens, I can’t join the tracks — hence the problem. I have a stack of audio books here to do, but I don’t want to go any further until I get this sorted. Any suggestions you could offer would be most appreciated. :)

Audrey Campbell November 18, 2007 at 7:17 pm

All right, after reading your instructions yet again, I see where I am making my error. TY. :)

Janet November 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

I noticed that AudiobookBuilder is only for Mac. Is there software like this for Windows?

Sharron Armel December 23, 2007 at 9:53 am

Fantastic website, great instructions! Using a PC & iTunes 7.4, I’ve converted 2 books on CDs to be playable on my iPod. Now I’m trying to convert a book from original CDs produced by Brilliance Audio. After joining tracks, submitting, and receiving the Gracenotes acknowledgement, I click on “Import CD” and get the error message that I have no songs selected. The black line indicating they’re joined is showing, and all of the tracks are highlighted. Is there something odd about Brilliance format, or what else might I try? Thank you! ~Sharron

kat December 27, 2007 at 2:24 pm

This whole making a cd into an audiobook thing, is ridiculously irritating! Somehow i have 2 of each track, and i cannot get it to show up in ONLY the audiobooks, and not the songs list. I do not know where to access, or even how, to change the file extension to an .m4b! and now i have to try and delete 174 tracks of one book because the computer doubled each track! HELP! I really do not want to settle for just leaving my audiobook in the songs section.

CLBR December 27, 2007 at 5:25 pm

I have an ipod classic and itunes 7.4.3.1 on an windows xp (SP2) computer and I have tried both an mp3 and a cd audiobook download. I have converted them to aac, changed the files to *.m4b, opened and listened to 2-3 seconds/track and the files are still in music and not in audio books!! I tried closing/opening itunes, and still no luck. I double checked my import settings and they are ok. What else should I be doing?

CLBR December 27, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I figured out that I needed to open the files from windows and not from itunes. This worked for the imported audiobook from cd, but not from the mp3. Thanks

Alderete December 31, 2007 at 1:27 pm

@Pat Lee: An iPod will not, as far as I know, play AIFF files. iTunes handles it, because QuickTime has a lot more codecs available, but the iPod is a more limited device than a PC, and only plays back a few chosen formats. You’ll need to convert the track to a supported format, with AAC being the recommended/best format.

Alderete December 31, 2007 at 1:29 pm

@Andreas: This is an issue that I’m clarifying in my revised instructions, but the difference you’re experiencing is due to there already being metadata attached to the tracks, i.e., the Gracenote lookup when you first inserted the disc was successful, which is relatively rare for audiobooks, except bestsellers like the Harry Potter books. In any event, just skip the part where you fill in the information, and continue with the instructions.

Alderete December 31, 2007 at 1:32 pm

@Janet: There is nothing quite as good as Audiobook Builder for users on Windows systems. I have seen, but not yet tried, the following tool, which appears to at least do some of the process (including merging tracks, a very common question):

“MP3 to iPod Audio Book Converter”:http://www.freeipodsoftware.com/

Again, I haven’t tried it yet myself, but if it works for you, please do let me know.

Alderete December 31, 2007 at 1:37 pm

@kat: Hard to guess what you might have done to get multiple copies of tracks, but often it happens when doing a conversion from .mp3 to .m4a (MP3 to AAC). iTunes doesn’t delete the old versions automatically, you’ll need to do that yourself, and it’s much easier right after the conversion, when they are all still selected. Hit Control-Delete (Command-Delete on a Mac), and say yes to moving the tracks to the trash.

As for changing the file extension, there are a few FAQs on that, starting “here”:http://aldoblog.com/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q2.

Jim Bechdel April 20, 2008 at 6:43 am

I’m on a mac running iTunes 7. I can’ get past step 2. When I do Join CD Tracks each file does not show up as Track 01 also when I select submit CD info the CD dialog window won’t show up. I don think iTunes is retriveviing the titles for each track. I using the Latest Leopard 10.5.2.

Alderete April 21, 2008 at 1:22 am

@Jim: It’s pretty hard to guess what’s happening from your description. The first two steps in the instructions have worked without change in iTunes for many versions. Perhaps if you write up a more complete description, possibly including screenshots, and send it to the email address I include in the sidebar, I can try to help you further.

Lightinn June 7, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I have the same problem with slow import on about half of the disks I try to import. I am only loading audio books from various publishers of CDs as I purchase them. I have followed all of the recommended settings including deselecting error correction, etc. I have the latest version 7 of itunes. My theory is a difference in the products published, for example I have seldom had problems with importing books produced on CD by “Brilliance”.

(this is in reference to an earlier question by # Holly Turner on April 26th, 2007 at 12:26 pm):

bq. Holly Turner said: “I am an audio book fan. I followed your previous instructions and CDs would download like a charm. Now, after about 10 tracks (short ones, the audio book tracks), the speed slows until they often freeze. I can hear the CD player start to struggle. Or it copies but the sound quality is terrible, it skips and jumps.

Alderete June 7, 2008 at 11:38 pm

@Lightinn: If you’re having problems with brand new CDs, I would imagine that the issue is your optical drive. Beyond a hardware problem, there’s absolutely no reason why a brand new CD would have problems being read in. Do you have the ability to try a new music CD, with music-quality settings (e.g., the default settings, or higher quality)? If that’s also having problems, then I would guess that your issue is an imminent hardware failure…

mike July 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

I have read various online guides for optimizing CD Books for itunes but have run into some problems. I went into iTunes folder in my control panel and changed the file extensions from m4a to .m4b, but then when I went back into iTunes all the files (still listed as song files, by the way) had exclamation marks against them, except for two - even though I changed ALL the extensions. iTunes says they don’t exist but they are still there in my iTunes folder when I look through my control panel. How can i get iTunes to recognize them (and why don’t they recognize them - I already gave them .m4b extensions), and how can I get them into the audiobook category in iTunes?

Alderete July 27, 2008 at 9:55 am

@mike: “There’s a FAQ on that exact issue”:http://aldoblog.com/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q4, but you might find it unsatisfactory, because it means a huge amount of work. The fastest way around it is to drag the track files (all of them) out of the iTunes folder (e.g., onto your Desktop), delete them from iTunes, and then drag them from the Desktop into the iTunes Library window.

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