An Open Request for an iTunes Hack

by Brian Sawyer

Related link: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/ipodtuneshks/



I recently bought The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Audiobook): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction from the iTunes Music Store. Since the purpose of this purchase was to fill my grueling two-mile, fifteen-minute commute to work, I needed to burn the audiobook to CD (I do have a Griffin iTrip, but I've been experiencing way too much interference to make that listening experience reliable or enjoyable). I immediately came across a stumbling block that anyone who has bought an audiobook from the iTMS will no doubt already be familiar with.

When you buy an audiobook on CD and import it into iTunes, it's conveniently broken up into short, easily digestible tracks. Not so with the same audiobook purchased from the iTMS. When my my new audiobook finished downloading, the whole book was crammed into just two tracks:


image


Though these unweildy tracks offer the ability to automatically bookmark your place, this "feature" quickly becomes annoying when you want to jump to a chapter or passage you've already read and want to return to. But that's an annoyance for another discussion. Though the one hour and seven minute second track is annoying for other reasons, at least it will all fit on one CD. The problem at hand is with that two hour and forty minute first track, which just won't.

So, what's a boy to do? If you've spent any time with editing track information in iTunes, you can probably guess my makeshift solution. It's an inelegant hack, but it's all I could come up with:

  1. Start listening to the unwieldy track somewhere close to an hour into it (some end point that a standard audio CD will accommodate) and find a reasonable stopping point (note the time).
  2. Select the track and choose File > Get Info (Command-I).
  3. In the Options tab, change the Stop Time from the default (the complete track):

    image

    to match the break you've chosen, like this:

    image

  4. Create a playlist containing that track and burn your first CD.
  5. Now, repeat this process for each of the CDs you'll need to burn the entire audiobook, shifting the Start Time of subsequent CDs to match the Stop Time of the preceding CD.


Whew! I managed to burn my audiobook to CD. But in doing so, I realized another annoyance--namely, that more granular track information actually is available in those huge unmanageable chunks iTunes gives you. For some reason, they're just hidden and unnaccessable until you burn a CD. When I burned my first CD (one track: Start Time 0:00 and Stop Time 58:27), here's what the track information ended up looking like on the CD:

image

Now, it's annoying enough that I didn't have access to this information from the beginning (it certainly would have made it easier to locate good beginning and end points for my CDs), but the biggest annoyance is that last three and half minute track, which really belongs to a much larger track that wound up on my disc 2. If I'd known where natural the breaks were, I would have actually used that information to burn cleaner, more intuitive copies to CD.

So, here's my plea to all you hackers out there: does anyone have a solution, some way of revealing the secret track information hidden within these audio behemoths before burning to CD (i.e., when that information is actually useful)?

I imagine Hadley Stern would agree with me that an interesting, nonobvious solution to this problem would be a prime candidate for inclusion in a future edition of iPod and iTunes Hacks.

Got a hack?


8 Comments

kbedell
2004-12-17 14:21:03
Purchase through Audible.com, then import ti itunes
I've been a customer of audible.com for over a year. Now that I have an iPod, I import my audiobooks into iTunes to send them to the iPod.


By I can also still access all the books through the Audible software -- which burns cd's just fine. Plus, I believe (if you want) you can upgrade the roxio software that comes with the audible application and get even more flexibility for burning cd's.


Another benefit is that by signing up for a 1 year audible.com membership, you can get a couple for $100 off an ipod through amazon.com.


brian_d_foy
2004-12-19 11:10:02
Re: Request for an iTunes Hack
Odd. When I burned the same audio book as an Audio CD, iTunes (4.7) told me it wouldn't fit and asked if I wanted to split it across multiple CDs.


Other than that, I've found that MP3 Trimmer has been really handy in breaking up bootleg concert tapes.

BrianSawyer
2004-12-19 12:35:56
Re: Odd
Yes, it did that for me too, originally, but when iTunes splits the track across multiple CDs, it does so without any regard for the actual content. It simply splits the track at the CD's capacity, even if the track is mid-sentence, which is even worse than the results I ended up with. That's why I tried my own workaround, simply to choose a good spot to end the CD, but I'd still prefer to end the CD on a chapter or more natural break.
Johnathan
2004-12-20 00:38:34
Here's how it's done:
When you want to burn that large file to a series of CDs, this is what I suggest (assuming you are starting at the beginning of the book):

  1. Create a playlist with just the files in the book you are interested in burning.


  2. If the first file is longer than the length of one CD (74 minutes), uncheck all the other files in the list, leaving only the first file checked.


  3. Start playing the first item in the list. While it is playing, hold down the Shift key and the Apple (Command) key. With those keys held down, press the Right arrow button.
    You will notice that if the file you are playing has chapters (which are the markers used to make distinct CD tracks as the screenshot above shows) - using the Apple-Shift-Arrow keys will move backward (Left Arrow) and forward (Right Arrow) by chapters within the file. If you reach the end of the file, continuing to press this key combination will actually move to the next checked file in the current playlist.


  4. As you press Apple-Shift-Right Arrow, note when you have reached a point suitable as a "stopping point" for burning a single audio CD. I suggest only going to roughly 65-70 minutes, to play it safe. (This also allows plenty of time for any pauses you may have programmed iTunes to automatically place between tracks (even though they should total less than a minute on the average audiobook CD).) You can always use the Apple-Shift-Left Arrow combination to move back by chapter if you move too far forward. It is not key that you stop the book at the correct place. Merely make a mental note of the time in hours, minutes, and potentially, seconds where the last whole chapter that will fit on a CD ends.


  5. Then, enter that time into the "Get Info" dialog's "Options" tab as indicated above.

  6. After you click OK, you should be able to burn. You will know you've tried to bite off more than you can chew if iTunes offers up a warning about not being able to fit the entire mess on one CD. In that case, you need to backtrack and put one less chapter on the CD.

  7. To burn the second CD, go back to Get Info > Options and set the new Start Time to be the old Stop Time. Uncheck Stop Time at that point, and that will allow you access to move through the remaining chapters in that file.

  8. Eventually, you may find you have one or two chapters left in the first file, so set the start time to the beginning of them and uncheck stop time. Then, check the next file in the playlist and figure out how many of its chapters (that is, how much time) you will need to fill a CD.


I realize this is convoluted, and iTunes really ought to at least have an option to "Burn whole chapters whenever possible" (and, IMO, checked by default). There is the occasional chapter too big for a single CD, and it would necessitate human listening to determine where to break it up.


I also found it strange that Apple could get the interface for chapters correct on the iPod, yet provide virtually no interface for them within iTunes. OTOH, it was one of the things that motivated me to buy an iPod, so maybe they are on to something. :D


Johnathan
2004-12-20 00:43:10
Here's how it's done:
BTW, the Apple-Shift-Arrow key item is mentioned in the iTunes Help system - Help > Keyboard Shortcuts. But I don't think they provide any info on how to use it in conjunction with CD burning.


And - I forgot to add a link to my blog:
http://www.clickauction.net/jgblog/

BrianSawyer
2004-12-20 06:15:36
Here's how it's done:
Thanks, Johnathan! That's exactly what I was looking for.

I'm a little embarrassed to learn that uncovering those hidden track breaks is a simple matter of Shift-Apple-Right Arrow (and that this keystroke combination is actually revealed somewhere in the Help system), but I'm sure glad I swallowed my pride and asked the question.

Luke
2006-03-24 16:36:28
thanks :)
mike
2006-04-09 23:10:32
if you want to burn cd, you can choose X2CD music CD burner ,it's an easy software to burn music cd directly from mp3, wav, wma etc.