I have learned that there is something about the mac that makes for really nice, easy software. It’s sort of a cross between a Unix ethos (that is, programs that do just one thing and do them really well) and an Apple ethos (it just works). One fairly simple task that, in practice, is a huge pain is concatenating .mp3 files together to create an audiobook (typically an .m4b file1). I had found a few scripts and such to do this sort of thing, but all were multi-step processes and often didn’t produce the results I wanted (at least not for the effort I had put into them).
Enter Audiobook Builder by Splasm Software. In a nutshell, it simply collects audio files together and then puts them in a single, compressed .m4b file. Now, it does have a few more bells and whistles available along the process, but the standard process is as easy as:
- Name and optional cover art.
- Add the audio files, likely from .mp3 or from ripping a CD right into Audiobook Builder.
Which are the steps laid out on the three main buttons along the bottom of the window. Once the program is finished (and it might take a while), the finished audiobook is added into iTunes for you.
One of the first uses I had for the software was to put the 13 CDs of Gregory Maguire’s "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" for Angela. She had purchased this to listen to on our move down from Richmond. Fortunately, the audiobook being nearly 20 hours, she didn’t have time to finish during that drive (long as it was). Plus, with 13 CDs to fool with, having it all on an iPod seemed like a better way to have the content, anyway.
As I described above, there’s not much to it. Inserting 13 discs for the ripping process wasn’t much fun, but all of that is done right within Audiobook Builder, so there’s no program switching or hunting for files. The only task that I did outside of the program was go to Amazon.com to get the cover art and meta-tag information.
I do have a couple of complaints about Audiobook Builder. First, I’d like to be able to add more meta-data than what is currently possible. I would recommend some sort of
Add more info… button on the first screen. Secondly, you control the individual file length2 by means of a slider in the Preferences dialog. I find myself fiddling with this a lot as I want to balance file length number of files. I think that there could be two options, within the third screen, for either limiting length of files or number of files. I change this for every single audiobook I create, and try different lengths for each, as well. Having to go to the Preferences dialog each time is fairly cumbersome.
Ever wanted to read some classics? Well, go get the volunteer-read files from Librivox and put them together in Audiobook Builder (I’ve got the first half of Don Quixote already done, even with chapter artwork added within Audiobook Builder). For $9.95, this program is a steal even if you have even a couple of CD audiobooks laying around. Rip ’em, and then donate them to your public library. Then you don’t have to worry about them taking up space and someone else can get to listen to them.
- The .m4b is a relatively common format associated with audiobooks. Most players know to remember the last stopping point on these files, which alone is important enough to merit using on a 6-hour long file. [↩]
- It would be nice if you had exact control over the length of files, but basically it is really setting an upper limit. Audiobook builder won’t split individual files that you have added or ripped into it, as it has no way of knowing if the split is in an appropriate spot or not – mostly likely not. [↩]