Many of our newer (and a few of our older) audiobooks are labeled “MP3-CD AUDIOBOOK – THIS WILL ONLY PLAY ON AN MP3-CD PLAYER”. This label often creates instant panic and confusion – “I want this audiobook, but I don’t think I have an MP3 player.”
Without getting into the deep technicalities of it, chances are, you probably do. As Blu-Ray is just a little different than a DVD (bandwidth, essentially), so MP3 (short for MPEG) discs are almost, but not quite, the same as a regular CD. It’s the same files, just squishedrealtight.
Anyone familiar with putting music on an iPod (or an MP3 player, which is any iPod-like music player that isn’t made by Apple) is familiar with MP3 files. When you listen to your iPod, you are generally listening to an MP3 file. An MP3 file is merely the same sound file found on an audio disk, squished tighter, so you can fit more into a small space. That’s why a regular audiobook may have 12 discs, but the MP3 audiobook only has one or two. Technically, the sound quality is a little poorer on the MP3 disc, but unless you have an extremely expensive, high-tech system, you will never notice the difference. Audiobooks aren’t listened to over subwoofers and boomboxes, cranked to the max.
Like the BluRay disc, not all players can handle this tight format. Your computer can. Any new CD player probably can. A new DVD player or Blu-Ray player can probably handle it. The biggest problem is with older CD players in older cars – if your car is more than 7-8 years old or so, its CD player may not be able to read the discs. Look carefully at the CD player – it will probably tell you right on the dashboard, as my 2007 Honda does. (note: WMA, or Windows Media Audio files are Microsoft’s attempt to create their own MP3 monopoly. Just know that if you used the Microsoft Windows Media Player, the built-in music system on your computer, to make discs, the player can handle them).
What can you do? If you have a computer, you can download the discs to the computer and listen to them there. You can load the discs onto an iPod or MP3 player (which is what they’re designed for). If you’re desperate, you can download them to the computer, download a program to change them back, and then burn them to many disks – just don’t expect the highest quality. The alternative is to buy a newer CD player that will handle them.
Give one a try. If it works, great! You’re all set. If it doesn’t, check the manual for your car or ask your mechanic if the player supports MP3’s. If not, then try a different player you may have.
PS – Don’t forget your DVD player also plays CDs! Just remember, you have to turn the TV on if you want to hear the sound.