Notes on Importing Audiobook CDs into iTunes 11

by Michael Alderete on 2/18/2013 · 38 comments

To read Apple’s marketing copy for iTunes 11, you’d think that the new app was a massive rewrite, or maybe even All! New! Fortunately for my instructions for importing audiobook CDs, while there’s some nice changes, lurking right below the surface is much the same user interface. Importing audiobook CDs using iTunes remains much the same task as before, with a few changes for some rearranged user interface elements. Here are some quick hints, while you wait for me to fully update the article.

Where Is the Join CD Tracks Command?

In step #2 of my instructions, you select the tracks of the CD and join them together, using the Advanced > Join CD Tracks menu item. But in iTunes 11 the Advanced menu is gone! What to do?

This action has been moved to the Options “mutton” (menu disguised as a button), which appears on the top-right of the list of the CD’s tracks:

Join CD Tracks menu item

Note that you must select the tracks of the CD before clicking the Options mutton, or the Join CD Tracks command won’t even appear in the menu. You also need to make sure the tracks are sorted by the track number in ascending order:

Sort by CD Track Number

Simplified Submit CD Track Names Steps

In steps #3-6 of my instructions, you choose Advanced > Submit CD Track Names, and then fill in a panel with metadata for the CD. The Submit CD Track Names action also moved to the Options mutton, but there’s actually a better way to accomplish the same thing. The purpose of submitting the track names was to open the CD Info dialog, which is now easily opened using the CD Info button, right next to the Options mutton:

CD Importing Buttons

Use that to fill in the CD’s details:

CD Info Panel

The Import CD Button Has Moved, Again

The Import CD button has moved, again, and its appearance has changed. It’s once again found in the upper-right of the list of the CD’s tracks, alongside the Options mutton and the CD Info button:

CD Importing Buttons

Clicking it will display the Import Settings dialog first, before actually importing the CD. This gives you a last chance to change to the optimal importing settings for audiobooks, just in case the last CD you imported was music. The Import Settings dialog is essentially unchanged; set it to your preferred audiobook settings, and click OK.

These changes should get you through steps 1-10 of my instructions. The rest of the steps (11-19) deal with perfecting the metadata attached to the imported tracks. They use the Track Info dialogs, which are essentially unchanged, and so is that section of the instructions.

Hope this gets you started!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Goldsmith February 20, 2013 at 1:36 am

Thank you for your excellent instructions. I think I must be doing something wrong, though. What I’m gettting on the Ipod (an old Classic) is the joined cd tracks showing up as separate tracks, rather than one complete book that plays from beginning to end. It’s not a major problem to move on to the next cd, once one has fionished, but it would be nice if it did it itself. Am I missing something?

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Michael Alderete February 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

@Dave: Seeing each merged CD as an individual track is expected. iTunes can’t merge tracks, except as part of the importing process, which means the most you can do is consolidate down to one track per CD. This is a limitation of using iTunes to import the CDs, and it’s the major reason why I recommend and personally use Audiobook Builder.

But, if you’ve set the metadata as explained in my instructions (and I mean, worked your way through all of the tedious steps, not just the first 1-10 to do the import), then your tracks should appear in the correct order, and even advance from track-to-track as they complete. (It sounds trivial, but when you’re driving it’s very hard to advance to the next track without being unsafe. So I think this is important!)

Older iPods are susceptible to this much more than iOS (touch) devices, and iOS has the further advantage that the display makes it very clear when you haven’t correctly set the metadata, because the tracks won’t be grouped into a single book, but instead display as separate books.

In your case, I’d recommend reviewing the metadata on the book’s tracks:

  1. Select all of the book’s tracks, and choose File > Get Info. This will display the Multiple Item Information panel.

  2. In the Info tab, set the Album field to the book’s title. This will ensure that all of the tracks have the same value for Album. (They need to be exactly the same; white space and capitalization count.)

  3. In the Options tab, set the Media Kind to Audiobook.

  4. Click OK.

  5. Now you need to go track-by-track, and ensure the track numbers are sequential and correctly set. (And it’s best if the disc numbers are blank.)

If that still doesn’t do the trick, do make sure your iPod is updated with the latest firmware. And if in the end this still doesn’t work…well, it’s mysterious. At that point, all I can do is say how wonderful it is having an iPhone or iPod Touch to use with audiobooks, a far better experience than the old “classic”-style iPods.

