One of the easiest ways to squeeze in a good book during a vacation or commute is listening to audiobooks on your iPod or iPhone. Audiobooks can be downloaded online using services such as iTunes or Audible, but sometimes it's cheaper to get your books on CD and rip them manually.
Unfortunately, there's about a dozen ways that something as seemingly simple as ripping an audiobook CD to your iPod can go wrong. In this slideshow I'm going to show you the best way I've found for getting audiobook CDs into iTunes and onto the iPod.
(Note: this tutorial is also available as a video.)
/ Photo: Donald Bell / CNET Networks
First, put the CD into your computer and launch iTunes. If iTunes automatically prompts you asking if you'd like to import the CD, say no--there's a few things we'll want to do before allowing iTunes to import the CD.
Hopefully, you'll see all the correct information associated with the track, title and artist info--but audiobooks are notorious for having bad or inconsistent data. We can fix any missing information later.
Now, open up your iTunes preferences and under import settings, select AAC and from the dropdown settings menu, and select Spoken Podcast. This is technically a low quality setting, but it's been optimized specifically for voice, so you'll never hear the difference. The reason we're changing it is that if you're dealing with a 6-10 CD audiobook, this will significantly cut down the time it takes to encode each CD. Still, don't forget to change it back to your original setting once you're finished, or the next music CD you rip could sound funky.
After hitting OK. Select your audiobook CD from the left column. Now, if you were playing this CD on a CD player, it would make sense to have each chapter broken up into these 3-5 minute tracks, so you could easily skip forward and backward to find your place. But the beauty of playing audiobooks on an iPod is that it automatically resumes playback where you last left off. In fact, having a 6-CD audiobook broken up into hundreds of files on your iPod is just a recipe for trouble. So, I'm going to show you how to rip each CD as a single file.
Hold down the shift key and select the first and last track of the CD. This should highlight all the tracks. You could do the same thing by selecting the first track, going to the Edit menu and using Select all.
With all the tracks of your CD selected, go into the advanced menu and select Join CD Tracks. You'll notice that the tracks of your CD shift to the right slightly and have a line on the left that connects them all together.
Now, hit the import CD button in the bottom right corner. iTunes is now ripping the CD to your computer as a single file. Eject the CD and do the same process for the remaining CDs in your collection: put in the CD, select all the tracks, tell iTunes to join the tracks, and then hit import.
Now, let's make sure the files all have correct information and playback on your iPod in the correct order. Select all the tracks you just ripped and select Get Info from the file menu or by right-clicking with your mouse. In the info pane, you should see Artist and Album info which serves as Author and Title. If it's not there, plug it in.
You'll also see track number and disc number info. You'll have to enter this info on a track by track basis, but it's worth it to make sure the book plays each disk in the correct order. Just be thankful you're doing this with 6-10 tracks instead of hundreds. If you find out later that your iPod is playing chapters out of order, this is the setting to go back and tweak.
Now, go to the Options section and make sure that Media Kind is designated as Audiobook, the "Remember Position" setting is set to Yes, "Part of a Compilation" is set to No, and "Skip When Shuffling" is set to Yes. Changing these settings will group the files correctly in the iTunes audiobook directory, ensure that playback is automatically bookmarked, and prevent a chapter of "Crime and Punishment" from popping up in a party shuffle.
Finally, to get the audiobook onto your iPod, connect your iPod to the computer. If your iPod is set up to transfer content automatically (its default setting), the new audiobook content should sync right over. For users who've configured their iPod for manual file management, simply drag and drop the book from the Audiobook section of iTunes and onto the iPod icon.
On most iPods, audiobooks are found in a separate directory within the music menu. On the iPhone or iPod Touch, you can find audiobooks in the "More" section of the iPod menu.
To see this tutorial as a video, head over to CNET TV.
/ Photo: Donald Bell / CNET Networks