MP3 player designed for audio books?
March 5, 2007 12:34 AM   Subscribe

MP3 player designed for audio books?

I've tried a couple different MP3 players (Creative Zen and Ipod Shuffle) , and while they're great for listening to 2 or 3 minute long songs, they're not very well suited to listening to audio books -- especially ones I've purchased from a well-known online retailer specializing in them. The files I've downloaded are huge. One or two files make up whole books of hundreds of pages. The mp3 players I've used don't allow me to navigate inside the track. FF and REW move me from track to track instead... more like an audio tape.

Ideally, I'd like an mp3 player that will allow me to navigate inside a track, as well as give me the ability to set a bookmark inside the track. Is there an mp3 player that can do that?
posted by Dave Faris to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure about the bookmark inside the track, but a used iPod mini (or iPod nano) meets your other specifications. Check out eBay; I'm not sure if the minis are still around but you can most certainly find a first-generation nano for a good price. They will let you look around inside the track (with the click wheel... very intuitive), and while there isn't a way to click a button and have it bookmark it (i.e. "flag and move on"), it does remember where you were if you turn the iPod off or listen to another song.

And a general tip - or something worth trying, at least. If you're using an mp3 player with FF and REW buttons that moves you from "track to track", try holding one down instead of tapping it. I don't know if this is universal, but on several devices I've seen (including the iPod), holding it down will let you do a real "fast forward" or rewind, whereas tapping it will go to the next song.
posted by rossination at 12:40 AM on March 5, 2007

iPods remember you place inside a track if the track is of a special AAC format, which most audiobooks purchased from the iTunes or Audible store are. It is also possible to convert other audiobook formats (mp3, non-bookmarkable aac) to bookmarkable format from within itunes.
posted by dantekgeek at 1:04 AM on March 5, 2007

Anything that runs rockbox can do bookmarks well; see the supported players.
posted by aye at 1:17 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

iPods remember you place inside a track if the track is of a special AAC format, which most audiobooks purchased from the iTunes or Audible store are. It is also possible to convert other audiobook formats (mp3, non-bookmarkable aac) to bookmarkable format from within itunes.

actually - it can be done with any file. use just have to set an option in iTunes.
posted by ascullion at 2:08 AM on March 5, 2007

I use the Cowon iAudio X5L for audio books. It's a top-rated mp3 player, around the price of an iPod, but with FM radio, a voice recorder, and more. And it gives you the option of setting different REW and FF speeds. I set mine on the fastest and I think it hauls.
posted by keith0718 at 3:29 AM on March 5, 2007

I love my sony NW player, primarily because it has a battery life of around 50 hours, which means I don't have to worry about replacing batteries half way through a book. However, it has no bookmarking function, and if I have to skip through a file it's quite slow.

I've taken to using software to slice mp3 files into small chunks if it's a large file to start with.
posted by tomble at 3:40 AM on March 5, 2007

I don't know how Shuffles work, but am I right in thinking that you can't control the order of the playlists, so that if you tried listening to a book broken into small tracks it wouldn't play them in order?

I second (third?) the option of making the tracks bookmarkable through AAC. It's what I do with my large files. I have a 3rd generation iPod that doesn't have the automatic bookmarking, so I had to get a special script (available online) that makes an AAC file bookmarkable.
posted by Lucinda at 4:58 AM on March 5, 2007

I ditto aye's suggestion of installing alternate firmware like Rockbox on many different mp3 players. Firmware is the way to go.
posted by JJ86 at 6:17 AM on March 5, 2007

iPod Shuffles can play either in playlist order or random order, so they're OK for audiobooks if you have the chapters as bite-sized files.

The trick everyone is mentioning about converting books to AAC is the best way to enable bookmarking, but I'm sure Audible's stuff is in an unmodifiable format. (Your public library is a great source of books on CD.) If you want a cheap player that can take a larger file and allow you navigate through it with scroll-wheel precision, Apple is selling refurbed iPod nanos for $79 shipped (1 GB) or $99 shipped (2 GB). That's pretty good for Flash memory, color screen and the iPod interface.
posted by blueshammer at 6:25 AM on March 5, 2007

I'm an avid audiobook consumer. I buy my books from Audible, though I also rip CDs from the public library. I use iPods. They work great.

I used to use an iPod mini. I now use an iPod video. (I actually prefer the mini, and may return to it.) Both models allow me to "scrub" back-and-forth within a book. Both remember your place. (Though if your battery dies before re-syncing, that place is lost.) Both allow you to slow the speed of narration or, more likely, to accelerate it. I don't know if the iPod lets you set bookmarks, though.

I'm not saying that an iPod is your only choice (or even your best choice), but I'm saying that it is a choice. Not the shuffle, but any other model.
posted by jdroth at 7:28 AM on March 5, 2007

Umpteenthing the iPod Nano suggestion.

The shuffle is a dumb, dumb device for anything other than jogging, pretty much. Even then I find its price point ridiculous when you compare it to that of a Nano.

Nano + Audible = bookmarky goodness.
posted by twiggy at 7:38 AM on March 5, 2007

I use my Samsung YP-U1Q 2GB MP3 Player almost exclusively for listening to audiobooks and it works well for me. You can navigate inside tracks, and can tweak the search increment from about 1 sec up to 1 min (which is really useful when you want to scan through a single 2 hour-long audiobook mp3). It has a bookmark function in the sense that when you stop the player, it will restart from the same place when you turn it on again.

Other functions I like: Battery life is 12 hours plus; no software required, just plug it into your PC and drag and drop files; it recharges while plugged into the USB socket; it doubles as a standard 2GB USB memory stick; there's an off timer so I can fall asleep listening to it without draining the battery; there's a built in voice recorder; it's tiny (about the size of a cigarette lighter, smaller than a Nano) and incredibly tough.

Mine has survived stupidly high humidity, rain showers and being generally bashed about, dropped and stuffed in pockets. The voice recorder has been great for capturing little snippets of audio while travelling (not great quality, but still a neat thing to be able to do).

I use it with a Hama travel charger when I want a quick charge or can't get to a computer.
posted by boosh at 8:08 AM on March 5, 2007

Nth'n the nano. I've listened books on my nano. It will remember your place if you set it up correctly. I also suggest building a playlist per book (use a smart playlist if you can). I also set it up to only sync checked items. I would uncheck tracks as I went so if the bookmarking failed I wouldn't be completely lost.
posted by chairface at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all for the advice. Ended up buying a 4gb nano off of ebay. We'll see how that works out.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2007

I set up each audiobook as a smart playlist, setting it so that it only contains tracks whose playcount is zero. Once I've listened to a piece of the book, it drops out, meaning that the first track in the playlist is always where I left off.

(Also nth-ing the library as a source for books. The only problem I've had is that sometimes the disks can get beat up and don't copy over well.)
posted by Lucinda at 7:41 PM on March 5, 2007

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