To manually rip a set of audiobook CD's you first need to change your import settings. Open iTunes and go to the "Preferences" menu.
Click the "Import Settings" button and change the settings to a bit rate of 32 kbps. Make sure the checkboxes are checked for variable bit rate encoding and Optimize For Voice. The Optimize For Voice limits the frequency to the range of the human voice.
If your audiobook contains music as well as voice you may want to increase the bit rate to 64 or 128 kbps.
For each disk you insert you will want to select all the tracks and make sure the Album and Artist information is correct. Set the genre to Audiobook and make sure that the disk number is included. You will want to make sure that you have the disk number because you will want to keep your files in order.
One of the things that's different about ripping audiobooks rather than ripping music is how your rip the tracks. With Audiobooks you will want to rip the whole CD as one track rather than ripping them individually as you would do with music. Otherwise you end up with hundreds of tracks for a full book. I always create one track per CD. To do that you will need to join the audio tracks as you rip.
After you insert each disk and edited the Album and Artist info to your liking, select all the tracks on the disk and go to the "Advanced" menu and select "Join CD Tracks"
A bar will show up around all the selected tracks and only a single check box will be available. Now just click the "Import CD" button and iTunes will rip all the tracks and combine them to one file.
Repeat this step will all the CDs of the Audiobook until you have as many files as you have CDs.
Once you are done ripping you now need to make sure that your tag info is correct. To make things easier I've developed a personal system where I change the name of the track to the title of the book, then add 1of 15 or 2 of 15 depending on which track it is. I also make sure that the track number is correct and change the "Composer" information to whomever is the reader of the book. Make sure that all the tracks have the same Album name or iTunes won't group them together.
You now only have one step left. You may notice that even though you selected the genre as Audiobook the files still show up in the "Music" menu. That can be a real pain if you have set iTunes in shuffle mode and suddenly someone starts reading a book to you. To get your book to show up in the iTunes book menu you need to change the file type. Apple distinguishes music from audio books with a file extension. The music file extension is .m4a, the audiobook file extension is .m4b.
Select one of the tracks and go to the File menu and select Show in Finder. Open the folder of audio files and for each track just edit the filename and change the extension from .m4a to .m4b. You will get a dialog box asking you if you're sure just click the "Use .m4b" button.
Now in iTunes delete the existing files and drag the new .m4b files back into iTunes. Your book should now show up in your iTunes Books menu and are ready to play!
I'm just letting you know that this is the hard way to do things. There are actually a lot of applications and Applescripts that can simplify the job. In my next post I'll review my favorite app for creating Audiobook files.