May 31, 2013, Category: Tech

Although listening to audiobooks on Windows Phones has always been possible, it hasn’t always been easy. This article was written back when it took trickery and pain to get it running. You can still follow this procedure but it is a lot easier now. You can use Zune, that method works fine (see the first paragraph). But after testing multiple processes and programs, I’ve settled on the app Digital Audio Book. Works great, uses Dropbox or Onedrive, has a free version, and paid is only $1.99. For my general take on audiobooks and a few suggestions, take a look at this post.

How to listen to Audiobooks on Windows Phone 8 (using the Podcast player)

NOTE: This process is no longer necessary. The new Windows Phone Desktop App will sync Podcasts that are downloaded from Zune. The old method of getting audio books on your phone that we used with WP7 now works just fine.  Now you just run the program located here. Select your MP3 Directory and sync with Zune. Piece of cake.

Audiobooks are awesome. I listen to them during my commute (otherwise, I would have lost my sanity years ago). My favorite all time audiobook are the first three books of “The Game of Thrones.” Excellent story and the reading is worthy of an Oscar, if they gave Oscars for them. I prefer to use my phone to listen to them since I always have it with me. I usually have MP3 files for my audio books and this has been a big problem with Windows Phone 8. I have finally found a solution.

The best way is to use the built in podcast player. It will keep your book mark and doesn’t have some of the problems of other apps. In addition, it is fully integrated with the media controls of WP8 (which works great with my Bluetooth motorcycle helmet). The problem is getting your audio books on the phone as podcasts. This wasn’t possible until the release yesterday of the new Windows Phone Desktop Application. Although it is possible, it still requires a bit of effort and I’ll show you how to do it.

It really is too bad you have to go through all of this to set it up. It shouldn’t t have to be this hard. But, it is what it is…

Ideally, you would just copy your MP3 files and be done. It’s not that simple. And no matter what I do it doesn’t seem to grab the podcast art, which sucks, but at least it works.

In a nutshell, take your MP3 files, update the RELEASETIME field with the correctly formatted date (make the oldest date the last one you want to listen to), copy them to their own folder in the PODCAST directory on your PC, and use the desktop APP to sync. That’s it. Now you have your audiobook on your phone and it will save your bookmark and play through your files in the correct order.

Here is my process, simplified. It may sound like a hassle, but it really isn’t too hard. You can do a whole book in a minute or two once everything is set up.

I download 2 programs: Bulk File Changer and MP3Tag (both free and available on CNET).

1. Use Bulk File Changer to set the Create Date/time (it has an increment feature).
2. Use MP3Tag to create the RELEASETIME field.
3. Use MP3Tag to copy the Create Date to the RELEASETIME field.
4. Use MP3TAG to convert the RELEASETIME field date to the proper format.
5. Copy your MP3 files to the PODCAST directory.
6. Sync with the Windows Phone Desktop App.

I would have added a step to use MP3TAG to add a graphic, but it won’t come across when you sync, I’m not sure why. If anyone can figure out how to do this let me know.

For those who would like more details on how to do this, here are specific steps (note, once you have set this up it is much easier next time you do it).

1. Set the Create Date field with Bulk File Changer

a. Download and Run Bulk File Changer
b. Click File/Add Files (select all of your MP3 files and make sure they are in the correct order, click the filename field to sort)
c. Highlight the files and click Actions / Change Time Attributes
d. Check the boxes for “Created” and “Add” (on the created line).
e. On the same line (Created), Set the increment to 1 Day
f. Change the date (Created) to one at least X days in the past (X =number of files you are renaming).
g. Check the “Date/Time Sequences Mode” box
h. Click “Do It”

2. Use MP3Tag to create the RELEASETIME field.

a. Click View / Customize Columns
b. Click New
c. Fill in the following fields:

  • Name: RELEASETIME
  • Value: %releasetime%
  • Field: %releasetime%

d. Click Ok

3. Use MP3Tag to copy the Create Date to the RELEASETIME field. (Steps a-j only required the first time)

a. Click Actions / Actions
b. Click the icon for New
c. Call this Action Copy Create Date
d. In the Actions for this item, click the icon for new
e. Select Format Value and press OK
f. For the Field value, select RELEASETIME
g. For the format string, copy and paste this value: %_file_create_datetime%
h. Click Ok.
i. Click Ok.
j. Click Close.
k. Highlight all your Files
l. Click Actions / Copy Create Date

4. Use MP3TAG to convert the RELEASETIME field date to the proper format. (Steps a-k only required the first time)

a. Click Actions / Actions
b. Click the icon for New
c. Call this Action Convert Releasetime
d. In the Actions for this item, click the icon for new
e. Select Replace with Regular Expression and click OK.
f. For the Field value, select RELEASETIME
g. For the Regular Expression Value copy and past the following: ^(\d\d?)\/(\d\d?)\/(\d\d\d\d).+
h. For the Replace Matches, copy and past the following: $3-$num($1,2)-$num($2,2)Z
i. Click OK.
j. Click OK.
k. Click Close.
l. Highlight all your Files
m. Click Actions / Convert Releasetime

5. Copy your modified MP3 files to the PODCAST directory.
This is usually located under “My Music” or as a library. Create a new directory under the podcast directory that is the name of your audiobook and copy all files there.

6. Sync with the Microsoft Windows Phone Desktop App.

This version has an option for Podcasts. If you copied the files in the right location, you will have your audiobook available as a podcast to sync. Once synced, you will now have your audio book on your phone available to listen to as a podcast. You can even pin it and have an icon on the main screen that you just have to touch and it will instantly start your book wherever you last left off!

