AudioBook Builder

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:

  1. Name and option­al cov­er art.
  2. Add the audio files, like­ly from .mp3 or from rip­ping a CD right into Audio­book Builder.
  3. Click Build Audiobook.

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.

Creating an audiobook of Wicked using Audiobook Builder

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 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.

  1. 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. []
  2. 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. []

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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