This is an update of a post I originally made in April '08.
1) Because podbooks are my fannish thing
and curiosity is a fault of mine, I'd like to ask that if you, too, love the m4b format, please add 'podbooks' as an interest on your journal profile page.
2) What exactly is
a podbook? A podbook (fannish terminology for audiobook or m4b) is a sound file that adds more features to a basic mp3. It usually includes cover art, makes the mp3 automatically bookmarkable, and, for those with iTunes, moves it out of the Music folder and into a separate Books (previously Audiobooks) folder where it won't be seen or heard when browsing or shuffling songs. It also then automatically shows up in a Books playlist on an iPod. My newest podbooks, compiled with the latest AudioBook Builder (for Mac only), also offer Enhanced Chapter Stops
: every mp3 file compiled into a 'book becomes its own "chapter". When you play the final output in iTunes or on your iPod, you'll notice special controls for quickly moving between these chapters instead of having to fast-forward or rewind.
3) Some mp3 players are not able to play m4b files; others can. To get the added benefits of podbooks on your PC, even if you don't own an iPod or other m4b capable player, you can download Apple's free iTunes, here
. If you have a Mac, iTunes is already part of your system.
4) Not all podbooks that have been compiled by myself and others have been posted to the various LJ podficcing communities. If you wonder if a podbook version of your favorite podfic exists, check general_jinjur
's Audiofic Archive
under the reader or author tabs. A category for m4b files also exists and can be found here
. If you don't find what you're looking for in the Archive, you can check with me; I've personally compiled over 1,000 podbooks since 2007 and am always working on more.
5) Podficcers and authors: don't be shy. If you have a podfic you'd like me to 'book and you haven't heard from me, feel free to drop me a note. I may not be able to 'book/provide cover art for/post every podfic in every fandom requested (especially those under 1/2 hour or so), but I will do my best. If your story already has a cover (with artist approval to use) or if you have a photo, cap, etc. that you can provide, the process is easier, especially for fandoms with which I'm unfamiliar.
6) Podbooks are not necessarily larger than and may actually be much smaller files than the original mp3s. The format is extremely compact, and I normally compile at 64 kbps while most mp3s are recorded at 128 kbps (the human voice needs less than half of the storage music requires). Of course, if the 'book combines several parts into a single file, it will necessarily be larger than the original mp3 files downloaded separately.
7) As I mentioned above, I compile 'books using a Mac only software called Audiobook Builder. I know PC software exists, but I don't know anything about it or its features.ETA
per a very good question asked by glittertine:
The trouble with the m4a format, which is also an audio container format like m4b, is that it doesn't have the extra features of an m4b: no auto bookmarking, no auto filing in Books inside of iTunes/iPods (they file under music).
On the up side, you can release these extra features just by manually changing the file extension from .m4a to .m4b. Doing this, however, removes the ability for the files to be used on players that can use m4a files, so there is no benefit for users of those players.
Also, many mp3 players still can't use m4a OR m4b files, which is why all podfics added to the Archive must have an mp3 version.