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Con Woodall February 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

I’m looking at you “Where is the Join CD Tracks Command” under your notes on importing iTunes 11. I have verified that I am using 11.9.1.12. I have set my CD in and see the screen you describe where you show the three choices under options. I have set them up for import by highlighting all tracks by clicking on the first of 19 entries and then highlighting the 19th using the shift key. My screen looks like your sample, but when I click on options, I only get the first two choices. I have tried this and then tried it by entering some metadata, but options still only has two choices. I have also tried importing and no dialog prompts joining those highlighted tracks. Ideas?

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Deb Weeks February 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I found that by clicking on just the first one, then going up to the menu and using “select all” the “join cd tracks” appeared. It was trial and error.

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Deb Weeks February 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I so much appreciate your information on itunes and audiobooks. I really wish I’d gone with some easier mp3 player because this is giving me a major headache. I managed to get 2 huge books done and onto my ipod, but now itunes is itunes 11 and I’m in trouble again.

My discs do not appear in order: that is, Disc 1 is followed by Disc 11,then 22, 30 and randomly. There are 36 discs. Does this matter? Will they play correctly?

I have not yet tried to go to your step 5 above because I’m afraid to. I want to make sure I understand what I’m doing (or at least the steps I’m doing; I have no understanding of the whys of the process). Do you mean I need to go disc by disc, and remove the disc number? 1 of 36, 2 of 36, etc?

I’m sorry. I’m totally confused. Can you spell this out for me and assume I don’t understand how itunes works (because I don’t). Your previous directions (before itunes 11) got me through this because I sat here with the directions open while I did every single disc. So thank you for that. And I’m sorry to be so ignorant.

Deb Weeks

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Michael Alderete February 23, 2013 at 1:02 am

@Deb: You must sort by the track order. If you’re not sorting by the column highlighted, the Join CD Tracks menu choice won’t appear. It’s very irritating, and not very good user interface, but it’s how it works. This is for importing CD tracks.

For sorting the tracks imported, yes, it’s again irritating and tedious, but you need to set the track order, and zero out the disc numbers. It’s definitely painful, but it’s the only way I’ve found to make it work right…

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Megan November 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm

OMG, THANK YOU so much for your very easy and detailed instructions. I am addicted to audiobooks and sometimes the ones I want are only available on CDs. Since first reading your article I have imported a few and then all of a sudden my “join CD tracks” button disappeared. I knew if I just came back to your site and read the comments I would find my answer and voila, you are AMAZING!!!

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Deb Weeks February 25, 2013 at 11:18 am

Thanks, Michael. This all worked perfectly!

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Don Cochrane March 4, 2013 at 1:27 am

my ipod nano was easy to load with mp3 books using itunes until i upgraded to itunes 11. i loaded the books to my computer then via itunes to my pod via drag and drop. now itunes 11 will not do the job and apple will NOT wind back to any pre 11 version. HELP

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Michael Lake March 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Just wanted to note that if you want to prevent iTunes from asking for Import Settings every time you import a CD, you can hold the ‘option’ key down when clicking the button.

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Deb Weeks April 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

Good to see you back! Before I had your excellent directions for importing audiobooks, I simply downloaded a 40-disc book without joining tracks or fixing all the information. Is there a way that I could now do that so that tracks are joined? I don’t see any option to do that but before I delete that multi-disc book and start all over I thought I’d ask you.

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Michael Alderete May 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@Deb: There’s nothing built into iTunes that will let you join tracks after importing. You’ll have to turn to third-party tools, which I wrote about in this post:

How to join multiple tracks into a single audiobook file

The information is still pretty current, though I’ve mentioned a few other tools since I wrote it. If you’re on Windows, the most promising new tools (which I haven’t had time to test) are Chapter & Verse and Teridon’s Audiobook Helper. On the Mac, Audiobook Builder still reigns.

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Laura D April 2, 2013 at 1:06 am

Hi, I have the same problem as Con - “Join CD tracks” doesn’t display. I tried Deb’s idea to select the first one, and then “select all” from the menu, but that doesn’t work either. I have iTunes version 11.0.2.26.

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Sunny April 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thanks so much, Michael, for spelling out the bit about sorting by track order. The tracks on my audio CD appear to be in the correct order upon insertion of the disk, but for some reason I could not get the ‘join cd tracks’ menu to appear without sorting the disks first high-low, then back to low-high, then ctrl-A. I never had to do that before and I’ve imported tons of audiobooks into iTunes. I was getting ready to roll back to iTunes 10.7, so you saved me wasting an entire afternoon on that endeavor.

Thanks again.

