Transferring Audio Books to Your iPod

My best friend loves to listen to audio books. He never watches television and is proud of the fact that he doesn’t have a TV in his home, but he always keeps a stack of audio books available. (I, on the other hand, have a television set in every single room in my house, but that’s another story.) After listening to 6 or 7 hours of an audio course about global warming on a recent holiday trip, my friend asked me if I would show him how to transfer the remaining CDs to his iPod, so he could finish listening to the program while working out at the gym the next morning.


At that point, I decided that the evil influences of modern television programming had obviously shortened my attention span, because I had already learned everything I ever wanted to know about fluorocarbons, CFCs, and the greenhouse effect. Consequently, I decided that I would prefer that my friend finish this particular set of audio books in the gym, rather than in the car on our next long drive. I decided that a blog post was in order.


That, my dear friends, is where this whole thing started. My plan was to quickly outline the steps needed for transferring an audio book to an iPod in a way that would preserve the chapter markers and keep all files together in one folder. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the technical issues are fairly simple. It’s the legal and ethical issues that get complicated.

This is the dilemma. Most everyone in our modern world has heard about copyright infringement. Even most teenagers know that it is against the law to make copies of commercial CDs and DVDs and then sell them (or give them away). Twenty years ago this concept was fairly straight-forward and made a lot of sense. Today, however, the issue has become much more complicated, and the laws are not always clear-cut. Even individuals who would never, ever consider breaking the law in other ways are copying movies, songs, and audio books onto their mobile devices, so they can listen while driving, exercising, etc. Even many librarians are now hedging questions that refer to transferring copyrighted content to personal mp3 players or mobile phones.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is still the same. The law continues to say that the content of a commercial CD or DVD cannot be copied unless the copyright owner gives you permission. While the “powers that be” seem to agree that it is legal to make one back-up copy of a CD or DVD, in case something happens to the original, this back-up is not supposed to be used as an extra copy (i.e., having the original CD in your car and the back-up copy in your office).


As technology has changed, new problems have arisen. For example, with increased bandwidth and more powerful computers, file sharing of songs and movies over the Internet has become a huge concern for the courts. While they have really cracked down on individuals and groups who are involved in this illegal activity, it can be very tough to police the Internet.

Likewise, as devices like the Kindle become popular, new issues that we have never even considered before begin to crop up. Is it illegal to read copyrighted material aloud? How absurd, you might say, but there is an ongoing debate about this topic. What about all the videos posted on YouTube that breach copyright laws? So far this hasn’t been an insurmountable problem for the video giant, because someone has to complain and/or press charges for there to be consequences to copyright infringement. In most cases, musicians, actors, and celebrities appreciate the publicity that comes with an appearance on a YouTube video. Furthermore, since most YouTube videos are very short and not professionally done, usually the owner of the copyrighted material knows that the video clip won’t affect the commercial sales of their CD, movie, etc.

So let’s get back to the audio books. Most larger libraries now have collections of audio books that can be downloaded for free. This means that we can save copies to our computer. Can we also change the format so that we can listen to the audio on a different device? Must we immediately delete the files after we listen to them? And maybe more importantly, since the libraries are offering these downloadable collections, can we assume that it is okay to use the copies of their audio books that we must physically check out in the same way that we use the downloadable ones?
Some say that it should only be illegal to convert and move content from CDs and DVDs if they are encrypted or protected in some way. They say that if there is some type of block or encryption, that it is clear that you are violating copyright laws. I, personally, don’t buy into this opinion. I think that it is basically like saying that only companies with very deep pockets will be protected by the law.

In addition, many of the protection features are so simple to work around that it would be very difficult to draw the line between what was true protection and what was not. For example, in its current version, you can import most audio books into iTunes (as AAC files) and then press and drag them into folders on your iPod. Unfortunately, when you do this, the files will be mixed with your song files and cannot be placed into a separate audiobook folder. This means that unless you do some tweaking of the files and folders, when you shuffle your songs, the audio book files get randomly mixed in. It is a messy process, and iTunes knows that most people who do this once will never do it again, since it is more of a hassle than it is worth. 

However, it is also very easy to work around this default behavior in the application. (While not completely intuitive, it is not rocket science.) After importing audio book files into iTunes, you simply find the iTunes folder that holds the converted audio tracks on your computer, change the filename extension on each individual file from .m4a to .m4b, move the files back into iTunes, and then add them to your iPod.

find folder on computer  

There are also free software tools available on the Internet that will make the process even easier. One such program, called Chapter and Verse (for the Windows operating system), is easy to use and allows you to create chapterized audio books for iPod, iTunes, and Quicktime. (See directions further down in this blog for more information.)

So, if this process is so easy and there is no air-tight encryption, does it mean that it is legal to make copies of audio books from the library and move them to your iPod collection in this way? Again, currently the answer to this question is, “probably not” unless the library specifically tells you that you can.

As you can probably guess, these laws are very unpopular and many groups are pushing for change. Many of the recording companies have even stated publicly that they will not pursue or press charges against  individuals who are making copies of audio books and music CDs for their own personal use. 

Now let’s throw another wrench into the mix. The fair use doctrine provides exceptions to copyright laws. It states that students and teachers can use copyrighted materials for educational purposes without asking the author. There is also a clause in the doctrine that makes provisions for using materials to promote scholarly endeavors.


It just so happens that my friend works for the government and he is constantly involved in environmental issues. So wouldn’t his use of the audio course materials be considered “scholarly?”

It should be quite obvious by now, that the whole issue of copyright in the digital age becomes very murky.


