How-To: Import Audiobook CDs to iTunes

If you’re like me, you probably have a stack of audiobooks on CD. While CDs are okay, I’ve been looking for a convenient way to get these audiobooks onto my iPod using iTunes for the sake of portability.
After some searching and tweaking, I think I’ve finally got this down to a science – so take a look at this tutorial, and enjoy listening to your books on the iPod!

(This seems to be a legal grey area – but as I understand the law in the US, you can make a copy of a CD you’ve purchased for your own personal use, which is what I’m doing. Please don’t use these instructions to break any laws in your country.)

What You’ll Need

  • A Mac computer* with OSX 10.4.x or better (last tested with 10.4.11)

  • iTunes 6.x or better (last tested with 7.6)

  • QuickTime Player 7.x or better (last tested with 7.3.1)

  • Join Together 5.1.5 (donationware)

  • Bonus: Apple ChapterTool and GUI-interface ChapterToolMe (if you want to make chapters in your finished audiobook)

Got everything installed? Great. Now for the steps:

In iTunes:

1. Navigate to Preferences > Advanced > Importing

2. Set the following preferences:

On CD Insert: Show CD (or Ask to Import CD, your choice)
Import Using: AAC Encoder
Setting: (Spoken Podcast will save you some time and file size, but I use High Quality, so I don’t have to switch settings for music CDs.)
Check Boxes: Automatically Retrieve CD Track Names from Internet (this will help, I promise!)
3. Insert the Audiobook CD you want to burn, and import it. If your Audiobook has multiple discs, import them all.

4. Find your Audiobook in your iTunes Library (click ‘Music’ on the left sidebar and scroll through).

5. Select all the tracks of the Audiobook (click the first, hold down the Shift key, and select the last).

6. Launch Join Together (if you installed the AppleScript that came with the app, select it from your AppleScript menu in iTunes. Otherwise, just navigate to the program in your Applications folder and open it).

In Join Together:

1. Make sure all the tracks are in the correct order (you may need to glance at your CD case to be sure – but if you got the CD track names from the internet as I suggested above, this should be easier!).

2. Type the author, title, and album as you want them to appear in your Audiobook list in iTunes. Some of this may auto-populate for you based on the CD track metadata.

3. Tweak your settings:

Data Rate: 32 kbps should be just fine for spoken word – increase this for better file quality, but a larger file.
Channels: Mono (again, this is fine for spoken word and will save space)
Sample Rate: I left this alone. Tweak as needed.
Save As: You MUST save it as a .m4b if you want to add chapters (see Bonus Section, below).
4. Hit ‘Proceed’, and your conversion will start.

In QuickTime:

1. Now QuickTime is going to start lining up boxes across your screen as it pulls each individual track from the CD together into one audio file. When it’s found all the files and started the conversion, you’ll get a progress bar, like this:

2. Depending on the size of your audiobook, QuickTime and Join Together should be doing their work for 20 minutes to an hour. Get a cup of coffee, read a book, keep yourself otherwise entertained for a bit.

Back in iTunes…

1. When the conversion finishes, open iTunes back up, and click on Audiobooks on the left sidebar. See your book?

2. If you want the audiobook on your iPod, plug it in and sync like you usually would, making sure to check ‘Audiobooks’ (or ‘All Songs and Playlists’) from the ‘Music’ tab.


That’s it! Once you’ve done this once or twice, you’ll get the hang of it (I know, it seems like a lot of steps at first!), and you’ll be listening to your books on your iPod in no time.

A Great 2008 Prediction Quote

I saw this today, and I thought it deserved its own post, instead of just a link:

“When considering innovations in e-learning for 2008, it is tempting to focus on advances in technology—such as the use of games, virtual reality, and pedagogical agents. However, the most important innovations in e-learning will involve advances in our understanding of how to design e-learning environments that help people learn—such as how to design serious games, VR environments, and online agents that promote appropriate cognitive processing during learning. Basic research on learning and instruction will provide new guidance for instructional design, including which instructional features promote which kinds of learning for which learners.”

—Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA


Book Review: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

I just finished reading Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” and it was very insightful.
While geared towards website usability, I think a lot of the principles and practices that Krug outlines can apply to designing e-learning, online training, simulations, or just about anything interactive.

Krug writes with a light, friendly style, knowing that many readers of his book are going to be first-timers: people charged with doing usability testing, without hiring a professional.

The book is filled with practical examples of real-life “what works and what doesn’t” graphics and explanations. He highlights the differences between what web designers usually have in mind for the user to do, and what the user actually does. Web pages aren’t really read, they’re scanned for anything that seems relevant or “clickable”. Users don’t take the time to figure out how things should work; they would rather just “muddle through”.

