Do you want to free your iTunes audiobooks from the M4B digital prison? In this guide we explain what are the M4B files and show how to make them playable on any device other than iPhone, converting them to MP3 format readable on all devices. Converting free audiobooks is a procedure that can be performed by several methods, find out how to do this in this guide.
If you have previously purchased audiobooks from iTunes or downloaded them from the internet, but now want to move them to another device, such as an Android phone, it is very likely that you will need to convert them from the M4B format to MP3. We show you how to get this result so you can listen to your books wherever you are and on whatever hardware you’re using.
Convert free audiobooks from M4B to MP3
The digital audiobook as we know it today is a recent invention that was made possible only with audio recording devices. However, a tradition of listening to various types of stories existed long before this technological invention. We can all remember the story of our childhood stories, even before the written form. You learn to listen before you learn how to read. As children we listened to stories told or read by our parents and now we tell or read stories to our children.
Audiobooks are especially valuable for people with visual impairments, but people who normally read paper books or e-books prefer audiobooks in different situations. For example, some listen to audiobooks when driving a car or traveling on a bus.
Audiobooks that we purchase online can have different formats. Speaking of iTunes, mostly we will get audiobooks in M4B format. M4B is just a different extension name of the MP4 format (also known as MPEG-4 Part 14). M4B are MP4 audio files compressed with the AAC codec, but they also have some additional features like bookmarks and chapters. Bookmarks mean that you can save the listening position in the file and then resume playing the file from that location instead of searching for it again. The chapters let you organize the internal contents of an M4B file, you can easily select a chapter and start playing the file from that chapter. However, the M4B format can only be read on some devices like iPhone. If you want to read it on other media, you must convert it to other formats.
M4B format or MP3 format?
A file with the M4B extension is an archive for MPEG-4 audiobooks. It is often used by iTunes to store audio books.
Some media players use the M4B format to store digital bookmarks along with audio, allowing you to pause playback and then resume playback from the point where you stopped it. This is one reason why they are preferred over MP3 files, which can not save the location within the file.
The M4A audio format is almost identical to M4B, except that those file types are used for music instead of audiobooks. The iPhone also uses the MPEG-4 audio format for ring tones, but these files are instead saved with the M4R extension.
The MP3 format does not offer the features available in M4B (chapters and bookmarks), but has a significant advantage: it is supported by virtually every reader and device. Therefore, you can convert your M4b audiobooks to MP3 to make them universally playable. Such MP3 audio books can be played by any portable player, smartphone, computer, etc. For this reason you may have the need to turn an audiobook into MP3. Find out how to do it with different methods.
Convert M4B to MP3 with iTunes
Since there is a good chance that iTunes is already installed on your Mac or PC, it is logical to start right away with this method to convert M4B files to MP3. iTunes has an integrated converter that is easy to use and, in most cases, does its job well.
To use the converter, open iTunes and on the menu bar, click Edit> Preferences from the drop-down menu.
Then look for the Import Settings button at the bottom of the screen.
Click on this item and in the new panel select the drop-down menu using Import Format. It will open a list with the various formats that iTunes can use for conversion.
Choose MP3 encoder and then set the quality to the desired level. The high quality (160 kbps) is perfectly acceptable and should keep file sizes at manageable levels. When finished, click OK.
With this setting, now start converting the audiobook. On the main iTunes page, click the Music button in the upper left corner. This opens another pull-down menu from which you can select Audiobooks.
Now choose the Library option, which you’ll find at the top of the page, which takes you to the current collection of titles.
Select the book you want to convert, then highlight the track itself. If there are more tracks, as can happen with longer books, you can select them one at a time or hold down Shift and select them all together.
Now go to the menu bar at the top of the page and select File> Convert> Create MP3 Version. iTunes now proceeds to create MP3 tracks from the video book.
If you see an error message that says it can not be converted because “the protected file can not be converted to other formats”, it means that the audiobook has DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection that blocks the process. To overcome this will require the use of alternative methods, which we will discuss below.
Convert M4B to MP3 with an online converter
There are several web-based converters that can be used to create MP3 versions of your M4B files. The first one we offer is media.io which is free and allows you to convert two tracks at a time.
To use the service go to media.io and you will see a box in the lower left part of the screen with the option to Add your files. Click here and select the track you want to upload.
Next, go to the bottom setting titled Convert to, choose MP3 from the drop-down menu, and then click the Convert button. The file will now be uploaded, converted to MP3 and finally made available again for download.
Another free online converter to convert M4B audiobooks to MP3 that we can report is CloudConvert that like others, can convert many formats and not just audio. After entering the CloudConvert page you must login for free, which you can also use on social networks such as Facebook Twitter or Google.
You can use the free CloudConvert plan (including APIs) absolutely free. However, the free account has the following limitations:
- Maximum file size up to 1 GB
- Maximum of 5 simultaneous conversions
- Low priority
Another service to convert free audiobooks from M4B to MP3 is Zamzar and like all online services you have to use your browser, which means you have to upload the file to their website to convert it. Open the Zamzar page and you can convert M4B to MP3 for free online, as well as in similar formats like AAC, M4A and OGG.
Zamzar is a good free converter that supports many audio file formats but with file limits up to 50MB. It’s really easy to use and allows you to convert files online without having to download any software. It’s not the first service I recommend you try, but it works for what it says.
We found Zamzar slower than most other online file converters, but if you’re disappointed with other file converters, try Zamzar.