Why You Need to Backup Your iTunes Audiobooks, Today

I have long been a strong supporter of cloud storage, highlighting the many different ways to use Dropbox, for example. Combine that with iCloud automatically backing up most of our digital purchases and the documents we create in tons of popular apps now, and cloud syncing suddenly just works. We can just sit back and forget about all the complexity — that is, until we need to restore something.

That’s still usually not too much of a problem, since iCloud has all of our purchased music, apps, and movies ready for redownload. But it’ll come as a shock, however, to realize that iTunes does not fully meet this expectation at the moment. Audiobooks purchased through iTunes allow a one-time download at the point of purchase, but you can’t then download to other devices or even the same device once erased. You can re-synchronize them from your PC or Mac library back to your device, but it is the cloud functionality that is not behaving as expected here.

We thought it best to give you a general advisory about this, and to briefly show you how to prevent the loss of your important digital media purchases with a short backup tutorial.

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What’s the Issue?

iCloud is a reliable central source for copies of all of your purchased apps, even older apps that you can no longer purchase from the App Store. It will save and restore all of your eBooks from iBooks, look after music purchased through iTunes or uploaded via iTunes Match, and even store and protect your movie downloads. But, for one reason or another, audiobooks are not included in iCloud.

I am investigating further the reason for this, but if you have any idea of the underlying issue, do drop a note in the comments below. I’m guessing it has something to do with content rights, and I do hope it gets resolved soon.

Protected Rights — For You

In the meantime, lets take a look at protecting what you already have. If you have purchased an audiobook from iTunes, it is most likely that it has been downloaded into your iTunes library as a file with digital rights protection. If you still have the audiobook on your device, but not in your iTunes library on your PC or Mac, then go ahead and get those two in sync straight away, ensuring your audiobook is transferred into your iTunes library using the Transfer Purchases option of iTunes.

The next step is to create a Playlist that lists all of your audiobooks that are likely to be affected. You should not need to include in this any titles that are not protected by digital rights. For these, you can already copy or convert to other formats without issue, and you probably have already realised that these are not normally copied to iCloud due to being incompatible with Apple’s implementation of file syncing in iTtunes.

Ensure that the above criteria are met in your new Smart Playlist.

Ensure that the above criteria are met in your new Smart Playlist.

When creating your Smart Playlist, the key aspect to filter on is Kind. Set this to be equal to “Protected AAC”. Go ahead and open up iTunes, and select to create a new Playlist from the File menu. Check the criteria in the screen above to ensure you get a match. Press OK, and you should be presented with a list of your audiobooks purchased through iTunes.

For non-protected files, we would have the option of writing to disc media, or perhaps converting to a standard AAC for uploading to the cloud via iTunes match. These options are not available to us here, because of the protected nature of the files.

Drag and drop your precious digital audiobooks to a safe place (or three).

Drag and drop your precious digital audiobooks to a safe place (or three).

Instead, simply select the list of audiobooks shown, and drag and drop them from iTunes to a safe place on your local hard drive, or perhaps to a USB storage device. And remember the age-old rule of 3 regarding safe storage: Take 3 copies of your data onto 2 different types of media and keep 1 copy off-site. It’s as easy as 3,2,1…

Another good idea is to copy these files into another storage folder that is synchronised with a cloud backup service, such as Dropbox or Skydrive. I’ve not tried playing these direct from this cloud source, but I would imagine there would be a media player capable of doing so. Perhaps you can advise us in the comments box if you find something that works well for you.

I have raised the issue with Apple support, and I hope that over time they will follow the example of Audible to allow full backup and restore from iCloud, but for now I hope this has been of some help to you.


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