Some design concepts covered from a usability perspective include creating a clear hierarchy and designing navigation, paying attention to conventions (rules are there for a reason!), breaking up pages into clearly defined areas, making it obvious what’s clickable, and keeping the “noise” down – cutting out unnecessary images, navigation, and especially text! Both “happy talk” (useless introductory text) and instructions (users don’t read them anyway, remember?) must die.

Finishing up the book is a clear, concise outline of everything necessary to conduct your own usability tests: materials, preparation, and a handy guide written by an expert.

If you’re in charge of doing any sort of web or interface design, or conducting usability testing, I highly suggest you give Krug’s book a read – it’s short, flows well, and gets right to the point – which, if you’re in a pinch, is a great help!

Choosing the Best Wiki for Your Needs

Choosing the Best Wiki for Your Needs

Wikis are rapidly becoming commonplace as educational tools – and with good reason! Wikis make it easy to collaborate and share information, in a relatively simple format.
But if you’re the one charged with setting up a wiki for your company, school, or classroom, there are several factors to consider – such as ease of set up, user accounts, page versions, syntax, attachments, and a lot more.
Here, I’ll list some of the most popular wiki platforms on the market today, along with some pros and cons, so you can pick the best wiki for your needs.

Compare Them All

First of all, there are several wiki comparison tools available on the web already. Check out:

Wikipedia’s List of Wiki Software
Wikipedia’s Comparison of Wiki Software
Cunningham & Cunningham’s list sorted by engine

Oh my! That’s a lot of wikis to sort through! So I’ve done a bit of the grunt work for you.

Easiest to Install / Set Up / Start Using Out of the Box

Want to start using it right away? These are your best bets.

pbWiki [] (hat tip to Wes Fryer, thanks!)
I tried this one – set up took me about 5 minutes total. Wow. Check out mine: []
Pros: super-easy setup, hosted, no ads on educational version, page history and multiple user support
Cons: must pay for more features, advertising on non-educational wikis

Wikispaces []
Another one I tried – super-easy as well. Good for a plain, no-frills wiki. See mine: []
Pros: very easy to set up, hosted, page history and discussion pages, notification options, WYSIWYG editing
Cons: ad-supported (but less obtrusive than some, can get k-12 ad-free), few customization options

Best Multi-User Support

Using your wiki to collaborate? Keep in mind page revisions and user accounts – and check out these wikis.

MediaWiki []
The wiki engine behind Wikipedia. If you’re an active Wikipedia user, this platform will feel very familiar.
Pros: can view page revisions/history, support for multiple users, well-documented support, open source, free
Cons: requires hosting (Apache or IIS), a bit complicated to set up (PHP and SQL knowledge a plus)

ScribbleWiki []
Powered by the MediaWiki engine, ScribbleWiki offers a hosted version. Here’s mine: []
Pros: free, can view page revisions/history, support for multiple users, hosted
Cons: ad-supported

DocuWiki []
Targeted towards software developers and collaborative workgroups, this platform has it all for multi-user support.
Pros: open source, free, section editing, revision history and locking features
Cons: requires hosting, WYSIWYG option as plug-in only (not automatically included)

Simplest Syntax / WYSIWYG Support

Want the easiest possible editing of your pages? Take a look at these.

WetPaint []
Very simple point-and-click editing. Nice array of features too. I made a test of this one too; see it in action here: []
Pros: support for multiple users and page history, site analytics, widgets, pre-set themes, easy WYSIWYG editor, hosted
Cons: ad-supported (google text ads all over the place – but can apply for an education wiki if you meet certain criteria), orientation demos are a bit much for experienced wiki users, but great for beginners

StikiPad []
Supports formatting in Textile and CamelCase; very simple documentation.
Pros: uses wiki-standard syntax, simple set-up, clean interface, no advertising (except for StikiPad itself)
Cons: limited configuration on free version

Best Enterprise Platforms

Need branding, your own domain, tech support, or tools for business users? These are the way to go.

TikiWiki []
More than just a wiki, TikiWiki boasts a large list of features, such as forums, directories, blogs, articles, and more
Pros: open source, free, requires hosting, good documentation, active development community
Cons: steep learning curve, not for beginners

SocialText []
Lots of features for scalable deployment – personal, small business, and enterprise options.
Pros: choose hosing on their servers or yours, supports blogging and IM integration, file management options
Cons: not free (except personal, discounts offered for non-profits), limited info on homepage (must contact sales team for more info/pricing)

Twiki []
Open source, enterprise targeted platform.
Pros: requires hosting, plugin and application support, can add attachments, multi-user friendly with revision and access control, WYSIWYG editor
Cons: no tech support, semi-steep learning curve (from personal experience – my workplace experimented with this platform!)

What Did I Miss?

Do you have a favorite wiki platform that should be included in this list? Add it in the comments!