While iTunes Match is perfect for storing your music library in the cloud, allowing you to access it from all your iOS devices, there are many audiobook fans who can’t listen to their favourite titles. As we show you here, though, it’s not impossible.

First, whether you need to go to the trouble of setting up your audiobooks for iTunes Match depends on where you acquired them. If they were purchased from the iTunes Store, you’re unfortunately out of luck. Not only do audiobooks not show up in your purchased list, but since they are protected by digital rights management (DRM), you can’t convert the files into the format required for adding them to iCloud.  

If you’re an Audible.com member, however, your audiobook library will already be in the cloud. Simply download the free Audible app for iOS and then create an account with a username and password. You’ll be able to download or stream any of the titles you’ve bought.
If some or all of your audiobook collection was ripped from CD, DRM-free downloads or CDs that contain MP3 files, then follow these simple steps to ensure your books will work with iTunes Match.

Get audiobooks to match

There are two reason why iTunes Match doesn’t accept your audiobooks. First, it doesn’t match anything in your Books library. Secondly, even if your audiobooks are not in that library, iTunes Match won’t match anything that’s at a bitrate of less than 96 kilobits per second (Kbps). This makes sense if you want to save space, since audiobooks don’t need to be at a bitrate as high as music, and are usually very long.

If, however, you want to put your audiobooks in the cloud, you can start by ripping them – or at least the ones you want iTunes to match – at 96Kbps. After doing so, make sure that you don’t follow the usual method of selecting the tracks, pressing C-I, going to the Options tab and selecting Audiobook from the Media Kind menu. If you do this, the books will end up in the Books library, which iTunes Match ignores.

Instead, leave them as music – that’s how they’re designated by default when you rip a CD – and set their genre to Spoken Word or Audiobook. (If you have a lot of audiobooks, you can use more genres; just type in the ones you want such as Fiction, Non-fiction, History, Romance and so on.) These files get uploaded to iTunes Match, and you can access them from other devices according to their genre or the artist’s name (generally the author).

If you have ripped audiobooks in your iTunes library at bitrates of less than 96Kbps, you have the option of upsampling them. In other words, you can convert the files from their existing bitrates to 96Kbps so that you can use them with iTunes Match. To do so, go to the General tab of iTunes’ Preferences menu and click on Import Settings. In the Import Using pop-up menu, you can choose either AAC Encoder or MP3 Encoder; neither offers any particular advantage for use with iTunes Match. From the Settings pop-up menu, choose Custom. Next, set Stereo Bit Rate to 96Kbps, Sample Rate to Auto, and Channels to Mono (unless you’ve ripped in stereo, as you might for full-cast recordings). Then select Optimize For Voice, and click the OK button three times to save your changes and close all the windows.

Splasm’s Audiobook Builder can simplify the conversion required to prepare audiobooks for iTunes Match, as well as join files so you have fewer of them to deal with

Next, select one of your audiobooks, no matter how many files you have. We recommend that you create a new playlist with these files, which makes it easier to delete them after they’ve been converted. To do so, press C-Shift-N or choose File > New Playlist From Selection. Go to that playlist, select the files, and select Advanced > Create AAC Version (if your import settings are for AAC files) or Advanced > Create MP3 Version (if you chose the MP3 encoder). iTunes will then start converting the files. This may take a while if you have a long book, or just a couple of minutes for shorter books.

When iTunes has finished converting your files, you can do one of two things. First, you can delete the files you just converted and keep only the 96Kbps versions. To do so, select the files in the playlist and click Option-Delete. A dialog box asks if you want to delete the songs; click Delete Items.

The other option is to keep both sets of files – the ones at the lower bitrate for your iPod, say, and the higher bitrate files for iTunes Match. If you do this, we recommend that you tag one set of files so it’s clear which is which.

The easiest way to do this is to select the files you just converted, press C-I and in the Album field add something at the end of the album name, such as low bitrate or iPod version. This means that each version of your audiobook will be a separate album, and you’ll be able to sync them easily.

Third-party software

One other option is to use Splasm Software’s Audiobook Builder, priced at £3.35. This application allows you to join files together, but you can also change the bitrate when doing so.

After you’ve created what the software calls a project, click Build Options, located below the cover image in the Finish tab, or go to Audiobook > Build Options, click the Quality pop-up menu, and select Custom.

Next, set the Data Rate to 96Kbps, Channels to Mono and Sample Rate to 44.1kHz. Click OK and, in the Format pop-up menu, choose M4A (AAC Music). Audiobook Builder will join and convert the files. Add them to your iTunes library and match away.

With this technique, you can put audiobooks in the cloud for listening to whenever you want. It’s limited to the titles you have on CD or in DRM-free files, but if you’re a big fan of audiobooks, you probably have a lot of these.