Mobileread
Series management for Audiobooks
#11  ACGAuthor 09-21-2019, 05:59 PM
I quite like the CarPlay changes on iOS13. At the very least, so far I'm not coming up against a blank display when using media apps.

Changing apps on the car display doesn't change apps on my phone, which is a HUGE bonus because the app I need for navigating for work isn't CarPlay compatible, so I need my phone displaying that while I use the car display to navigate other apps (like media, phone calls, etc.)
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#12  ACGAuthor 09-23-2019, 06:45 PM
(NOTE: This applies to audiobook series comprised of a single file per book. It may not work for multi-file audiobooks.)

Okay, so, my explorations with how to manage series on an iDevice sort of took me into the realm of other things, which will be its own separate post, but if you want to see how to manage a series so that it at least displays properly in iTunes, here's a quick example of what I did to turn this:

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into this:

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Short version? Make it a podcast.

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Of course, it's a little more complex than that.

NOTE: Some of this metadata cannot be edited once your books are in the podcast tab, so while the books are still tagged as Audiobooks, make the following changes:

First of all, you need the "Album" metadata field to be the same for every book. In this example, which is the mainline series, shorts, and offshoot series from David Weber's Honor Harrington universe, I made the album "Honorverse."

This may cause issues with audiobooks comprised of multiple files. I use chaptered m4b files so I don't encounter those obstacles, but in the Audibooks tab of iTunes, "Album" is used to denote the actual book when you have separate mp3/m4a/m4b files for each chapter or part.

To be honest, I haven't worked with any multi-part audiobooks using this method, so I don't know how it would be best to manage that. I may experiment later. Off the top of my head, it seems the best way to work that is to make the title field of each separate file "Book Title - Chapter ##" and the Album field the series name.

The second thing you need to do is make sure the "release date" field of the audiobook metadata is edited so that the books are dated in the order you would like them sorted. This may not be accurate if the books in your series were not released sequentially, and may require some falsifying of the release data metadata. As you can see in my screenshots above, I have made my release dates a month apart in ascending order.

(Anecdote: At first, I thought I would be clever and date the books according to the in-universe chronology, but since that chronology spans multiple centuries, and iTunes and some podcast apps on the phone abbreviate the year to two digits, it ended up being a big mess. Don't be me.)

Once you have them all in one "album" with sequential release dates, you go into the options tab and change "audiobook" to "podcast." They will move to the podcast tab of iTunes, and should be listed in order, with the Series name as the Podcast title, and each individual book as episodes within that podcast.

The nice thing about making them podcasts is that you have the lyrics tab where you can create custom lyrics and have your book's full description, with a short description in the comments section. This is particularly nice in certain (non-Apple) podcast apps, where you can see the book's description in detail.

More to come later.
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#13  pwalker8 09-23-2019, 07:13 PM
Hum, I suspect you are either using a Windows version, or an older version of iTunes.

On the mac, in Catalina, podcast are in the podcast app and audiobooks are in the books app. You can set the books in series order simply by manually ordering them.

I did just start playing with the books app in CarPlay. So far so good. I do find it a lot easier to manage which audiobooks are in which collection on my mac rather than on my iPhone or iPad, so we will see how well everything works together once I upgrade my main iMac to Catalina.
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#14  ACGAuthor 09-23-2019, 07:28 PM
Quote pwalker8
Hum, I suspect you are either using a Windows version, or an older version of iTunes.

On the mac, in Catalina, podcast are in the podcast app and audiobooks are in the books app. You can set the books in series order simply by manually ordering them.

I did just start playing with the books app in CarPlay. So far so good. I do find it a lot easier to manage which audiobooks are in which collection on my mac rather than on my iPhone or iPad, so we will see how well everything works together once I upgrade my main iMac to Catalina.
Since Catalina isn't available yet, yeah, I'm still using iTunes 12.9.5.5. Obviously this is all gonna go downhill with Catalina, but it's good to know the new Books app will have series management.

