There was a time when I read a lot more actual books than is possible for me to read these days. I work a full time job, I have a daily commute, I have a family, and I have to try to get some exercise in. It all adds up to make me a little short on “sit down and read” time. Thankfully, I have in the last couple of years discovered an alternative. Audiobooks have been a great way to satisfy my appetite for a good book and still fit into my schedule. I most often listen to books on my commute, or when exercising.
But obviously the best way for me to listen to Audiobooks is on my iPhone since that is always with me. Some of my audiobooks are on CD, and of course I could rip them like any CD and they would appear in my iTunes library, split up awkwardly into different tracks, and mixed in with the rest of my music. But there is a much better way.
The solution to this problem is the application Audiobook Builder which will import an audio source, allow tracks to be organized into chapters, and — as the name indicates — build that into the iTunes Audiobook format, .m4b. This format has obvious advantages over a standard rip of a CD. Most audiobook CDs have the chapters split into several tracks. Sometimes chapters span CDs, and most annoyingly, it’s hard to figure out where you left off last time you listened. The iTunes audiobook format takes care of these problems.
I purchased Audiobook Builder back before the Mac App Store existed and so consequently that’s the version I’ll be working with. But as far as I can tell, there does not seem to be a difference between the two versions (except that there’s no “check for updates” menu item in the Mac Appstore version obviously). They have been updated synchronously and if you click “Buy Now” on the Splasm website, a popup gives you the option of buying on their website or purchasing through the App Store.
As we have come to expect from good Mac apps, the interface of Audiobook Builder is simple and easy to understand. When you first start up the application, this is what you see:
Obviously, the two things you might want to do when you fire up the app are:
- Create a New Project
- Open an Existing Project
And those things are front and center. Creating a new project will present you with a save dialog box. Much like Garageband, Audiobook Builder Projects are also a container for all the audio files you add or rip. This is why creating the project file is necessary from the start rather than on first save as most apps do.
One a project has been created, you will want to enter the appropriate book name, author, and genre. Also be sure to click the “More…” button if you would like to fill in the Narrator field, as well as a few other fields not available on the first screen.
I usually just do a Google Image Search for the cover. Once the image is downloaded, it’s a simple drag and drop in Audiobook Builder. And it will pretty much take any image given to it and make it work.
Now we’re ready to import some audio tracks to work with. If you already have audio tracks that you’ve ripped (pretty much any common audio format) then you can drop them right in. Or you can directly import a CD.
If you have iTunes open when you insert the CD, iTunes will automatically grab the CD title and track names and that information will be available to Audiobook Builder. This can save you a ton of work and guessing. Often, the title of each track that iTunes finds will include chapter information, making things easier when you get to the point of sorting out your chapters.
Now, remember all those tracks, often several per chapter? Well, this is where we solve that problem. Audiobook Builder has a nice chapter building interface. You can drag multiple tracks into a chapter, or drag a track out to create a new chapter. You can also play tracks by click the “Show Details” disclosure triangle to show the track information and player. Chapters can also be given names which will be used in iTunes, or on iPods and iPhones.
At any time you wish, you can always save the project, close it, and come back to it right where you left off.
Building The Audiobook
Once all the chapters are organized and named properly, clicking the right arrow at the bottom of the window will take you to the final step. Most of the time, the default settings will be fine and you can simply click “Build Audiobook.”
When the book is finished building, and it can take a little while if it’s a large book, it will automatically be added to iTunes for you. Audiobook Builder will add it to a “Audiobook Builder” playlist, but it will also show up in the “Books” section of iTunes.
Audiobook Builder is a great application and I found it very easy and intuitive to use right from the start. It fits a very specific function and solves the problem I was having with just importing Audiobook CDs. I can’t imagine any way in which I would improve this app. I highly recommend it if you are in to audiobooks and have, or will be getting audiobook CDs and would like to import them into iTunes.