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14 thoughts on “How to listen to Audiobooks on Windows Phone 8 (using the Podcast player)

  • By Kurt - Reply

    May need to run bulk file changer as admin if UAC is enabled it seems in my case.

  • By Warren - Reply

    It appears there is another option, and perhaps easier solution. Now we can use the old WP7 method. First, use a program like ElWPAudioBooks (Elastep’s Audio Books for WP& Creator) to create a podcast (you can select a local directory). Then use Zune to capture the PODCAST. Once Zune has downloaded the files, use the Desktop App to sync with the phone.

  • By Dirk - Reply

    Actually you’re not to far off.

    You can skip “4. Use MP3TAG to convert the RELEASETIME field date to the proper format.” I found it doesn’t work on WP8.

    As for getting the files onto your WP8 with the new “Windows Phone app for desktop”, use Windows “File Explorer” and create new Library called “Podcasts” (Select “Libraries” on the navigation pane, right click – New Library. Name it “Podcasts”, enter. Double click on the Podcasts library and select “Include Folder”, then point it to where you keep your files.)

    Now drop all your audiobooks which you’ve modified as above into appropriate folders in the Podcasts Library.

    Run the “Windows Phone app for desktop” program. Now when you select Podcasts, you should have a list of all your folders of your stuff. Select appropriately, and sync.

    Done.

  • By Warren - Reply

    It doesn’t work for me unless the MP3 files included the RELEASETIME metadata. I double click them and they won’t play in media player nor will they sync with the app. As soon as I add the tag, everything works find. But I’ve found it’s easier to use Zune and Elastep’s program than my set of instructions.

  • By Joe - Reply

    Finally! My wife’s contract is up on her phone and I was working on talking her into taking my Nokia in trade for her upgrade. I was desperately missing the Mort player on Android after I ditched my Droid 2 for the Nokia 822. I even resorted to carrying around my old droid just to listen to audio books!

    I’ve tried pretty much every app in the Store that calls itself an “Audio Book Player”. Lindy Audio is the best out of the bunch, but is written for WP7 and suffers from a few nagging flaws.

    Your process works flawlessly. The native podcast player works fine for my needs (saving position and appropriate bluetooth interaction). I appreciate you taking the time to figure this out.

    Thanks Warren!

  • By Jay - Reply

    Thanks for your help, but I have a couple of issues I was hoping you could help me with:

    The files won’t play sequentially. One finishes, and it will not move onto the next file automatically.

    Also, Zune loads the files in order from last to first instead of the other way around. Is there some way to prevent that other than re-numbering all the files before creating the podcast using ElWPAudioBooks?

  • By Warren - Reply

    If you are using the built in Podcast, it does seem buggy when it plays sequentially. I think that you want to make sure you start the main podcast and not go in and select a specific episode in order for it to work right, but I’m not sure. Sometimes it works for me, other times it doesn’t. If I start a podcast that has been paused, it doesn’t seem to automatically start the next one. I don’t know why it works sometimes and not others, I haven’t spent the time troubleshooting it yet.

    I have never had a problem with the ordering when using ElWPAudioBooks. I can’t remember (I’m not at home) but I think you can change the order of the files before you start the podcast simulation. That would be easier than renumbering.

  • By Russell Miller - Reply

    Thank you for publishing these instructions. What a disappointment that this effort is required. I went to the Windows Phone User Voice website and it seems that a “remember position” option for .mp3 files isn’t very popular. I was surprised by this. I really want to use a Windows Phone but refuse to go to this trouble.

  • By Brett Nordquist - Reply

    I thought this was initially an April Fools joke! An easier solution might be to buy a phone that works well with audio books. I have a recommendation. 🙂

  • By Warren - Reply

    April Fools jokes are generally in April. And regular podcasts aren’t a problem, this only applies to MP3 audiobooks that you want to set up as Podcasts. And it is no longer this difficult, the new Windows Phone Desktop app eliminates the need to do all of this. And I don’t want an iPhone, I like the Windows Phone, especially WP8.

  • By anders - Reply

    I manage to convert my files as podcast to my phone but the media player can not read the order of the files correctly. Although the files are numbered and located correctly in the folder they add up to Episode 4 – 19-22 etc. This has happened several times. Any idea what it could be?

    • By Warren - Reply

      I depends on the method you used. Focus on the area of my article that talks about the Releasetime. If you are using the ElWPAudioBooks (the easiest way to do it, see the link at the top of the article), it should order it by file name.

  • By khanfx - Reply

    I tried both of the methods here as well as half a dozen apps. In the end I’ve settled on “Audiobook Player”. The crazy thing is (for me at least, on my Lumia 630) it doesn’t show up in the marketplace on-phone. I installed it via the Windows Phone website.

    It can play all files in any folder, sorted by file name.

    http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/audiobook-player/fc5528b2-1cbc-42c3-9b9a-7b5cb3815165

    Hope this helps anyone hoping for better options here in 2014!

  • By Warren - Reply

    There are several out there and I’ve tested many of them. I think the best solution right now is Digital Audio Book. You can find it here: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/digital-audio-book/b1612bd2-40ee-4faf-910d-1fc1c8c553fb

    I’ve never had problems with bookmarks, sort order, or anything else. It works great and I love the voice commands that free up my hands while I’m driving or riding my motorcycle. I use Skydrive to pull down the audio files but there are multiple options available.

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