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Chapter 4. The iTunes Music Store > "Books on Tape" from Audible

4.6. "Books on Tape" from Audible

Audible.com, which you can shop right from within the iTunes Music Store, is a virtual store filled with digital "books on tape"—not just books, but also everything from vocalized versions of the New York Times to programs like National Public Radio's All Things Considered. There are more than 25,000 spoken-word recordings on the site and you can hear free samples of most files for sale before you buy.

If you choose to subscribe, $15 a month gets you one recorded book a month, plus a daily, weekly, or monthly magazine or radio show. You can also skip the subscription business and just buy the books you want for a flat fee. Prices vary, but the audio file usually costs less than the hard copy and fits in your pocket better. "The Da Vinci Code," a popular mystery novel selling for $25 in book stores, was $20 on Audible. com when the book first appeared.

4.6.1. Formats within formats

Audible.com files that come from its Web site (and not from the iTunes Music Store) use the .aa file name extension. You can't convert .aa files to MP3, but you can burn them to an audio CD to play on the stereo, and you can copy them to your iPod.

Most recordings from Audible.com come in a variety of sound resolutions, from low-fi, AM radio–like sound to a really good MP3 quality. The Audible resolutions that work on the iPod are called Formats 2, 3, and 4 (from worst to best quality). Better audio quality, of course, means a bigger file to download.

For example, the 18-hour audio book for Snow Crash is split into two files. The first half is a 34 MB download in Format 2, a 63 MB download in Format 3, or a 127 MB download in Format 4. The various formats cost the same, but unless you have a broadband connection, you'll probably want to stick with the smaller file size.


If you decide you don't like the way a format sounds, you can download your selection again in a different format by logging back into your account on the Audible.com page—a benefit you don't get at the iTunes Music Store.

To make sure that iTunes is set to handle Audible files, choose iTunes → Preferences, click the General icon, and next to "Use iTunes for Internet Music Playback," click the Set button. When you download a book file from Audible.com, it shows up right in iTunes.

Before you listen to it, iTunes asks you to type in the name and password you set up for your listener account with the Audible.com site. After you type the Aubible pass-word the first time, you can listen to your book or show at your desk (Figure 4-11) or transfer it to your iPod like any other track.

Figure 4-11. Whether you get it from Audible.com's Web site or you buy it right within the Music Store, iTunes plays your audio book just like any other track in your library. Longer books are split into multiple parts for easier downloading from the Audible.com site.

You play themjust like regular audio files; the iPod even remembers where in the audio book you stopped listening, so you can pick up where you left off the next time. Better yet, these little electronic bookmarks are synchronized between iTunes and the iPod; if you're listening to a certain chapter on your iPod while walking home from work, you can continue listening at your desk later, in iTunes, without missing a sentence.


It's fun to wander around in the iTunes Music Store as your own music plays, but it's extremely easy to drift away from your playlist-in-progress. If you want to go directly back to the song that's currently playing, just click the curled arrow on the right side of the oval iTunes display window.

This handy icon is called the Snapback arrow, and it serves as a one-click shortcut to the File → Show Current Song menu dance (or the keyboard shortcut -L). It only works when there's a song actually playing, but you can use it in your own collection or when while traipsing around song previews in the Music Store.

iTunes Video on the Big, Medium, or Small Screen

When iTunes 4.8 hit the ground in the spring of 2005, geeks and bloggers quickly got very excited about an underpublicized feature of the new edition: iTunes could now download and play video clips right in its own Artwork window—or even over the Mac's entire screen—wth the click of a button.

To check it out, first make sure that iTunes is set for video fun: Choose iTunes → Preferences → Advanced, turn on Play Videos, and then choose what window type you'd like to view them in: the Artwork pane of the main iTunes window, in a separate floating medium-sized window, or at the full-screen size. (You can also summon the fullscreen view at any time by clicking the full-screen button under the Source list.)

You can add video clips to your iTunes library just like you add songs, by dragging them into the window or by using the File → Add to Library command. Make sure the clips are in the .mov or the .mp4 formats before you import them, though, or iTunes won't know what to do with them.

And you're not just limited to your own clips, either. In the summer of 2005, the iTunes Music Store began selling "bonus" video clips along with certain albums, including works by the Shins, Coldplay, and the Dave Matthews Band. You'll know when a video is available, thanks to the little gray video camera icon next to the song's name. (Videos are usually included with albumonly purchases. Some albums include a PDF file of the liner notes as well as the video, which means you're getting everything the CD buyer gets except for a breakable plastic jewel box.)

Sure, your album download times are a little longer because you're pulling down a big 50- or 60-megabyte video file, but when you get it to your Mac, you have a cool extra feature alongside your new album's tracks—and, one day soon, maybe even on the screen of your iPod.

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