With that said, I am now going to present a few tips and suggestions that might be useful to you if you are attempting to transfer an audio book to your iPod. Please use this information, if, and only if, one of the following is true:

  • A commercial CD or DVD states clearly on the package that you can make copies or transfer the content to a mobile device, such as an iPod
  • The owner of the copyrighted material has given you permission to transfer a copy to your iPod or other mobile device
  • You have borrowed or downloaded an audio book from a library, and the library has specifically stated in writing that you have the right to place a copy on your mobile device

When you are ready to begin, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the newest version of iTunes on your computer (currently
  2. Connect your iPod to your computer and wait for iTunes to recognize your device. When you see the name of your iPod listed in the panel on the left side of the screen in the “Devices” section, you can continue.
  3. From the File menu, at the top of the window, click on Edit. A drop-down menu will appear with several options.
  4. Click on Preferences. A new iTunes dialog box will open with the General tab active. In the top section of this dialog box, there is a list of items that you can choose to display in your iTunes library.
    iTunes dialog box to put after number 3
  5. If there is not already a checkmark next to it, click on the Audiobooks checkbox.
  6. In the middle of the dialog box, there is a field that says “When you insert a CD.” Click on the drop-down arrow and from the list of options, click Show CD.
  7. Click on the Import Settings… button that is directly to the right of this field. The Import Settings dialog box opens, showing a number of different options.
    Import Settings Dialog box to put after number 6
  8. In the “Import Using” field, click on the drop-down arrow and choose AAC Encoder.
  9. In the “Setting” field, click on the drop-down arrow and choose Custom… A new dialog box will open.
    AAC Encoder db
  10. In the “Bit Rate” field, click on the drop-down arrow and choose 64kbs.
  11. Leave the “Sample Rate” field set at 44.100kHz.
  12. In the Channels field, click on the drop-down arrow and select Stereo.
  13. Make sure that the checkboxes next to Use Variable Bit Rate Encoding and Optimize for voice are selected.
  14. To activate these settings, click the OK button at the bottom of this dialog box.
  15. To continue, click the OK button at the bottom of the Import Settings dialog box. You will see the  iTunes dialog box.
  16. Click to deselect the Automatically retrieve CD track names from the Internet checkbox.
  17. Click the OK button.

Now we are ready to import our audio files.

  1. If the files are on a CD, insert the first audio CD into the CD drive. After a few seconds, the tracks from the CD will be displayed.
  2. In the bottom, right-hand corner of the window, click on the Import CD button. 
  3. ITunes will begin to import the tracks on the CD. It will look something like this:
    importing tracks after number 3 in last section
    Note: If the files are not on a CD, use whatever method you usually use to bring them in to iTunes.
  4. When iTunes is finished importing the tracks, you will see a green circle (with a small white checkmark) next to each track. Click on the Music folder which is immediately under Library in the panel on the left.
    Music category
  5. If necessary, click on the list view icon at the top of the window:
    list view
  6. To select all of the tracks you have just imported, hold down the Control key on your keyboard while clicking on each track.
  7. Download and install the application called Chapter and Verse.
  8. Open the application. Adjust the windows so that you can see both theiTunes window and the Chapter and Verse window on the screen.
    both windows open
  9. Press and drag the highlighted tracks from iTunes to the Chapter and Verse window.
    Chapter and Verse Window
  10. Repeat steps 1 through 8 from above with all CDs in the audio book series. Make sure that you drag each new set of tracks below the ones that are already there. If not, you will need to use the Move File Up and Move File Down buttons to put the tracks in the right order.
  11. After you have dragged all tracks to the Chapter and Verse window, click on the Build Audiobook button. A save location dialog box will appear. Set the location where you want the file to be saved.
  12. After the file has been created, a new dialog box will appear asking you if you would like to add this file to the iTunes Library. Click the Yes button.
    Add to iTunes
  13. The file will be added to the Audio books folder in the iTunes Library. Now you can connect your iPod and synch your  files or manually add the new audio book.

When you listen to the audio book, it will have chapter numbers that make navigation easy, and it can be stored in a separate folder from your songs. If you stop listening to the audio book at a certain point, and then start listening again later, the audio will automatically start playing at the correct spot where you left off.


If you would like more information about copyright laws as they apply to digital media, click on any of the links below:

If you are interested in finding free, downloadable audio books, you may want to start here:

For a comprehensive, but easy to navigate, copyright guide, go to:


  1. Carol Rhodes

    It’s nice to know this can be done directly through iTunes. In the past I have added my own music to iTunes by Ripping and Burning in Windows Media Player, then adding the “cleaned” version to iTunes. My method was much more cumbersome. Either way, this job involves some heavy lifting!

  2. Dave

    I personally think that audio books are much more portable, than a book. I know books can be easily put into a hand bag, bag back, or just holding on to it, but i think the versatility of audio books is going to keep it around for a long time yet. I see many people in trains hanging on with a hand and trying to read with the other, only just managing not to bump into other passengers. I think audio books will become much more popular amongst the working population catching public transport.

  3. AudioBookLover

    That was really good I always burned them to my ipod as well. Thank you so much that was a very detailed article and really helped me out.

  4. Nutmeg audiobooklover

    I listen to audiobooks all the time, and I load them onto my Ipod from library CD without guilt. I always delete the book completely from Itunes when finished, and I never share or distribute. I like that I can keep it longer without the due date if necessary, but I think the single user, no sharing rule for myself works. I use slightly different steps — I create a playlist just for the audiobook and import the tracks to that. When all the CD’s are imported, go to the playlist and Edit, Select All tracks. Go to File, Get Info. On the Info Tab make sure Artist and Album are consistent (they aren’t always) and on Genre select Spoken & Audio. Then on the Options Tab click on Yes for Remember Position and Yes for Skip When Shuffling, then OK.

  5. John @

    Great tips! Thanks for the help.There is also a Mac app out there called Audiobook Builder that really has some great functionality. Streamlines everything and makes it a pretty painless process.

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