Please recommend a portable device for listening to audio-books
November 11, 2006 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend a portable device for listening to audio-books

I am looking for a portable device that would play audio books on the go. Kind of like a cd player, but one that would be able to play back MP3. Since an audio book takes up a few hundred megabytes of storage space, this device should be able to store about 500mb of MP3s.

Price is also an issue. I don't want to end up buying an audio player that costs 100s of dollars because I don't need gigabytes of space. Under a gig would be enough. That's why I am set against the Ipod. It's storage capacities are too roomy and the cost is that expensive.

Hopefully, you all can help me find the right portable audio player
posted by gregb1007 to Technology (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The new iPod Shuffle holds 1GB and costs just $79.
posted by nicwolff at 6:42 PM on November 11, 2006

I don't know that the shuffle is user friendly enough to navigate audiobooks. You really need a display and a bookmark feature to for audiobooks.
posted by bigmusic at 6:58 PM on November 11, 2006

The Shuffle bookmarks audiobooks from the Apple Store and, but not MP3s from other sources. A display would be nice, but if you're only loading 2 or 3 books it might not be vital...

And it's so little!
posted by nicwolff at 7:01 PM on November 11, 2006

In itunes, you can set any mp3 to have it remember playback position (if that's what you mean by bookmarking; I'm not too familiar with audiobooks) by going to Get Info then Options.
posted by MadamM at 7:06 PM on November 11, 2006

nth-ing iPods. If you don't dig the shuffle, the low-end nano is only $149, and if that's still too rich for your blood, you can always pick up a used one off craigslist or eBay.

Really, the ease of use and seamlessness is worth it.
posted by trevyn at 7:12 PM on November 11, 2006

The SanDisk Sansa, at ~$70 for 1GB (comes in various sizes) and it has a screen. My mom had a different player, but hated the menu organization. My sister has recently bought the Sansa because of the price, so my mom checked it out and loved it. Both players came with an Audible trial, so it's definitely compatible.
posted by niles at 7:50 PM on November 11, 2006

For the poster's purpose, a mini might be better than a nano - maybe this is just my impression, as I haven't used either (just a standard ipod), but the mini seems a lot tougher than the nano.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:50 PM on November 11, 2006

I got to try a Creative MuVo at work (library) & it's good & pretty cheap, too. Complements my Shuffle, which is not fun at all for trying to listen to books.

That said, Consumer Reports has an article that might help.
posted by jumble at 7:59 PM on November 11, 2006

Many libraries have free audiobook downloads through If this is what you are considering, I have heard that these particular downloads do not work with ipods. I have a Creative Zen for this purpose and love it, but I have not tried to bookmark. It does keep your place when you turn it on and off, however.

I'm sure it does bookmark, but I haven't taken the time to pull my car over and figure it out yet.
posted by bristolcat at 8:20 PM on November 11, 2006

I was in your situation and got a refurbished iRiver IFP-899 (1 Gb) from Ebay. You could save some money and get a IFP-895 (512 Mb). It was the last of their AA powered flash players, so you don't have to worry about replacing some proprietary battery down the line. It has a display, FM radio, and recorder. Plus, it has a neat "study" mode, which allows you to quickly jump a user-defined number of seconds backwards or forwards in the track. This is a great feature for quickly rewinding an audio book or podcast to re-listen to a segment in case you missed it.
posted by jaimev at 8:50 PM on November 11, 2006

Another happy iPod audiobook listener here. If you're interested, I could probably even cut you a deal on a used iPod mini. (Seriously. If you're interested.)
posted by jdroth at 9:31 PM on November 11, 2006

For audiobooks I would second the Sandisk Sansa. You really want a screen in my opinion, and this gets you a screen for much less than a screened Ipod.
posted by markr at 9:49 PM on November 11, 2006

