How to Listen to Audiobooks on your Apple Watch

Most people know me for my fiction, I’m not one to typically put up a blog post on some random, far reaching topic. I don’t do product reviews or share the innermost workings of my personal life via social media. In fact, after combing through the other posts on the blog portion of my site, I was unable to find a single other on a topic unrelated to writing. That was nearly enough for me to hit the delete key and put a quick end to this block of text but as my finger hovered over that key, I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.

I searched far and wide and found very little information on this particular topic and in a world where literally all information is right at our fingertips, that simply won’t do. Somebody had to dip their toe in the water first, that might as well be me.

A little backstory first. For those of you non-readers, the ones who came here just for the techno-info, I’m sorry about this, but the writer in me can’t simply post instructions. Like any other, this is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and with that, comes a little back story, character development, and scene setting. I can’t avoid it. You should see my grocery list; it looks like an entry from NaNoWriMo.

I devour books. At any given moment, I’m in the middle of two hardcovers, an ebook on my Kindle, and I have at least one book queued up in the Audible app on my iPhone. Depending on where I am, I pick up whatever is closest. For obvious reasons, Audible is my go-to when in the car and when I’m out exercising.

img_7735 This is Dakota the Fluffer Wolf.

He’s a five year old Siberian Husky and an avid Pittsburgh Steeler fan. He enjoys long walks on the beach, sidewalk, or through the middle of the woods at a brisk pace with his humans chasing close behind. Somehow during his four years on this planet, he learned to tell time and each day at exactly 4 P.M. he locates either me or his mother and insists on taking one of us for a walk. He doesn’t care who, as long as there is adult participation. Also, if you’ve ever seen us on the street, it is very clear that he is walking us. I hold no delusions about this and I’m happy to go. When your daily commute to work is ten feet from your bedroom and you spend the day behind a desk, exercise is a must. Unless, of course, you’re Jabba the Hutt, then it’s optional.

As I mentioned, on these walks I grab my iPhone and my bluetooth headset and hold onto that leash with all my strength as he pulls me along for a good three or four miles. Keeping up with a dog bred to pull a sled eight hours a day is no easy feat, he’s got some serious energy. When I say we walk, it’s more like a crazy run, jog, walk, sprint. Holding onto that leash while also maintaining possession of my iPhone is another difficult task. I dropped my share in the early years and was a frequent visitor to Apple’s Genius Bar for repairs. Over the past year, I resorted to an armband and nearly considered one of those fanny packs. These were dark days.

When Apple announced their second generation watch would come with 8GB of storage, I got a little excited. That’s more than enough room for an audiobook or two, right? I placed an order and waited for my shiny new toy to arrive. When it did, I configured my watch face, got it just the way I like it. Programmed in my workout data, and browsed through all the apps (which conveniently loaded from my iPhone the moment I paired the two). At first I thought I missed the Audible app, the icons on the watch are small, after all, easily missed. After a thorough run-through I realized it wasn’t there. I visited the Audible site in search of a watch download and sadly learned they didn’t have an app for the Apple Watch.

What?!?

Being the glass half full kind of guy that I am, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. They didn’t create an app for the first generation watch because it wouldn’t have worked. They’re probably hard at work on an app for the Apple Watch 2, maybe they’ll even get it out in time for the holidays.

What do I do in the meantime?

I’d really like to go on those walks mentioned above with nothing but my headphones, Apple Watch, and the dog, can’t forget the dog. How though? I searched the interwebs far and wide and found numerous Franken-fixes. This is the easiest solution I could find and it works, but it takes a little doing:

  • Go to your local library and check out an audiobook on CD (silver discs, can be placed in a device to produce sound with fairly good accuracy)
  • Load the CD into iTunes on your Mac or PC
  • Create a playlist called APPLE WATCH
  • Load the audiobook files into your new playlist
  • Sync this playlist with your iPhone via iCloud or a cable
  • Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone > Music > Synced Music > Select your APPLE WATCH playlist (it should say “Sync Pending”)
  • Attach your Apple Watch to its charger with your iPhone within bluetooth range
  • Wait for it to sync (took me about 10 minutes for one book)
  • Be sure shuffle is turned off on your Apple Watch (because that would just suck)
  • Play your audiobook!

Note: If you use iCloud to sync, make sure all the tracks upload to the cloud successfully and download to your phone successfully before you sync your Apple Watch. If a track is grayed out on iTunes, right-click and upload it again. If a track is grayed out on your iPhone, make sure it upload properly from iTunes. Nothing worse than a missing track on an audiobook (unless, of course, you skipped the step above about turning off shuffle, because that would be worse).