Edit: Okay, so, since this is going to be a thing with Catalina, I went ahead and signed up for the beta to see what the new Books app was about on Mac OS.

The good news: It apparently has a series column. That, combined with "Issue Number" may be our solution to series management.

The bad news: I can't figure out which field of metadata populates it. "Grouping" doesn't. "Work Name" doesn't. "Movement Name" doesn't. "Show Name" doesn't. The "Album" name definitely doesn't. "Album" is going to be the field for your book title.

Any suggestions for other fields to try?

I thought perhaps Books added some metadata fields that aren't recognized by tag editor apps like Yate and Subler, so I looked at the copy of the audiobook it made, and that doesn't seem to be the case. All the metadata I had before is still there, nothing has been changed. It just copied the book over to its own directory.(/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books/Audiobooks/sha1-791dc68f5b4f98658e6ffd25129ea224b142dea4/Pern #01 - Dragonsdawn.m4b)

More bad news: Apparently Books now automatically makes a copy of your book in its own directory. No option for turning that off or changing the destination directory like there was in iTunes (which means I won't be able to use it to manage my audiobooks, as there really isn't enough room on my MacBook's primary drive/volume for my audiobook collection.)

Also apparently at this time you can't view your info/metadata, nor can you manually edit it. Which is why I was trying to find which metadata field populates "series" by trial and error using Yate. No joy.
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#15  pwalker8 09-24-2019, 04:44 AM
Apple puts out a publisher's guide, you might look in there for a clue.
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#16  pwalker8 09-24-2019, 04:52 AM
It looks like you can edit certain meta data fields in Books but not others. It also looks like you can edit meta data for ebooks, but not for audiobooks. Unfortunate.
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#17  pwalker8 09-24-2019, 05:15 AM
BTW, I ran across this project poking around this morning

https://openaudible.org/

It basically downloads. It will load and show all the meta information for an audible book. I don't see a way to change the meta info in the program, but it is an open source program with a github repository, so if you program, it might provide a clue.
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#18  ACGAuthor 09-25-2019, 03:33 AM
Quote pwalker8
BTW, I ran across this project poking around this morning

https://openaudible.org/

It basically downloads. It will load and show all the meta information for an audible book. I don't see a way to change the meta info in the program, but it is an open source program with a github repository, so if you program, it might provide a clue.
Maybe they intend to roll out improvements in Books? idk. I get the feeling the created the books app with book sales in mind, rather than from a reader perspective. Which is no big surprise, but yeah, as you said, unfortunate.

I wish I did program, because if I did, I'd create this darned app because it irks me that there's this disconnect between what is really useful for audiobook connoisseurs and what we have to work with.

I'm not even joking that in the past couple days, my patience with this issue has gotten so thin that I've been on the verge of looking up how to do it myself and seeing if I could learn.

Ideally, we'd have something that works like Calibre for cataloging on our computers, but which has a device-side player app that you can sideload to (perhaps from Cloud storage?) which has more useful features than you can presently find in most of the audiobook listening apps.

Honestly, there are some podcast apps that are *SO CLOSE* to being ideal.

I fiddled around with Overcast and then I wished I hadn't because that was a waste of $10. I mean, the player is...okay? Nothing special, but it does what it needs to. But the only way to sideload to it (which is the premium feature you have to pay the $10 for) is to upload to THEIR server. You get 10GB of storage, which is fine you can load a decent number of audiobooks there, but the file size limit is 1GB and if you like higher-bitrate audiobooks it doesn't take long to hit that, so it's of limited utility to audiobook listeners.

I went back to Downcast, and for the $3 price, it's really a gorgeous app.

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It has the ability to sort by date or title or a bunch of other options, so for series, you can either tweak the release date metadata to fall in proper order, or you can prepend the title with a series index.

