Today is Presidents Day, and I have the day off from work. In a normal year, I’d maybe take this opportunity to go into New York and visit some museums, or maybe just go out and see a movie, but this year, between the pandemic and the coming ice storm, I think I’ll just be staying home and doing largely pointless nonsense. (I could maybe look at this Times article, and do something meaningful that ties in to the holiday, but.. nope.)
Pointless activity number one for today has been “messing around with audiobooks”, so this post is going to be a follow-up to my last fun with audiobooks post. Since that post, I’ve finished Charlotte’s Web, borrowed from my local library via OverDrive. And I’ve started The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, via Serial Box.
From an iOS app perspective, I’m realizing that I need to use multiple apps now, depending on where my audiobooks are coming from. Books bought from Apple, and DRM-free books that I’ve dragged into Books on my Mac, can be listened to via the Books app on my phone (or with Undulib or something similar). Audible books need to be listened to via the Audible app. Library books can be listened to with OverDrive or Libby. And Serial Box books probably need to be listened to via the Serial Box app.
I have figured out, though, that it’s possible to save OverDrive audiobooks (if they’re in MP3 format) to my local PC (via the OverDrive Windows app). And it’s probably still possible to export Audible books via OpenAudible or AudibleSync. And I’m pretty sure that it used to be possible to download MP3 files for Serial Box titles, but they seem to have discontinued that and locked it down, so you’re stuck with their app now.
I’ve also been messing around with utilities to combine MP3 files into consolidated audiobook files. I’d been looking at Join Together and Audiobook Builder. Those are both $5 apps available for the Mac. I wound up buying Audiobook Builder, though Join Together would probably have also worked well. I don’t really need to create consolidated audiobook files, but it does allow me to clean things up a bit, specifically for audiobooks that I’ve ripped from CD. I’ve run a few books through Audiobook Builder, and it seems to work fine. I’ve pulled in MP3 files and output M4B files, and the output always comes out smaller than the input, and seems to work fine in Books (on Mac/iPhone) and iTunes (on Windows). I can edit the metadata for the combined file, and for the chapter titles.
Since paying for Audiobook Builder, I noticed Audiobook Binder, which is quite similar, but free, and open source. I probably should have tried that first. The visual similarity between the two programs is kind of suspicious. If Audiobook Builder didn’t have a fairly long history, I’d think it might just be a fork of Audiobook Binder that somebody tweaked a bit, then tossed up in the Mac App Store. But it’s been around since 2006, so that’s unlikely.
It would actually be more convenient for me to have a program like this on my PC, but there doesn’t seem to be much available for Windows. I found something called AAC Audiobook Creator, which might work, but it hasn’t been updated since 2011. So I guess I’ll stick with Audiobook Builder for now, since I’ve paid for it and it works well enough.
Getting back to iOS apps, I haven’t really had any issues with the multiple apps I’m using now, though it would be nice to just have one great one. The Apple Books app works well enough, for both books bought from Apple and DRM-free books synced from my Mac. The OverDrive app works fine for library books. (I’ve also installed Libby, and took a quick look at it, but I don’t think it’s any better than OverDrive.) As I mentioned last time, I think the Audible app is working for me now, though I haven’t actually tried to use it to listen to anything lately. And the Serial Box app is a little clunky, but good enough. All of these apps have the basic controls available, plus multiple speeds (if you’re interested in that) and sleep timers.
Having content spread across multiple apps and providers does make things harder to keep track of, but that’s what Evernote and Goodreads are for. And speaking of content, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. The current Serial Box book I’m listening to, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: Season One, is pretty good. I’ve previously listened to the first season of Bookburners, and enjoyed that one too. I thought I’d written a blog post mentioning it, but I can’t find it. I did write a relatively long review on Goodreads, though. I got the first seasons of four different Serial Box serials as part of a Humble bundle back in 2018. Serial Box is a pretty interesting publisher. They publish stuff as serials, in both audio and text format, and use a “season” format similar to the way a TV show would be produced. The “seasons” have individual “episodes.” There’s generally a group of writers working on a season, with individual episodes written by individual writers, but sticking to a consistent voice and style. It works pretty well, for the two serials I’ve tried so far. When they started out, they were doing original stuff, but now they’re also doing serials featuring licensed characters from Marvel, like Black Panther. And they have a subscription service now too, which gets you access to a library of more traditional audiobooks in addition to their own stuff.
Once I’m finished with the serial I’m listening to now, I’m not sure what I’ll listen to next. I’ve got a lot of options. Maybe some of the Neil Gaiman stuff that I haven’t listened to yet. Or maybe I’ll get back to the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.