I have a guest post from Andreas Zeitler for you today. Andreas is one of the hosts of the German podcast Der Übercast, and I’m happy to share this handy trick for liberating your audiobooks.
Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular format on the Internet. One of my personal favorites is Brett’s Systematic (and, of course, Overtired with Christina Warren). While I like podcasts, I also listen to audiobooks.
Audiobook platforms, such as Audible, distribute a relatively historic audio format. Audible calls it AAX or AAX+, indicating it’s an AAC format. Ever since AAC has become the norm on the iTunes Store, the format has seen vast improvements, but audiobook haven’t. What if I told you that an audiobook could take up about 1/10 of its current space on your phone? That means instead of using 400MB, a more modern format would use 60MB.
That’s just one advantage though. Compared to podcast players, the audiobook apps have not seen many improvements in terms of player capabilities. Overcast for example has an intelligent way to cut out unnecessary pauses which reduces listening time significantly, without changing the overall speed. This means that if your audiobook seller would allow you to use a modern player, you could not only save time, but you’d also be free to choose which format you like best.
As a podcaster and media professional myself, I had an epiphany one day. Why not make my own audiobook podcast?
Bonus Tip: To be honest, this whole approach was inspired by Librivox. They offer an iTunes and RSS feed option for their (free) audiobooks. That’s quite cool if you want to listen to, say, The Tao Teh Ching.
The first thing we have to take care of is converting the audiobooks into a new format. I won’t offer any specific recommendations here, but there are several apps that allow you to record audiobooks while they are played, and then convert them (see Audio Hijack and AudioBook Converter). They’re inexpensive and available for many platforms – even iTunes itself is able to play Audible books back.
Once they are recorded, you can convert them into a new format (if your recorder app does not directly record into the desired format). As the time of this writing I personally prefer MPEG-4 Audio High-Efficiency or even HE AAC v2 (High-Efficiency v2). The file sizes this format produces are really small, with a higher quality at lower rates than older formats. If your podcast app doesn’t play these files back, you can choose a different, more common, format such as MP3 or a normal AAC. We’ll get to that shortly.
On a Mac I love Amadeus Pro by Hairersoft, because it has a batch processor to convert a bunch of audio files in one fell swoop. It is also possible to apply some processing on conversion such as an EQ, or compressor. Most audiobooks I listen to don’t come with music. One voice coming from one microphone means the format is mono. In case the original recording is stereo, you can save even more space by converting it to a mono file.
As an example I’ve used Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Enterprise. The original recording was 483.3MB. Converting to AAC brings it down to 67.5MB.
Hints: If the audio file won’t play on the device, it could be that the app doesn’t support it, or the podcast app doesn’t reload your podcast XML properly after an update. Please talk with the developers if you experience issues. I was having problems with Overcast, Downcast was fine.
The creation of a podcast is also relatively simple. If you want, you can even write it yourself! (Though, I wouldn’t recommend it.)
A popular content management app is WordPress. It comes with a plugin architecture. Search for a plugin that allows to add audio files to blog posts (podcast plugins) and you’re good to go.
On a Mac you can use Feeder. This app allows you to create podcast feeds. It has a graphical interface like WordPress, and it handles all the uploading for you, too.
Bonus: Steve Harris, the developer of Feeder, has provided BrettTerpstra.com readers with a 20% off discount code for the direct purchase. Use
ZEITLER20 at checkout!
It is also possible to create a podcast feed of files from a folder, e.g. with DirCaster. This is probably the best method if you own a server.
Update: Marcel Bischoff has created a simple PHP script called Screaming Liquid Tiger to automatically generate valid RSS and Atom from audiobook files in a server folder.
Within a very short amount of time you will have the files on your device and you can start to listen to them at 2.1x cutting out all the unnecessary silence, giving you more free time while maintaining all information. Plus… you can brag about your nerdy skills in front of friends and family.