How-To: Join Audio Files Together Into Audiobooks

It can be a real hassle putting an audiobook into iTunes when it’s split into many different files. Especially when the files have helpful names such as 01.mp3, the seemingly endless list of files that results in your iTunes library makes listening to a book quite a chore. Lucky for you, I have an absolutely free method to make listening to books a pleasure again by combining all the separate files into one audiobook file.

The method uses a script from Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes, an extremely useful site with a plethora of scripts for Apple’s media application. The particular script I’ll be using is called JoinTogether and uses QuickTime to stitch the files together into larger one.

Step One

Once you’ve downloaded JoinTogether, open the application, and open iTunes. By holding down Command (?) and clicking, select all the tracks in iTunes that you want to combine, then switch to JoinTogether and click the button at the bottom of the window labelled ‘Get Tracks From iTunes’. This grabs all the tracks you have selected in iTunes and adds them to the list in JoinTogether.

Step Two

Now drag and drop the tracks so that they’re in the correct order. Unfortunately, you can’t drag more than one item at a time, so this can be a little time-consuming. However, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. You can also double-click to change the names of the tracks, so that they correspond to the chapter names later.

Step Three

Add all the appropriate tags and information for the audiobook. There isn’t really any need to fill in Album, Composer or Grouping, as audiobooks don’t have this information. I use the Artist field for the author of the book. To make sure that your file behaves as an audiobook once it’s in iTunes, tick ‘Remember playback position’ so iTunes keeps your place between listening sessions. I’d also suggest ticking ‘Skip when shuffling’, otherwise your audiobook can be played in Shuffle on your iPod or iPhone.

Step Four

Now it’s time to customize the settings for the book. To make sure that iTunes handles it as an audiobook and not a regular music file, change the option on the right from .m4a to .m4b – this means that the book is placed under ‘Books’ in your iTunes library, and not ‘Music’, because .m4b is the extension of an audiobook file. Under QuickTime Settings are some options which control the quality of the finished book. My personal preference is to keep the data rate at least over 128 kbps, but it’s up to you. A higher rate equals better quality, but a larger file size. The choice between Stereo and Mono for the Channels setting is purely up to preference or need.

You can use JoinTogether to create chapter markers in the audiobook by checking the ‘Chapterize’ box. However, this creates a chapter for every track you have added from iTunes, which may not be where the chapters are in the book. The Harry Potter book I’m using for my example here has each chapter split into three or four files, for instance. If you have only one track for each chapter, then I suggest using the ‘Chapterize’ option.

Step Five

All that’s left to do now is hit the Proceed button. If you see a red exclamation mark to the left of the proceed button, then that means that the total track length of your audiobook will be greater than 12 hours. This can be problematic because QuickTime has a maximum file length of around 13.5 hours. If this is the case, it’s best to split your audiobook into two or more parts so that QuickTime doesn’t run into any issues with length. While this isn’t ideal, it’s better than still having a dozen “01.mp3” files floating around in iTunes.

Once you click proceed, QuickTime will make a mess of your desktop by opening every track from JoinTogether separately, and will then proceed to join them together into one big file. As a rough guide, QuickTime took about 10 minutes to create a four and a half hour book, including stitching together and exporting the final result. Once it’s done, the book is automatically added to iTunes.

There are a couple of ways to get around the chapterizing issue. The first is to join together the files for each chapter, and then join those files together into one audiobook. To explain it more clearly:

  • I have a three chapter book, with the chapters split into three files each.
  • I’d use JoinTogether to join the three parts of each chapter together into one file per chapter, naming the files Chapter 1, etc.
  • I’d then use JoinTogether again to join those files together into the finished book, checking the ‘Chapterize’ box.
  • The chapter marks would then be at the correct places in the book, rather than at random places where the files were split.

The other way is to upgrade JoinTogether through the application menu. This costs $7 and includes the feature of joining multiple tracks together in the JoinTogether window to form chapters. It also contains other features such as additional preferences and the ability to sync the audiobook straight onto an iPod or iPhone.

While this is a helpful feature set, I personally get along fine with the regular features, and having to use the chpaterizing workaround doesn’t bother me, because I don’t have very many audiobooks. However, someone with a lot of books may decide that the time saved by upgrading is well worth $7 and pay to upgrade. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.