Audiobooks and iTunes Match
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Q: I was wondering if iTunes Match or iCloud supports audiobooks?
A: The short (and official) answer is no; iTunes Match is only for music at this point, although that does include music videos as well.
That said, however, the only real difference between a music track and an audiobook track is how it’s tagged in iTunes, so reclassifying your audiobooks as Music tracks will cause iTunes to treat them the same way as it would any other music track, making them potentially eligible for iTunes Match.
You can do this simply by opening the track properties using File, Get Info, choosing the Options tab and changing the “Media Kind” to “Music.”
This will cause these tracks to appear in the Music section in iTunes and iOS rather than the Audiobooks section, however you can still use artist, album and genre tags to help locate and classify them and add them to playlists. The downside is that you will lose access to audiobook specific features such as variable speed playback, chapter markers and bookmarks; the Remember Playback Position can still be set on a music track but this does not sync between devices via iCloud.
As long as these reclassified “music” tracks otherwise meet the criteria for iTunes Match—a bit-rate greater than 96kbps and maximum size of 200 MB—iTunes will attempt to match them with music on the iTune Store (and fail of course) and then upload them to iCloud in the same way as any other unmatched music track.
The most common problem you’re likely to run into with this trick is that most audiobooks use a lower bit-rate and are therefore ineligible for iTunes Match. In this case, however, you can convert these tracks to a higher bit-rate if you really want them available in iTunes Match; you won’t gain any quality but it will allow the tracks to be uploaded. Note that this will not work for audiobooks purchased from the iTunes Store or Audible.com as the DRM protection on these files will prevent them from being converted to an iTunes Match eligible format. Further, iTunes will not convert tracks to a higher bit-rate in the same format, although you can get around this by converting MP3 tracks to AAC or vice-versa or simply using an external audio conversion tool.
The 200 MB limitation may also be an issue for longer audiobooks, although at 128kbps you should be able to get around three hours of audio in a single file. If your audiobooks are divided into chapters anyway this is unlikely to be a problem; larger audiobooks can also be split manually using any number of freely available tools and then organized into playlists for listening.
The bottom line is that how effective this workaround is will depend on the type of audiobooks you have in your library. This works best with unprotected audiobooks imported from CD, particularly since these are often divided into manageable individual tracks anyway. On the other end of the spectrum, if your library consists mostly of audiobooks purchased from iTunes or Audible you’ll simply be out of luck as there is no easy way to get these into iTunes Match. Hopefully we will see support for audiobooks, podcasts and other media types come to iTunes Match in the future, but as always Apple is completely quiet about its future plans and therefore we can only speculate if this support will ever appear.
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