I used to use a Samsung YP-U1X for audiobooks. It's 512Mb, has a screen, it remembers where you were, you can just drag and drop files onto it without tooling around with iTunes, and - this was the clincher for me - it has a concealed USB connector which flips out and you just plug it in, so no tooling around with cables either. It's essentially a very cute thumbdrive that also plays audio files with a display. And they're cheap as chips on ebay. I've since moved onto using my phone for audiobooks (I've got the Sony Walkman one) but at the time it certainly did the trick. It also comes in 1Gb size.
Oh, and as per Mr Roth, I'll sell you mine too :-)
posted by forallmankind at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2006

I'll also chime in for the iPods, although I admit to not using any non-Apple MP3 players since I use Macs for my home computers.

The trick I found is if you're ripping books-on-CD (from the library or wherever), use iTunes to concatenate all the tracks from each CD into one file. I listen to unabridged audiobooks only, and they generally break each CD (of which there can be 20) into 3 or 5 minute tracks. It's really obnoxious to have a million tracks cluttering up your iTunes music library.

If you rip to AAC, you should be able to get iTunes to remember your place in a file between plays, but I've been hit or miss with this feature. I don't mind though, because when I'm listening to an audiobook I generally only listen to that, until it's done. I don't alternate between book/music/book at all.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:31 PM on November 11, 2006

I'll have to second the MuVo. I have one of their old 128mb/no display ones that I still use for audiobooks. The trick is resampling them to a lower bitrate to fit more on there. I've been known to cram 20 hours of audio onto the little thing. It has survived falls and below zero temps, and its no worse for wear.

One of the coolest things is that it only takes 1 AAA, and it lasts forever on it. If you hit the pause and it times out, or if you turn it off, it will remember exactly where you were because it writes it to the flash.
posted by gregschoen at 11:05 PM on November 11, 2006

nthing the iPod, especially used. Buy a used mini off of eBay (probably around a hundred bucks now), and it will treat you well.
posted by rossination at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2006

Kind of like a cd player, but one that would be able to play back MP3.

Such things do exist, and are quite cheap (under $25). Probably the best low-cost option if you want a lot of material with you (CD-R's are practically free) and don't mind the form factor.
posted by unmake at 12:27 AM on November 12, 2006

Interesting discussion; thanks!
BUT, if I may do you get your audio books into mp3 format? I’ve got a bunch of Audible titles (and an iPod) and would LOVE to convert these into mp3s and put ‘em on a few CDs. Can’t figure it out... Any suggestions?
posted by dpcoffin at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2006

Would 2nd the recommendation on (certain) Sandisk players. I am currently using the m series - $70cdn at Costco - has the following key + features - remembers place most of the time, fast startup, AAA battery (non proprietary), USB Mass Storage compatibility. bad features - seems to be a limit to 126 files at a time, sometimes has strange sequencing glitches (use a playlist to work around). Not sure if the current Sandisk series works as well - each model seems different - their e100 series had a better form factor and an SD slot for additional capacity but was crippled by an interminable startup time. Your best bet is to buy from someone who has a 30 day return feature because hardly any of the various reviews that are available consider the features or glitches that affect audiobook listening but are usually irrelevent to music enjoyment.
posted by gsquared at 11:30 AM on November 12, 2006

for dpcoffin - there is an involved way of getting audible->mp3 that involves Audible Manager 3.5 and Goldwave 5.5 - email me for a txt file indicating how this can be done
posted by gsquared at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2006

Sandisk players are a great option. They have a new low-end that has an integral USB plug.

That said, I just bought an Insignia (Best Buy in-house brand) for a screaming good price -- $139 for 4GB+MicroSD, with video, supports UMS (so will work well on Macs) as well as MTP, and it will play Audible format. Interface looks pretty good -- very Sansa-like (in fact, wouldn't surprise me if Sandisk was the OEM, it's so Sansa-like). Mostly using it for podcasts at the gym.
posted by lodurr at 7:18 AM on March 12, 2007

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