Sunny

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AuDfather May 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hey, I just imported a new audiobook into my iTunes. I was able to join the tracks so instead of a ton of tracks, I have three tracks (one for each CD of the book). However, when I changed the file type to audiobook, it moved the 3 tracks into the audiobook section of my library as three separate audiobooks. I’ve tried selecting all 3 tracks > get info > sorting > check artist (also tried checking the book title). But the tracks aren’t merging into a single book. Also, when I double checked the options tab, it shows the media type as Music. I’ve changed it to audiobook but when I close the dialog box and re-open it, it isn’t retaining the changes I’ve made and the media type has reverted back to music. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for the help!

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Daniel Gadget May 6, 2013 at 11:18 am

Hi Michael, Thank you, firstly for taking the time to put this together. I’ve learned a lot here. Unfortunately, I am also having that annoying problem with getting #Join CD Tracks to appear. I am using Windows 7 and iTunes 11.0.2.26 as Laura D. above appears to be. I’ve sorted and resorted and checked and unchecked just about every box I can think of (and I’m relatively computer savvy and know about hovering and right clicking for drop down menus—thanks for the new term #Mutton, btw). I’ve seen multiple solutions elsewhere online that discuss how to do this with iOS, but I’m striking out using Windows. I’m now at a point where I have bunches of books that I’ve managed to combine into a single “Album” in iTunes, but the ones I’ve already imported have dozens to hundreds of 3-5 minute tracks. I’m hoping going forward to avoid this because while they look cleaner in iTunes on the computer, they still show up with tons of tracks on my iPod Nano 5 (haven’t started pushing them to any of the 3rd or 4th gen iPod Touches I have yet…). So, I guess I’m in need of a “retro-fix” as well as a future-fix. I may have to do what Sunny mentions and try an older version of iTunes. Anyway, again. Thank you.

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Ellen Kass May 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Wow! I wish I had seen your comment section earlier. Your system worked perfectly with the old iTunes - beginning to end. Listening to the audiobooks was seamless. I have the new iTunes (apparently - I really have no idea what version it is) and can easily follow your new directions. Unfortunately, when you say steps 11 - 19 are the same, they are not! I cannot find the tracks or do any of the metadata adjustments I could do before! Trying to listen to a book is a nightmare as the discs are downloading completely out of order! ANY help you could provide would be very, very much appreciated!! Thanks!

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Jerry Baty June 14, 2013 at 7:17 am

Thanks for the info. I have used it often. One question on the newest iTunes SW, when I attempted step 16-19, I ended up with two copies of the book. One has all 7 of the 8 discs listed, but no indication as to the disc number and the other has just one disc listed, which is the one I attempted to update. Is this normal and how it works?

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Michael Alderete June 22, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@Jerry: It sounds like you used a slightly different Album value for the one outlier disc. You might try selecting all 8 discs, choosing File > Get Info, and setting the Album to be the name of the book. That should group them all together. HTH!

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Jerry Baty June 14, 2013 at 8:36 am

Update,

Step 17 (adding the part 1 or 01). I added the number to the author and it created a new book. Once I corrected and put the part number on the title, it consolidated.

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Barbara June 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

I do not get the join tracks option after disc 9 and there are 24. I have tried everything. any thoughts.

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Stephanie Aleksiuk August 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Wow, thanks so much for these detailed instructions. It will make my listening experience so much more enjoyable!

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Cathie October 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I’ve been importing audiobooks from my library for years. Recently, after joining tracks and clicking on import the cd appears to import for a second or two then I hear a sound as though the entire CD has imported to include the green check mark, but it has not imported. I am using my MACBOOK PRO. Any ideas?

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Cathie Danzy December 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

when attempting to download an audio cd , I join tracks, click on import, but after a second I hear the Bell indicating import is complete. When I look in recently added folder the cd shows as Unavailable.

Thanks for any assistance.

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Kit Winterer January 2, 2014 at 7:19 am

Are you going to elaborate on using iTunes with the iCloud? I’m having trouble knowing how to get the column heading ‘iCloud status’ as well as getting the cd’s to upload. This seems to be a different world and I can’t find any documentation. I do so appreciate all the help you’ve afforded me in the past, Kit Winterer

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Lu Vickery February 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I am trying to join tracks for an audiobook. I put the disc in and clicked on “options” and “unjoin tracks” was listed. I clicked on that, when I should not have and it disappeared, and now the tracks are not joined and “join tracks” is not on the dropdown box. How do I get it back, please. I tried another disc, and noticed the vertical line, which means they are joined, and the “unjoin tracks” is there but I cant get it to come back on the first disc. Help, please.

