iOS Audiobook players

I don’t listen to a lot of audiobooks, but I listen to enough of them that I want to have a good audiobook player on my phone. On iOS, the audiobook features in the old music app were good enough that I never bothered looking elsewhere. But, since Apple moved the audiobook stuff into iBooks, there’s one issue that’s been bothering me. They don’t show actual track names anymore. They just show “Track 1”, “Track 2”, and so on. I don’t know why they did this. I can’t imagine something like this helping anybody. It just serves no purpose, and makes it that much harder to figure out where you are in a book. (See this thread on the Apple discussion forums for more complaining about this, and related audiobook issues.)

So I’ve been looking for an alternative audiobook app for my iPhone. Simple searches in the app store and Google didn’t turn up much in the way of good candidates. Book Mower looked the most promising. But I gave it a try and really didn’t like the user interface. I don’t know, it might work for some people, but it really didn’t work for me.

iBooks track listing
iBooks user interface
iBooks UI
Book Mower user interface
Book Mower UI
Book Mower track list
Book Mower track list

I also tried the Audible app, which does have the ability to play non-DRM’ed files, in addition to their own stuff. Most of the audiobook content that I have is in the form of DRM-free MP3 files that I’ve gotten either from Big Finish or that I’ve ripped from audio CDs. (Or copied from MP3 CDs.) The Audible app does show track names, but not always the right ones, and, for the books I was testing with, it showed the tracks in apparently random order. So that’s really a deal-breaker!

Audible track list
Audible track list

So, not having found anything really useful, I went a bit further afield. I found one thread suggesting an app named Ecoute, which is meant as a music player, but apparently works reasonably well for audiobooks too. And another thread mentioned Downcast, which is a podcast player, but might also work for audiobooks. I didn’t actually get around to trying either of those, but I might come back to them at some point.

Eventually, I got the bright idea to look at the Big Finish forums, since it seemed like this problem would also be affecting other folks who listen to their stuff. I quickly found this thread with a lot of gripes about the iBooks app. One of the folks posting in the thread mentioned that he was working on an audio player app that would work better for stuff like the Doctor Who dramas. He released it just recently. It’s called Undulib, which is an odd name, but that’s ok.

Undulib track listing
Undulib track listing
Undulib user interface
Undulib UI

I bought it and installed it, but I haven’t had much of a chance to use it yet. The track listing includes titles, which is the main thing. But the “time remaining” indicator is kind of weird. The app pulls in whatever audiobooks you’ve got in iBooks, so no problems there. I’m not sure if it updates the “last played” date (back into iTunes) like iBooks does, but it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t.

So now that I’ve spent so much time messing around with all these apps, I should really relax tonight and listen to a little Colin Baker adventure!

4 thoughts on “iOS Audiobook players”

  1. Hello Andrew,
    My name is Brandon and I’m the developer of Undulib.
    Thanks for the mention!

    Undulib uses the stock music player under the hood. That’s why it pulls in the titles from iBooks. Because of this, the last played date will be updated accordingly.

    I’d love to hear more details on why the time remaining indicator is kind of weird 😉


    1. Hey Brandon. I think I’ve figured out the “time remaining” thing. I guess you’re showing hours & minutes there, so “0:4” means 4 minutes left?
      I used the app for a little while last night, and it worked well!

      1. If you see -1:23:15 that would mean you have 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 15 seconds left.
        In your screenshot it just says -0:04 which simply means there are 4 seconds left.

        Left side is how far you have progressed into the track, right side is how much time is left left.

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