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How to Split up Multi-Hour Long Audiobooks into Shorter Chunks

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I got hooked on audiobooks recently. It’s great to work on the computer and listen to a fascinating book all at the same time. But it’s even better to listen to an audiobook while driving my car.

The Problem with Long Audiobook Files

And herein lies a problem. Most of my audiobooks are large MP3 files. Each file is usually more than 7 hours long. I put several audiobooks, music albums, childrens’ songs collections, etc. on a USB thumbdrive and play them as needed.

The problem is that my car’s audio player cannot create and save bookmarks. The only way to make the audio player remember where I left off listening to an audiobook is to turn off the car while listening to that audiobook. It then picks up where it left off once I start up the car again.

However, when I want to listen to something else like a music album and then pick up the audiobook where I left off — that’s a no go. And let me tell you, fast forwarding 4 hours into a 7.5 hour long audiobook while driving is neither the fastest, nor the safest thing in the world.

The solution is to split up the audiobook into smaller chunks and then I can just select the following audio chunk the next time.

Audacity

The first program I tried to use for splitting up an audiobook was Audacity. It comes both in an installer version and a portable version.

Audacity

Audacity

To open your input audiobook, go to File > Open.

The loading (importing) of the audiobook MP3 file takes a while. In my case, it took about 3.5 minutes to load a 7.5 hour audiobook.

The only way to split up an audio file in Audacity is to manually select the start and end positions for the output audio file.

Audiobook selection 0 to 5 minutes

Audacity — Audiobook selection 0 to 5 minutes

Audiobook selection 5 to 10 minutes

Audacity — Audiobook selection 5 to 10 minutes

Then go to File > Export Selected Audio…. Here, you will have to manually enter the logically correct file name for each split up chunk.

Export Selected Audio

Audacity — Export Selected Audio

Also, don’t forget about the output MP3’s settings. To set them, click on the Options button seen on the image above.

Specify MP3 Options

Audacity — Specify MP3 Options

You don’t need to worry about the settings later on, though. Audacity will remember your initial selections and save all audio chunks exactly the way you wanted them to be.

Saving one chunk takes about 12 seconds. So, when splitting up a 7.5 hour long audiobook, the whole process would take about 20 minutes.

If you have a lot of audiobooks, this will be way too much time to spend on just one of them.

WavePad

WavePad by NCH Software is an often cited tool for splitting up audio files.

WavePad

WavePad

It is completely free for non-commercial usage.

WavePad Sound Editor Free Version

WavePad Sound Editor Free Version

The loading time of the input file is, again, not very fast. It takes about the same 3.5 minutes to load a 7.5 hour audiobook as with Audacity — so, just be patient.

To open the input audio file, go to File > Open File… in the menu. Or click on the Open icon in the main toolbar. Or simply use the Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut.

WavePad can split up an audio file using several methods:

WavePad — Split

WavePad — Split

Splitting up a 7.5 hour audio file into 5 minute intervals means that I am creating 90 small audio files.

WavePad — Split File into Intervals

WavePad — Split File into Intervals

While WavePad splits up the original audio file very fast, it is limited to opening up just 30 files in one go. This means that the last (thirtieth) file will be much longer than 5 minutes.

However, there are two further problems:

  1. You have to manually save each of those 30 open files. Which is extremely tedious.
  2. Saving the first 29 files will take only seconds each — well, actually about a minute each. But saving the large 30th file will take very long because it will still contain more than 5 hours worth of audio recording.

So, the whole process will become irritating after a few rounds of this non-sense. And if you have 500 audiobooks and they are 7+ hours long each, this whole process will take you days to complete. That’s just insane!

As far as I am concerned, the whole reason for using computers and software is to automate and simplify things…

In practical terms, the only way to split up audiobooks with WavePad is to split them up into a maximum of 30 equal pieces.

WavePad — Split File into Equal Duration

WavePad — Split File into Equal Duration

In my case that means that each chunk will be about 15 minutes long. Still not bad.

To save the files, go to File > Save All Files. However, you will still be prompted to click Save for each and every file…

WavePad — Save Audio File As

WavePad — Save Audio File As

And then again prompted for selecting the audio settings of each and every file being saved…

WavePad — MP3 Encoder Options

WavePad — MP3 Encoder Options

After you are done saving all the files, go to File > Close All to close all 30 open files. To make WavePad close all the files without prompting you to confirm each closing, tick the box next to Repeat this action for all open files.

WavePad — Repeat this aciton

WavePad — Repeat this action for all open files

The splitting works great and is helpful to a certain degree.

However, to make this tool truly user-friendly, my advice to NCH Software is this:

  1. Get rid of the hard-coded limitation of 30 open files and let the user set how many files can be open at one time.
  2. Let the user save all open files with the same settings at once. Saving each open file manually is idiotic.
  3. Let the user select to save and close a split up chunk file automatically, as soon as it is created.

Cool MP3 Splitter

Cool MP3 Splitter is way simpler and a much faster software tool then the previous two programs.

On the homepage of their website, it says that that the software is free to download. But when you actually launch the installed program it says that it’s only a trial version.

Cool MP3 Splitter Reminder

Cool MP3 Splitter Reminder

Well, the way I see it is that the trial version contains everything I will ever need to split audio files.

It processes the input audio file, splits it up into 5 minute chunks, and autosaves them all in just 15 seconds — that’s all there is to it.

To open the input audio file, click on the Open button.

Cool MP3 Splitter — Open

Cool MP3 Splitter — Open

Then click on the Settings button…

Cool MP3 Splitter — Settings

Cool MP3 Splitter — Settings

…and on the Set MP3 Recompress Parameters button.

Cool MP3 Splitter — Setting...

Cool MP3 Splitter — Setting…

Cool MP3 Splitter — Set MP3 Compression Parameters

Cool MP3 Splitter — Set MP3 Recompress Parameters

Now click Next and select the length of the chunks in seconds you are about to create.

Cool MP3 Splitter — Next

Cool MP3 Splitter — Next

To split the audiobook into 5 minute chunks, click on the Next button.

As I said the whole process will take about 15 seconds and you don’t have to worry about manually saving or closing the output files at all.

The Verdict

While I like Audacity a lot, it is not well-suited for splitting up audio files. It can be done manually, but it is way too time-consuming and not worth the effort at all.

WavePad seems like a good solution at first, but as you dig into splitting audio files, you find out that it is just slightly more practical than Audacity.

So, I will definitely be using Cool MP3 Splitter for splitting up audiobooks or any kind of a larger audio file into shorter pieces. It’s free, fast, and super easy to use — just the way I like my software.

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Comments 2

  1. After searching this afternoon I’ve found and followed your articles on converting Audible files to mp3 and then splitting them into manageable size files. Thank you very much! Good clear explanations enabling me to make choices and easily achieve my audio files. I only wish I’d found your site before I spent money on a not-so-good program.

    1. Peter Post
      Author

      You are welcome, Sue.

      Could you tell me which not-so-good program did you buy? Might help others to avoid the same mistake…

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