iPods, iPhones, iTunes and Audiobooks

iTunes and the iPod were built to work together, and work together well. iTunes and audiobooks also go together well. The iPhone is the best audiobook device ever offered for sale. And as long as you stick to what you can buy in the iTunes Store, you get a seamless experience—but it gets expensive.

If you start to acquire audiobooks from different sources, especially on Audio CD or MP3 format CDs, you may find that the experience of using those audiobooks is not nearly as seamless as those from the iTunes Store or Audible.com. You need to know the trick to convince iTunes and iPhone or iPod that your imported discs are really audiobooks.

Uh, what?

By default iTunes treats imported tracks and discs as music, and so will your device. Music tracks aren’t bookmarkable, get played in shuffle mode, and show up in the Music source list. None of these are desirable for audiobook tracks.

You need to change the Media Kind of imported tracks to Audiobook. When you do this:

  • The tracks appear the iTunes Books source list, and in an iPhone or iPod’s Audiobooks menu.
  • The tracks are bookmarkable, that is, your iPod will remember where you stopped listening, and pick up at the same place when you come back.
  • The tracks are skipped when you’re in music shuffle-play mode.

There are other differences from importing music CDs, mostly due to missing or inconsistent “metadata” available for audiobook CDs, which can also cause iTunes or your mobile device to behave differently than you’d like.

The instructions I’ve provided for importing audiobooks from Audio CD and from MP3 CD explain how to achieve “full” audiobook status. You’ll definitely find it worth the slight extra effort.