Take Control Of Your Audiobooks

Maximum PC|Holiday 2019

Take Control Of Your Audiobooks
Rip, convert, and stream your audiobook collection to any device, with Nick Peers
Nick Peers

WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA, your PC has everything covered, right? There’s Kodi, Plex, or Emby for starters, managing your music, movies, and TV with aplomb. Except there’s something missing….

Everyone loves a good story, and audiobooks (along with radio-style dramatizations) provide an easy way to devour books when focused on other tasks, whether driving long distances or tweaking your PC’s hardware. The obvious place to go for an audiobook fix is Audible, but it ties you into a proprietary ecosystem that requires you to purchase your books outright via one-off fees or a recurring subscription. Furthermore, you’re indebted to Audible’s own apps and servers for accessing your books. That’s fine if you’re a fan of paying for streaming services, but the likes of Plex, along with audio-only services such as Logitech Media Server, enable you to stay in complete control of your media, so why shouldn’t that be the case with audiobooks? There’s no reason. You can incorporate your audiobook collection into existing streaming services, but none of them quite hits the mark. Which is where we come in.

In this exhaustive guide, we’ll start by bringing all your audiobooks—whether CD, free downloads, or purchased through Audible—under one roof. You’ll rip CDs exactly the way you want your books divided up, then tag your files consistently (complete with high-quality embedded artwork) to make browsing, managing, and listening to audiobooks a pleasure.

Once your media is in place, we’ll reveal how to set up a dedicated audiobook server on your PC or NAS, enabling you to stream your audiobooks to any device in your home—or further afield if you want access on the go over the Internet. There’s even offline access through your cell phone should you wish to be able to listen to your books in the most remote spots.

We’ve spent months developing this project, experimenting, tweaking, and tearing our hair out so you don’t have to. It’s time to give your audiobook collection the prominence it deserves, so simply turn the page to put our carefully crafted research to good use.

YOUR FIRST STEP is to bring all your audiobooks under one digital roof. Start by creating a single folder— “Audiobooks”—somewhere accessible, such as inside your Music folder. Inside here you’ll store your audiobooks using the following folder structure: Collection AuthorBook. In other words, each book has its own folder, inside which your audiobook can be housed in multiple files (such as individual chapters, episodes, or parts), to aid navigation and playback.

As an aside, the Collection folder level is optional, designed to work with your audiobook server’s support for multiple users, so you can restrict access to books on a per-user level. More on that later.

Next, you want to migrate all your audiobooks into this folder structure. If you’re an Audible user (past or present), check out the box below on using OpenAudible to download DRM-free MP3 copies of your purchased books to incorporate into your new setup.

You can also obtain audiobooks from other online sources—books in the public domain (typically out-of-copyright classics) have been narrated by volunteers and placed on various websites, many of which have been produced by LibriVox, so head to https://librivox.org to browse its catalog. Choose the “Whole book (zip file)” option to download the book as a series of MP3 files, one per chapter. Each file is tagged with author, title, and other key details, and you can also download cover art to embed into the files. More on verifying those tags and embedding the artwork later. For now, once downloaded, extract the contents of the zip file into your Audiobooks folder according to your folder structure: for example, Audiobooks ClassicsHerman MelvilleMoby Dick.

RIP YOUR AUDIOBOOK CDS

Another way to add audiobooks to your library is to rip them from CD. We recommend iTunes (install it through the Microsoft Store) for three reasons: It has a built-in audiobook library to avoid cross-contamination with your music; its CD lookup database includes many popular audiobooks, from Harry Potter to Stephen King; and it can join multiple tracks into a single file when ripping. This helps mitigate those audiobook CDs split into very short tracks to make them easier to navigate on CD players.

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Holiday 2019