Additional Note: Keep an eye on your track names within the playlist. Because iTunes will sort these in alpha order, they may not appear in the correct order. I’ve found that when you have more than ten disks, iTunes likes to order them as: Disk 1, Disk 10, Disk 11, Disk 2… so disks 10 and higher need to be moved manually to the correct place in the playlist.

That’s it. Until the kind folks at Audible decide to grace us with an app, this is the best solution out there. I know it’s not pretty, but it works. If you know of a better way, by all means, post it in the comments below.

It’s three minutes after four and my dog is not happy. There’s no valid excuse for tardiness.

On a side note, if you’re looking for a little something to listen to, ask your librarian about this one:

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Or this one, due out in June 2017:

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Good luck!

J.D. Barker is the internationally best-selling author of FORSAKEN, a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel and has earned him comparisons to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul. His latest novel, THE FOURTH MONKEY, released in June 2017. His third novel, THE FIFTH TO DIE, releases June 2018. He has been asked by the Stoker family to coauthor the forthcoming prequel to DRACULA due out in fall 2018. His work has been translated into numerous languages and has been optioned for both film and television. Barker currently resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, Dayna, and their two dogs, both of whom sit outside his office door daily, eagerly awaiting his next novel.

Posted in Random Stuff, Writer Tech Tips
3 comments on “How to Listen to Audiobooks on your Apple Watch
  1. biologicon says:

    Seems like on some level, we are connected. Addicted to books. Dog, walks. Tech must work. My son in law loves the Steelers. Audible addict for 10+ years. Bram Stokers Dracula one of the best books of all time. Koontz almost a modern Dickens, except, well, different subject matter. Now into Nordic Noir. GOT, etc. You could theoretically record your books on MP3 using Soundflower overnight …

  2. markalberhasky says:

    I’ve had the same hopes for Audiobook availability on the watch but thus far been frustrated. I appreciate your post here but the reliance on CDs from the library as a content source is a nonstarter for me. I want to be able to work using the Audible file itself. Today (2/24/17) I found the solution. It set me back $30 but considering how well it worked, I’m good with the investment. It involves software that converts the Audible .aax file into mP3 format. I tried the software from OndeSoft, but it entails letting iTunes “play” the book file, albeit at an accelerated speed, during the conversion. Took over a hour for 10 hours and change of audio, a bit slow for my taste. Next I tried TunesKit Audible Converter for Mac and hit pay dirt. No iTunes involved in the file conversion and very fast. 10+ hours processed in less than two minutes. The icing on the cake is a feature you can enable in Preferences for the app that allows the output to be separated and saved as individual chapters automatically! That’s huge, because occasionally you need to navigate among chapters in an audiobook. Having the entire audiobook as a single file not only bogs down the sync to the watch but means you cannot advance the story or retreat to a previous chapter using controls on the watch. The software worked well and divided the book into it’s respective 46 chapters. Now, getting it onto the watch was initially a headache for me. I’d done everything right about getting the files onto my iPhone as a designated playlist, using a sync between iMac and iPhone. My stumbling block was iPhone to Watch. It took a chat with Applecare to have the agent suggest powering my Watch off and then back on. After numerous unsuccessful sync attempts, including unpairing the watch and phone followed by repeat pairing, the power down and power on did the trick. I was then able to easily, but not quickly, sync the 46 chapters to the Watch and pair my AirPods to the Watch. Getting everything to play well together is not as transparent a process as you’d expect because it REQUIRES two steps of force touches on the Watch screen to specify playing the content from the Watch and then to use the AirPods as the playback output. If you don’t know this requirement you’d never get the file playing even if you sync’d it correctly onto the Watch. The FORCE TOUCH steps are rarely spelled out in articles about putting mP3s on the Watch and listening via bluetooth headsets.

    I can tell you that getting the mP3 chapters directly from Audible downloads and then using Bluetooth listening wirelessly (while easily jumping between chapters when needed) is worth every penny for the TunesKit product.
    http://www.tuneskit.com/audible-converter-for-mac.html

    • NinaKelly says:

      I could not agree more. But the only difference between us is what I used is called TuneFab Apple Music Converter. This is first time I use such program to convert Audible to MP3. I am an old user of Audible since I like to listen to audiobooks while running or in a car. Actually, I can’t transfer the Audible audiobooks to my car audio system because the AA/AAX format is not supported by my device. It’s really frustrated.

      Someday, I found a giveaway from TuneFab. It says the Apple Music Converter can help converting Audible audiobooks to universal MP3, M4A, etc. So I downloaded it and tried to convert my audiobook file. It succeed. And the converted audio quality is perfect. I appreciate its help and I will use it forever. If necessary, you can check it from: http://www.tunefab.com/m4v-converter-mac/

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