Need a player to listen to audiobooks
April 22, 2008 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the best portable players for DRM audiobooks and other large MP3 files

I've tried to play DRM'd audiobooks from NetLibrary and OverDrive on my current MP3 player (Lexar JumpGear), and have not been successful. The files are so big that the player hangs up while trying to load them.

Ideally, I'm looking for a player that can handle the following:
1. Files of 100 MB or more.
2. Has bookmarking capabilities so I can save my place in the file.
3. Upgradable firmware.
4. Is sturdy enough to use at the gym.

I have no allegiance to any specific brand. I'm just looking for the best player for my needs.

I've looked into iPods, but they aren't able to play the WMA files used by NetLibrary from what I can tell.

What do you all use to listen to such files?
posted by reenum to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Creative has a bunch of players. I don't know about the two you've mentioned but they play well with Audible (so I would imagine...)

The smaller flash ones would be good for the gym, and they're pretty cheap, though I don't know about bookmark capabilities in those.
posted by toekneebullard at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2008

I think you're going to have a hard time finding a device that meets all four criteria - I too am a Netlibrary user, and I settled on the Toshiba Gigabeat because it handles 1, 3 and 4. No complaints, after using it for about a year.
posted by jbickers at 1:22 PM on April 22, 2008

Best answer: I don't have this one, so I can't genuinely recommend it, but I'm personally leaning towards the Sansa Clip.

it has 1,3,4. And a firmware update is coming this week (supposedly) will add an audiobook folder. (As far as I can tell) any file placed in there will be bookmarked if you navigate to another one.

the Sandisk website claims it plays MP3, WMA, secure WMA and Audible audio file formats. I'm not sure if that means NetLibrary will work.

The minuses seem to be it uses ID3 tags rather than folders. This is a personal preference thing and I prefer folders, or at least the options of folders. They do have a good web presence in their online forums and respond to requests and questions.

Review here

Official Sansa forums here

Overall good resource: AnythingButIpod Forums.
posted by sharkfu at 2:20 PM on April 22, 2008

I just convert my NetLibrary files into M4B's (iTunes' audiobook format) and listen to them on my iPod. I use the Windows program FairUse4WM to remove the DRM and then some iTunes script that turns it into an M4B file (which has bookmarking and puts them under "Audiobooks" instead of scattered in with your music).

I prefer the way iPods/iPhones do audiobooks so this work around is worth it to me. It's pretty easy and doesn't take long (I showed my average computer user dad how to do it for his iPod and he doesn't have any problems). I guess it's technically illegal to remove the DRM, but I only listen to audiobooks once and then delete them when I'm done anyways.

PS: If anyone knows of a Mac equivalent of FairUse4WM I would love to know about it.
posted by bradbane at 2:26 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you de-DRM your audiobooks you can use any player with Rockbox installed (iRiver, Toshiba, Sansa, Apple, Archos, etc) to playback MP3 or other files and use a stack-based bookmarking system. Rockbox's bookmarking for generic audio files is one of its strong points - you can customise it, add your own bookmarks, set the resume options to be all, none, automatic, or ask, etc.
posted by meehawl at 3:06 PM on April 22, 2008

seconding rockbox, i used it on my iriver mostly for the bookmarking. i got rid of my sansa rhapsody because it wouldnt bookmark. too bad rockbox doesnt yet work on the ipod classic that i just bought
posted by phritosan at 3:15 PM on April 22, 2008

I have a Creative Zen Xtra that does all of this. It has a 60GB hard drive, bookmarks, has regular firmware upgrades, and plays all sorts and sizes of audiobooks excellently. It resumes where you stop (a BIG deal with audiobooks!). This is not one of the latest models (it may even be discontinued by now). But Creative appear to be supporting it still and you can get very good deals on eBay (as many people are swapping these out for the latest video players). It comes with excellent file management software, that allows you to organize book chapters into playlists. It also has a sleep timer, which allows you to fall asleep to audiobooks (like being read to, as a kid ...). I take mine everywhere: it stands up to travel and movement well (although I don't exercise with it). As you can probably tell, I am a raging fan and I would replace it with the same model if it broke -- but after 4 years, it is still going strong ... :-)
posted by Susurration at 7:40 PM on April 22, 2008

Actually, I just checked and my Creative Zen Xtra is 40GB, not 60. It just seems more - I have been adding books and music for the last 4 years and I still haven't filled the hard drive!
posted by Susurration at 8:36 PM on April 22, 2008

The iPod is nice for Audibooks, it can actually remember the position in every mp3 file if you set it in the preferences (for the specific file, rightclicking and than information in itunes). If you use audible or convert your books to m4b on your own, it gets even better, with nice bookmarking, chapter switching and speed changing (without weird voice).
A nice mac app to create audiobooks is Audibook Builder, which even does chapters. A feature that most other tools lack.
posted by kall at 2:05 AM on April 23, 2008

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