MacInTouch Reader Reports

Mac Marginalization: Audible.com

May. 30, 2011
May. 31, 2011
Jun. 1, 2011
Jun. 2, 2011
Jun. 3, 2011
May. 30, 2011

item.135745

MacInTouch Reader

Here's an odd example of Mac Marginalization by Audible.

I have no interest in personal music players but bought a SanDisk Sansa Clip+ to play audio books through my car stereo. It was highly recommended as good for audio books and, at $40, was a hell of a lot cheaper than the iPods recommended for audiobook use. (The iPod shuffle was not recommended because book chapters need to be played in sequence.)

The Sansa player works fine with public-domain audiobooks from Librivox. But when I tried to play DRM-protected Audible books by installing them in the Audible folder, they wouldn't play. I couldn't use iTunes to install the Audible books - it wouldn't recognize the non-iPod MP3 player.

I complained to Audible, which responded with instructions on how to authorize the Sansa player with Windows. I am a long-time Mac user, and do not have access to a Windows machine (or Windows running on any of my Macs). In addition, the process requires installing software on the Windows machine and logging into my Audible account on the Windows machine. I emailed Audible to explain that I didn't have any access to Windows, but so far they have not replied.

Clearly Apple is partly responsible for the problem because iTunes doesn't recognize non-Apple MP3 players. So is SanDisk, for claiming their player is Mac compatible. However, the real issue is Audible's copy protection scheme, which requires special software that doesn't work for using a non-Apple MP3 player with a Mac.

Any ideas for a work-around? Lacking that, will the new iPod shuffle play Audible audiobooks without shuffling the chapters?

May. 31, 2011

item.135791

Tim Lahey

About Audible playing, the older iPod shuffles had a straight-through play mode (that turned off shuffle). I'm guessing that the new one still has that feature, and I believe that Audible files are supported. Check the iPod Shuffle's web page to make sure. However, I don't know if the Enhanced format is supported. I know that my older Nano doesn't support the Enhanced format, but my iPod Touch does.

item.135801

Marian Petrides, MD

You should be able to play Audible books on a Shuffle, but you lose the ability to scroll to whatever location you want -- rendering the Shuffle useless for listening to audiobooks.

item.135810

Russ Arcuri

A MacInTouch reader wrote regarding his inability to play Audible audiobooks using a Sandisk Sansa Clip+ on a Mac. Addressing his points in order:

"(The iPod shuffle was not recommended because book chapters need to be played in sequence.)"

Not sure who offered that bogus warning. The iPod Shuffle is able to play chapters in sequence. The "shuffle" mode is a feature, not a requirement. However there are other reasons why one might avoid a Shuffle for audiobook use. A big reason is that the lack of a display makes it more difficult to locate a particular book or a particular chapter to play, assuming you aren't picking up where you left off last.

"Clearly Apple is partly responsible for the problem because iTunes doesn't recognize non-Apple MP3 players."

It is not Apple's responsibility to support any and all MP3 players on the market with iTunes. One could make reasonable arguments placing responsibility for this particular issue with Sandisk or Audible. Sandisk, because they are the manufacturer of the device and therefore should provide software to support that device on the Mac platform. Audible, because they claim Macintosh compatibility for their audiobooks and should therefore support their use on any device compatible with the Macintosh.

"Any ideas for a work-around? Lacking that, will the new iPod shuffle play Audible audiobooks without shuffling the chapters?"

As previously mentioned, all iPod Shuffle models can play audiobooks, without shuffling chapters (assuming you're okay with working around the lack of a display). See the following for more information:

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1831

Jun. 1, 2011

item.135832

MacInTouch Reader

Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, the workarounds for the iPod shuffle are complex enough to be problematic without a display. What I want is the equivalent of a car CD or cassette player, which remembers where it was when I stopped the car and starts playing where I left off listening to the audiobook.
The Sandisk MP3 works that way (assuming I turn it off when I stop the car), and can be reset via the display if necessary.

Resetting the iPad shuffle sounds problematic. Frankly, it sounds easier to go back to burning CDs, if I can get the car player to read them reliably.

item.135847

MacInTouch Reader

Re:

The new iPod Nanos, in my opinion, are very well suited for audiobooks and podcasts. They've been soundly criticized for various other reasons. It relies too much on touchscreen, which means you can't pause or resume without looking at the screen and negotiating the menus. However, it does have physical buttons to control the volume. It's nice that it has an FM radio as well.

Jun. 2, 2011

item.135896

MacInTouch Reader

I'll second the recommendation of an iPod Nano for use with Audible books. It has about the same footprint, doesn't cost much more, and is *very* easy to carry around. It works great with Audible books.

I use mine as a watch, which ensures I always have it around to listen to my Audible books during even brief periods of down time.

The only minor complaint I have is when I use my Nano to listen to Audible books while driving, using my car's built-in iPod control system -- if I want to go back a few seconds to listen to a passage I missed, I have to unplug the Nano and look at the screen, since the car's back/forward controls jump to the next Audible book and do not recognize Audible chapter marks. This is just a minor nuisance, however.

item.135898

Skot Nelson

Re:

It is not Apple's responsibility to support any and all MP3 players on the market with iTunes

Nor have they ever, but it's interesting that support for players seems to be diminishing. I had an antique Nike PSA Play (it was one of the first generations of MP3 players (manufactured by Diamond Rio, and cost about $500 for a 128MB model) that used to mount in iTunes, so you could easily drag and drop organized music. It didn't *sync* but at least it mounted.

Do any players do this any more? Before I tossed the Nike, I tried it and it wasn't recognized.

item.135919

Tim Lahey

Re:

"Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, the workarounds for the iPod shuffle are complex enough to be problematic without a display. What I want is the equivalent of a car CD or cassette player, which remembers where it was when I stopped the car and starts playing where I left off listening to the audiobook.
The Sandisk MP3 works that way (assuming I turn it off when I stop the car), and can be reset via the display if necessary."

If you look at the Apple KB article posted earlier,

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1831

it explicitly talks about bookmarks. I've used this feature on other iPods and basically it remembers where you've left off. So, next time you play that track, the iPod (or iTunes) will start where you've left off. It also works across syncing.

The bit about forcing iTunes to set the bookmark in the article is for the cases where there isn't already a bookmark on the iPod but you've been listening in iTunes.

The only difficulty with the Shuffle is that you don't know where you are in the book. You could also look at a refurbished (or used) Nano. I loved my Nano for audiobooks.

Jun. 3, 2011

item.135978

MacInTouch Reader

Re:

"I'll second the recommendation of an iPod Nano for use with Audible books. It has about the same footprint, doesn't cost much more, and is *very* easy to carry around. It works great with Audible books."

How great would it be to have a 15-second (or user defined) rewind button for those times when you miss a bit of dialogue?


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