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David Hill February 21, 2014 at 6:12 am

I have just bought a new PC and loaded the most recent ITunes and all my music to itunes but when I try to import a cd the import cd button is no where to be seen. I’ve never had this problem before. I have checked preferences and they are all set up

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Jeff D. May 4, 2014 at 5:26 am

In the past three days , I’ve done 4 audiobooks using these instructions, totaling well over 100 discs (big books like Game of Thrones). This is after spending the last few years ripping to MP3 in Windows Media Player, then transferring the rips to iTunes, then onto my iPhone… what a pain! And on top of all that, I’ve always had problems with noise and skips in the playbacks - I get most of my audiobooks from the library. But WOW!! These instructions have completely changed the experience for me! This is a treasure for any audiobook-philes out there. Thank you very much for sharing this with the rest of us!! Jeff, in Townsend, MA.

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Judy Werner July 22, 2014 at 12:43 am

Thank you so much for this info which set me on the right track. Of course Apple have updated and changed things yet again, but was able to get my library audiobook CDs onto my iPad ready for travel!! Hallelujah!!

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Bill August 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm

iTunes 11. When importing a multi disk audiobook, under Info, the two boxes list track numbers, but they are greyed-out, so I am unable to delete the contents. Consequently, once imported, under Album view, the track numbers are displayed and then transfer to my iOS7 device making it difficult to navigate. Prior to importing, I change the song name to simply… Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. I’ve puzzled over your suggestions above, but not sure I understand how to do this. Oh yes, I have even gone in to the iTunes directory and deleted the track numbers so OSX file system just sees… Chapter 1, etc. Thoughts?

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MW August 22, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I have the same problem as AuDfather May 1, 2013 at 11:34 am but I have three tracks (one each for the 1st 2 CDs of the book and 1 for CD’s 3-7). I’ve followed all your instructions and have checked everything I a think of in the Get Info options but nothing has helped. Is there anything I’ve done wrong? Can you help me sort this? Or is this another ‘I hate iTunes’ experience to add to the list?

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Dede Owens September 14, 2014 at 8:50 am

thank you thank you thank you for clarifying. I use your tutorial every single time I download an audiobook with cd’s because I just can’t remember all the steps. I really appreciate the added step of how to join all the tracks into one when they have been imported into the audiobooks section of my itunes library. I was facing twelve different tracks and wondering how that was going to flow seamlessly. Awesome!

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BtrWrld October 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm

What does it take to get the audiobooks to import into the Audiobooks folder? Or is that something that is just a tease, something that is really not used and just a leftover from prior versions. I have corrupted my music database more than a few time trying to get audiobooks into their folder.
PS, Using Windows 7 with the latest iTunes 12.0 and accessing iTunes from a shared public folder on a PC with multiple users accessing the same library.

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Michael Alderete October 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

@BtrWrld: Your library corruption problem is due to your sharing arrangements, nothing else. iTunes Libraries can’t be accessed by multiple users, unless you are 100%, absolutely, never-fail never using iTunes on more than one computer at a time.

You can read-only share a library out to other users on the same network, but that’s not the same thing as what it sounds like you’re doing. Basically, if more than one instance of iTunes can write to the iTunes Library folder at the same time, you’re going to corrupt that library, sooner rather than later.

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Judith November 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I don’t see my specific question addressed so I’ll ask here. I’m importing an audiobook from CD into iTunes 12. Everything runs smoothly until the second to the last CD, which has a damaged area in the last three seconds of the final 6:15 minute track. At that point I get the pinwheel of death and have to force quit iTunes in order to eject the CD.

I’m fine missing those final seconds but can’t figure out how to import the rest of the track without them. If I stop the import four or five seconds before the end, none of that last track shows as having been imported. As it stands now, I’m stuck missing all 6:15. I’m hoping you know of some way to trick iTunes into stopping the import process and keeping the portion that’s undamaged.

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Michael Alderete November 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

@Judith: I don’t know of a way to interrupt iTunes once it’s started on a CD, other than the approach you’ve tried (Force Quit). When it’s stuck on a CD, trying to read a damaged bit, it just gets locked in a loop, and I rarely give it long enough to see if it’ll finish. (Because it never does.)

For a disc with damaged bits I recommend using a different tool entirely, Max, and enabling the “cdparanoia” ripping feature. You can set the number of times that Max will retry reading damaged bits, which lets it try but then skip sections that are too damaged to be read. It’s very much a a geeky, engineer-focused tool, but if you can forgive the user interface, and figure out the basics, it’s far, far better than iTunes for importing audio from damaged CDs. I’ve had multiple successes with Max on CDs that had caused iTunes to lock up.

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Judith November 18, 2014 at 11:54 am

Thanks, I’ll give it a try and report back.

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