I believe it gets the blurb info from the lyrics field, but I'm not entirely certain because I paste it into lyrics, song description and long description to make sure my bases are covered.

It has those great options for skipping forward or backward, but unfortunately they don't interface with the remote controls on the car stereo. Still, it looks great in CarPlay and apparently the lack of Prev/Next buttons on the display in CarPlay is a CarPlay thing, not an app thing, because overcast has the same issue.

The only things Downcast needs to be perfect are:

1) A chapter list. The timeline with the chapter markers is helpful, but if you know exactly which chapter you want to go to, you still have to skip through the others to get to it.

2) The ability to generate a "podcast" (i.e. a series) from the metadata. As it is, when you sideload into the app, you have to create a podcast and add the incoming file to it, or else it goes into an "untitled podcast" listing.

3) Better sideloading controls. The sideloading interface is...clunky. But it works. You can load from iCloud, from OneDrive (if you have the app installed) or using a filemanager app like Documents 6. From the OneDrive app you can select a file and choose "Open in Another App" and it will give you the option to open it in Downcast. You can AirDrop to Downcast as well.

However, I'm a little leery of how the file storage works. I've noticed that as I've been AirDropping to the app, the "Other" file that is supposedly app resources starts to balloon in size, even as Downcast itself gets larger as you load up your books.

Which suggests that I'm ended up with two copies of the file on my device, and I'm not entirely sure if the one in "Other" will get purged automatically or if it's going to present a problem later. When loading with OneDrive, it looked like OneDrive would have a copy of the file while DownCast did as well, because both apps would balloon with each file downloaded and opened in Downcast.

I guess I'll figure it out as I go. Worst comes to worst, I'll have to backup my phone and flush the memory with a reset occasionally.
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#19  pwalker8 09-25-2019, 05:00 AM
I feel your pain on the "not quite what I want it to do" issue. I've been fighting that issue for a while. CarPlay helps a lot for me. Once Catalina is released, if collections sync between my main desktop and my iPhone like I think they will, I think it will be good enough for my needs with regards to listening to audiobooks in the car.

Right now, I'm experimenting with loading audiobooks in a separate database in Calibre and switching between my ebooks and my audiobooks. The plugin for loading audible/mp3 books isn't perfect, so it took a fair amount of work to fix all the data just so, but once it's there, it's just remembering to keep everything up to date, i.e. mark books as read in Calibre, etc. Not really all that different with regards to Calibre and ebooks. It's not perfect, but I suspect the only perfect would be something I wrote myself.

Just as aside on the CarPlay blanking out the screen issue, try going to your console's home button, to get the screen back, then bring CarPlay back up.
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#20  ACGAuthor 09-25-2019, 05:00 PM
Quote pwalker8
Right now, I'm experimenting with loading audiobooks in a separate database in Calibre and switching between my ebooks and my audiobooks. The plugin for loading audible/mp3 books isn't perfect, so it took a fair amount of work to fix all the data just so, but once it's there, it's just remembering to keep everything up to date, i.e. mark books as read in Calibre, etc. Not really all that different with regards to Calibre and ebooks. It's not perfect, but I suspect the only perfect would be something I wrote myself.
ikr? If I had the first inkling of a clue how to get started, I'd seriously be taking a crack at this. I'd probably start with OpenAudible and try to tweak it to my specifications. If I recall correctly, when I tried it, I stopped either because it would only convert books to MP3 (and I use M4B) or because it wouldn't accept any files except AAX? I don't remember. But I haven't looked at it very indepth because of one of those restrictions.

I tried loading one of my audiobooks into a separate database in Calibre, but the metadata fields were all wonky and the idea of fixing that for over a thousand files was just too daunting.

Quote pwalker8
Just as aside on the CarPlay blanking out the screen issue, try going to your console's home button, to get the screen back, then bring CarPlay back up.
I'll do that. I haven't had an issue since updating to iOS13 with its CarPlay changes, but we'll see.
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