Windows Phone and audio books

Robert L. emailed me today with the following query:

I am an iPhone user that will be switching to wp7 when it comes out. The only big problem I see myself having is I listen to a lot of audiobooks and there is not an audiobook section on the zune software. Most of my audiobooks are downloaded from librovox.org or ripped from CDs that I have bought. I really like having them in audiobook form so I can play them back a a faster speed and it will remember my position. Is this going to be possible with windows phone 7?

I’m not sure whether this changes with Windows Phone yet, but the way it works on Zune is that you have to “side load” audiobooks onto the device, either from Audible or OverDrive, using their own software. I happen to use Audible, and the Audible Manager software they provide (and not the Zune PC software) gets the content onto the device. I agree that direct integration into Zune Marketplace would be superior (and simpler), and hopefully that will happen. But at the very least, I’d expect it to work like it does on the Zune.

If you use Audible Manager, you know it’s not exactly great software, but it does get the job done. I’ve not tried OverDrive, but I assume it works in a similar manner.

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15 Responses to Windows Phone and audio books

  1. modyvishal says:

    I’ve used OverDrive to upload audio books to Zune HD in MP3 format just like Robert L wants.

    The steps to upload your own audio books to Zune are as follows:

    Download and install the OverDrive Media Console from (http://www.overdrive.com/software/omc/)
    Download and install a WAX file creator (http://www.zuneboards.com/forums/general-zune-software/35932-audiobooks-help.html)
    Create separate folders for each audio book title. All chapters from the audio book title should be saved in the same folder
    Optional: Download JPG cover art for the audio book and place it in the same folder as the audio book chapter files
    Launch the WAX file creator and point it to the folder with the audio book to create the WAX file. (The WAX file is just an XML file that is formatted in a specific way that Zune recognizes)
    Connect Zune to PC and use the WAX file creator to upload the audio book. The WAX file creator will automatically launch OverDrive Media Console and begin uploading the audio book. It will also create a new “audiobooks” category in the main Zune menu.

    I’ve used this method to upload many audio books and have been very happy with the way Zune handles them. The Zune will automatically resume the audio book from where you left off. All audio books in the “audiobooks” section are displayed with thumbnails of the cover art (just like podcasts) and can be played like any other type of media.

    I haven’t yet found a way to play it back at a faster speed like Robert L wants.

    • teemark1 says:

      Thanks for the info – I’ve been looking for a better way to load non-Audible audio books on my Zune. So far I just load them as albums, which means I can’t use shuffle unless I want book chapters popping up in the mix. It also doesn’t save your spot, so you have to find it again later.
      I tried to import them into the Audible manager, but it doesn’t recognize them as audio-books without the audible wrapper.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I’ve not done this in a long time, but if you rip a CD-based audio book as AAC, rename the file extension, import into iTunes and then change the meta data to identify them as audiobooks… they will be “seen” as audiobooks. Now, how this would work in the Zune software, if at all, is unclear. I should play around with this. But it’s possible you could import such a thing into the Audible Manager software. I do know this: Audible books bought directly from Audible and via iTunes, despite having different file types, do both work with Audible’s software. So it’s possible.

      • modyvishal says:

        Just use the OverDrive Media Console along with the WAX file creator as I’ve described in my first post and it’ll do exactly what you want. A new category is created for audio books, you can resume from where you left off, etc.

      • modyvishal says:

        @Paul:

        The Audible software uses a wrapper to identify the audio book, chapter locations, etc.

        If the user has ripped their own audio books, or downloaded them from sources (http://librivox.org/, http://www.audiobooksforfree.com/) in MP3 format, the Audible software won’t work. The user needs to *create* a wrapper to identify the MP3s as audio books and upload them to the Zune devices. The only (relatively) simple way to do so is using the WAX file creator.

        I love audio books and have tried various methods to upload them to Zune, and this is the easiest and most reliable way I’ve found yet.

  2. vangrieg says:

    Hmm, wait, are you saying that Zune software (could it get a name of its own?) allows you to transfer files to the device via a third-party program?

    Also, is this OverDrive thing a separate application on Zune HD? And you can have a desktop application that would transfer files for a specific application?

    The reason I’m asking is that lack of filesystem access is something that turns me off most of all restrictions on WP7, I absolutely hate that on the iPhone I can’t just copy my ebooks to the phone to be read in my bookreader.

    • modyvishal says:

      Yes, the Zune device does allow the user to upload files to it using third-party software. The OverDrive Media Console and Audible software are two that allow the user to do this “out of the box”. There are registry hacks out there that will allow the user to see the Zune in the Windows Explorer shell or use any other media management software. (I don’t recommend these registry hacks because some users have reported that they have gotten into a lot of trouble.)

      The OverDrive Media Console is a completely separate software from the Zune software provided by Microsoft. The OverDrive Media Console (just like the Audible media manager) allows the user to manage and upload audio books to the Zune devices (and probably Windows Phone 7). I like OverDrive better than the Audible software because I need to jump through less hoops to upload MP3 audio books to my Zune HD. It isn’t as easy as drag & drop or using the Zune software, but it only takes a few minutes and works reliably.

      I do wish that there was a way from within the Zune PC software to upload audio books like any other type of media, but until that feature is added I recommend using the OverDrive Media Console along with the WAX file creator to get the job done.

      • vangrieg says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

        I’m not going to buy a Zune HD (don’t care for mp3 players outside my phone), just trying to figure out what WP7 will bring. It will use Zune software for syncing.

    • modyvishal says:

      I assume that one should be able to do the same thing with WP7 also. Hopefully by the time WP7 devices are released, the Zune software will be able to handle custom audio books also.

      I’m also planning to get WP7 when it’s released. Along with media, I love that it’ll have unified inbox + contacts + calendar, among others. Plus the Zune HD interface is just fantastic… very intuitive and elegant, to the point, and without unnecessary animations or special effects.

  3. TJ says:

    @ Robert L.
    Are you still sure you want to switch after today’s announcements? ;-)

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Absolutely. Apple’s in a weird spot now where they’re the ones playing catchup. I’ll have a post about this shortly.

    • roberthleeii says:

      I am still going to switch to WP7. The only big announcements yesterday that interested me were multitasking and multiple exchange accounts. The multitasking won’t affect me because I have a 3G and won’t get that upgrade. But even if i got i would mainly use it for pandora streaming in the background which WP7 already has. I am perfectly happy with WP7′s ability to save states I don’t NEED full multi tasking. (I also have used copy and paste once since i have had my iPhone) on the multiple exchange accounts i guess i assumed that WP7 would include that, but now that I think back on it I don’t think that it was ever mentioned. Paul do you know if WP7 will support multiple exchange accounts??

  4. schenz74 says:

    Has anyone used this “side load” technique to load Audible.com books onto a WP7 device?

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