Q: I want to buy an iPod for my sister who wants to listen to audio books. What size iPod do I need to get?
A: Unless your sister is planning to go on a very extended vacation away from a computer, you will likely be fine with a smaller iPod such as an 8GB or 16GB iPod nano, 8GB iPod touch, or even an iPhone. Audiobooks are among the smallest media in terms of raw file size, as spoken word does not require the frequency range or even stereo audio that is normally associated with music.
To give you an example, the audiobook version of The Da Vinci Code is six hours and twenty minutes in length and only 86.6 MB in size. One of our audiobook libraries containing over 552 hours (or 23 days) worth of audiobooks only occupies 4.92 GB of space, or about two-thirds of the capacity of an 8GB iPod. By contrast, a 160GB iPod classic would be able to hold over 11,000 hours of audiobook content, or approximately 480 days of continuous listening.
Of course, these numbers only apply if the iPod is going to be used exclusively for listening to audiobooks. Since most iPod users will also want to listen to at least some music on the go, you may want to factor this in to the decision as well. That said, even a 16GB iPod would provide more than adequate space for somebody who primarily listens to audiobooks and wanted to carry around a few hundred music tracks as well.
Note that if your sister will be converting audiobooks from CD into an iPod format, then she should be sure to adjust the settings in iTunes appropriately for audio books. By default, iTunes will encode audio from CDs with settings appropriate for music files rather than the spoken word. These settings can easily be changed in iTunes by going into the iTunes preferences, choosing the “Import Settings” button and selecting the “Spoken Podcast” setting instead of the iTunes Plus setting.