Over the course of importing dozens of audiobooks, I’ve used a variety of techniques and different tools to try to improve my workflow and the final product. And in the course of answering hundreds of reader questions, I’ve mentioned and even recommended a few of those tools. This is my first full on software review, and I’m inspired to do so by the quality of the tool: Audiobook Builder is awesome, and at $10 it’s also a bargain.
Audiobook Builder gets my rave review for three reasons:
- It’s easy to use
- It saves a lot of time
- The final product is superior
The only real “problem” with it is that it is for Mac OS X only.
Update: Audiobook Builder was recently reviewed as a Mac Gem by Macworld, and received a 4½ mouse rating.
Easy to Use
If you’ve followed, or even read, my instructions for how to import Audio CD audiobooks into iTunes, you know that the process of importing a series of CDs which are all connected, and which need to be played back in strict order, is a cumbersome task that involves a lot of steps: disc swapping, settings changes, and fiddling with file extensions and iTunes meta data. It’s painful, and only the desire to have a good book on your iPod keeps you going.
Except for some set-and-forget options to configure the first time you use Audiobook Builder, the process of importing a new audiobook is a sequence of three steps, two of which are dead simple, and the “hard” one is straightforward.
Audiobook Builder deals with all the complexities of audibooks for iTunes and the iPod behind the scenes. This means that it is easy to import audiobooks correctly, every time, and without painstaking attention to detail.
My manual process requires a few steps before and after importing a disc, which are repeated for each disc or track imported. This can take quite a while, because there is a wait of up to 10 minutes per disc while it’s being imported. The attention to detail required to get correct results (due to the finicky behavior of iTunes and the iPod with regards to audiobooks) means that it can be hard to multi-task while you’re doing it. So importing an audiobook from CDs, especially if it’s a long book, can take a fair amount of time. For me, a 10+ disc book is going to take 30-45 minutes of time, minimum. This adds up if you are importing books regularly, to feed a 2 hour daily commute.
With Audiobook Builder, there’s still the amount of time it takes to import and encode the audio tracks from the CDs; that remains constant. But most of the other tedious steps are eliminated, and so the amount of attention required drops by 90%. By comparison to the example above, the same audiobook takes me about 5-10 minutes of actual effort, most of which is looking for cover art on Amazon.com. That’s a huge difference for me.
But the real value of Audiobook Builder may be in the results. In contrast to my manual method, the books that come out of Audiobook Builder:
- Are one or two continuous tracks, not a series of tracks, one for each disc in the audiobook.
- Have chapter marks placed wherever you want them; by default, at the disc boundaries, i.e., about every hour or so.
- Always appear in the Audiobook menu in iTunes and on the iPod.
The number one question readers ask me is How do I get an imported book to appear in the Audiobooks menu?, and problems with playback or list order are also frequent. Using Audiobook Builder pretty much eliminates all of those issues. And by reducing the number of tracks required for a single audiobook (down to just one for a 12-hour or shorter book), it makes organizing in iTunes far simpler, and finding and playing back on an iPod far easier.
Although Audiobook Builder is terrific, it’s not (yet) perfect. In particular:
- The window for organizing tracks into chapter groupings can be hard to use, until you understand it. I figured it out by making a bunch of mistakes. Unfortunately…
- There is no Undo for mistakes you make when organizing tracks into chapters. Correcting a mistake can take a fair amount of work, up to and including starting over.
- I would like an auto-feed-and-eject mode for adding discs, like iTunes provides for importing stacks of music CDs.
- I would like more control over where to split long audiobooks. Splitting at a fixed number of hours can leave you with one long part, and one very short part, when the book is not much longer than the part limit setting. (I expect this would be for advanced users only.)
With regard to the first two limitations, they sound like a big deal but they are not. Audiobook Builder’s default behavior and grouping is usually fine. It’s only when you want to obsessively get every chapter just so (hello Harry Potter fans!) that this can be a problem. I have only fiddled with 2-3 books so far, out of 10-12 that I’ve imported with Audiobook Builder, and only because I’m
anal retentive particular about some things.
Obviously, I think that Audiobook Builder is an outstanding tool. Reading the support forum and exchanging email with Splasm Software, I understand that it will get even better, reducing or eliminating my caveats above. But even today, at version 1.0.6, Audiobook Builder is a terrific piece of software that is well worth your $10.
Let me be even more clear. You should definitely buy Audiobook Builder if:
- You import audiobooks from CDs regularly (no matter where you get the audiobooks, library, Kitabe.com, etc.). I would define “regularly” as twice a month or more.
- You value your time, and spending time in front of your Mac fussing with CDs and iTunes is not your idea of fun. (This is especially true if you bill by the hour, and spend time importing CDs instead of working. cough)
anal retentiveparticular about the organization of your iTunes collection, especially your audiobooks.
If any of these are true about you, you should get Audiobook Builder. If all of them are true (welcome brother!), then today the clouds will part and the sun shine brightly down upon you. I.e., what are you waiting for? Go buy it now!
- Mac OS X 10.4 or later
- QuickTime 7 or later
Audiobook Builder is a universal binary and works on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. There is no Windows version, nor does Splasm Software have one planned.
- $9.95 for a single user license
- $14.95 for a family pack
I paid for my Audiobook Builder license, and I don’t get any referral fees or other kickbacks from Splasm Software. I just like the product, a lot.
(I do get affiliate payments for Audible.com and Amazon.com, but Audible.com could be seen as an alternative/competitor to Audiobook Builder.)