macOS and Audiobook CDs

Some time back (OK, it’s been a while) I documented a method for ripping audiobook CDs with iTunes and “reading” them via a Smart Playlist. Times have changed; not only is there no more iTunes, but the native audiobook player is now in Books. Time for an update.

Rip the CDs

  1. Insert the first CD into your reader. Music will open it and look up its metadata. Most audiobooks have metadata available, and some have more than one version. Choose the most likely-looking one if there’s more than one. We’ll clean it up later.
    Do ensure that each ripped CD has its disk number somewhere in its metadata (add it if necessary), so that the disk order remains clear.
    Library CDs are prone to mishandling, and sometimes don’t get read correctly. If that happens, try washing them. Warm water, a little dish detergent, rinse well, dry well, and try again
  2. Select all the tracks, and use the gear menu (above right) to Join CD Tracks. (This was broken/unavailable in macOS Monterey until v12.3, when it was fixed.)
  3. Click the Import CD button (next to the gear). You’ll be offered a choice of import settings. I generally settle for AAC/Spoken Podcast, though MP3 is fine, and I might choose higher quality for a fully produced audiobook (with music and sound effects, say). Click OK, wait for the CD to be imported, and click the eject button.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3 for the remaining CDs.

Fix up metadata

  1. If you view your library as Songs and sort by Date Added, you should find all your disks grouped at the top of the list. Select them all and enter (as necessary) the album (book title), artist (author), genre (I use Audiobook here; suit yourself), total disk count, and anything else that’s common to all the disks.
  2. One disk at a time, set each Song field to indicate which disk it is; these will become something like chapter names. For example, I just ripped Circe, which goes in the Album field, and put “Circe 1″, Circe 2” etc in the Song fields.
    Using either the track or disk-number fields, number the disks, and clear the fields you’re not using. I do mine as track numbers, and clear the disk numbers.
  3. Select all the disks again, and in the Artwork tab drag in a suitable image. You can usually find something appropriate online, often the cover image of the commercial CDs themselves.
    While you’re at it, in the Options tab, check both “Remember playback position” and “Skip when shuffling”. These aren’t actually used by audiobook readers, but if you leave the book in Music, you’ll want these checked.
  4. Finally, make sure that Music is recognizing all the tracks as belonging to a single album (assuming you’ve used track numbers for your sequencing). If it doesn’t, double-check that all the metadata (except for Song and Track number) is identical for all disks. (I’ve noticed that Music can be confused about this. If everything checks out and Music still sees more than one album, don’t worry about it.

Copy to Books

  1. Select one of the disks, right- or control-click it, and select Show in Finder. You should see all your disks in a single folder whose name is the book’s title (which in turn is in an author folder). If this is not what you see, go back to Step 8 and check your metadata.
  2. Select all the book’s files in the Finder and drag them to the Books icon in your Dock (launch Books if necessary to force it to appear).
    (Alternatively, you could add these files to another audiobook reader, using its instructions for doing so. I’ve used the Bookmobile on my iPhone in the past, though these days I mostly use Books.)
  3. Assuming you’re set to to sync Books across your devices, you should eventually find the new book on your iPhone (or iPad) in Books. If you’re not using iCloud sync, you can directly your device to your Mac via cable or Wi-Fi (you might need to enable audiobook sync first).

2 thoughts on “macOS and Audiobook CDs”

  1. Thanks for writing this article. It is well written and easy to follow. I was able to get the 3 cds in to the library and play them .

    The library is not the ultimate destination. What I really want is to transfer the CDs to my iPod Nano. Copying the CDs from the Music app library to the Nano did not result in a playable file. Then I tried a straight copy to the Finder but once again, copying to the Nano did not work.

    The last time I did this was probably more than 5 years back. I copied lots of CDs into the library and then onto the Nano and all were playable.

    I realize there have been lots of software updates since then. I am using MacOs (desktop Mac) and Catalina 10.15.3 Any suggestions how to get the Cds onto the Nano?

  2. Just guessing here, but the two possibilities that come to mind are encoding (perhaps the iPod doesn’t support the particular AAC coding that Music used?), or file size (though that’s perhaps unlikely given that you’re getting the file on the iPod, it seems). Try converting the files to MP3 (I’d use a fairly low quality setting, maybe ). Choose an MP3 encoding with the Import Settings in the Files tab of Music Preferences, and then Convert… from the Files menu.

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