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Solution for Audiobooks - Alternative to Emby


slyfox
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For those of you who are looking for a self-hosted solution to audiobooks there is an answer. I recently discovered AudiobookShelf and it is great. Even has a dedicated iOS and Android apps.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A dedicated iOS and Android app.

Much better filtering including view Unplayed books.

Automatically organize books into Series based on folder naming or ID3 tags.

Edited by slyfox
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We already have those filters and already automatically organize based on id3 tags. Were you aware of that?

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Gilgamesh_48

As most everybody knows that has been around for a while I have tried to use Emby and Plex and even Jellyfin for listening to audiobooks and they all fall well short of what I need. The limitations of my preferred clients (Roku and Fire TV and Shield) are the main issue. I like to have my audio books available throughout my home and be able to control start stop from anywhere and retain the ability to remain paused for as long as a day or two and then, with just a simple resume command, resume playback where I left off.

The only solution I have found that works the way I want is to have MediaMonkey running on a computer that feeds audio throughout my home and, with just a little tweaking, responds to voice commands from Alexa. I do not try to do everything through Alexa rather I just use a voice remote to issue start and stop commands (In fact it is a toggle) to start and stop playback.
Anywhere in my home if I say "Alexa, book" the playback starts or stops.  I simply setup a playlist with my audiobooks and I can even add or delete from that playlist as I want.

I do not need or want all the overhead that most systems impose on audiobooks. For me the visual interface is meaningless as the fancy graphics and all the other fluff just get in the way. I do not sit in front of my TV to listen to audiobooks and I do not want to. When I am listening to a book I want to be able, no matter where in my home I am, to pause/resume playback. No client for any "system" like Emby etc. works as I need but MediaMonkey does.

It was a little trouble to get it setup and fully functional but, once configured correctly, I have found that MediaMonkey does mostly everything I need it to do. In total I have about 1400 audiobooks, maybe more, and the simplest way to listen to them the way I want is through a computer (it does not need to be powerful at all) running MediaMonkey and using playlists. All other systems I have tried had some limitations that made their use difficult at best.

I think that everybody that regularly listens to audiobooks needs to closely examine the various offerings available and make their decisions carefully and not get so focused on one solution that others are excluded. Kind of like with various solutions for TV there are there is no "System to rule them all" and I look at all the "new" audio playback systems to see if there is a possibility that they could be better. So far I have not found one that does not have show stopping limitations except for my MediaMonkey solution. But I am always looking.

The solution offered in this thread, AudiobookShelf, is simply too full of fluff for my needs. I detest the fancy graphics. Most interfaces offered for audiobooks are so cluttered with crap that the get in the way of listening and AudiobookShelf seems little different.

But, remember just because something works/does not work for me does not mean it would not be perfect for someone else. This falls into the category of "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

My background insists that I always consider the right tool for the job and, for me the right tool for audiobooks is MediaMonkey.

 

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On 9/19/2022 at 11:14 AM, slyfox said:

So how do I view Unplayed only Audio Books?

I see Books, Authors, and Genres. No series.

Screen Shot 2022-09-19 at 7.13.48 PM.png

@slyfox

Hi, yes it's currently missing from this screen, but we can add it. Thanks.

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On 9/19/2022 at 1:27 PM, Gilgamesh_48 said:

The solution offered in this thread, AudiobookShelf, is simply too full of fluff for my needs. I detest the fancy graphics.

I truly do not understand you, brother. Audiobooks, even print books, have cover art. You sound as if any and all books ever having art on the cover is a waste.

Do you not, in your house, display things you enjoy or that are aesthetically pleasing?  You do not, I assume, live in a nondescript space with bare walls and utilitarian furniture. Why should it be the same for your audiobook library or for any such apps? Do you not have a mobile device, like a smart phone, where objects on the screen are designed to be accessed with the press of a fingertip? A text-only list is not the best approach for touch-based controls. Being relegated to ONLY using a PC for media limits the ease-of-portability aspect that modern mobile devices allow.

 

In any event, I second the recommendation for Audiobookshelf. I was intimidated at first by having to use Docker to install it. But after seeing the advantages of Docker, I have even moved my Emby Server install to Docker as well.

Edited by Chyron
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On 9/5/2022 at 10:54 AM, Luke said:

Hi, why not use emby for audio books?

Emby falls short with regard to audiobooks in several areas. For one thing, Emby's UI decisions for audiobooks feel primarily geared toward podcasts. This means each track has its own separate description and cover art, which is a waste of screen real estate. It also doesn't support certain embedded tags, like Narrator(Composer). And third, Emby does not support embedded chapter marks for single-file books. This last one does not affect me personally because all my audiobooks are chapter-split, but it speaks to the rough, sort of unfinished feel of having an audiobook library in Emby.

Certainly, Emby is a serviceable solution for audiobooks---it offers various platforms for clients, compared to the mobile-only third-party clients that use Plex as a backend (because official Plex clients don't fully support audiobooks, since they have no album-level Resume feature)---but Emby doesn't feel fully featured, as it were, compared to Audiobookshelf.

Edited by Chyron
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1 hour ago, Chyron said:

Emby falls short with regard to audiobooks in several areas. For one thing, Emby's UI decisions for audiobooks feel primarily geared toward podcasts. This means each track has its own separate description and cover art, which is a waste of screen real estate. It also doesn't support certain embedded tags, like Narrator(Composer). And third, Emby does not support embedded chapter marks for single-file books. This last one does not affect me personally because all my audiobooks are chapter-split, but it speaks to the rough, sort of unfinished feel of having an audiobook library in Emby.

Certainly, Emby is a serviceable solution for audiobooks---it offers various platforms for clients, compared to the mobile-only third-party clients that use Plex as a backend (because official Plex clients don't fully support audiobooks, since they have no album-level Resume feature)---but Emby doesn't feel fully featured, as it were, compared to Audiobookshelf.

It certainly does support embedded tags such as composer. Why do you think that it doesn't?

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1 hour ago, Chyron said:

Emby falls short with regard to audiobooks in several areas. For one thing, Emby's UI decisions for audiobooks feel primarily geared toward podcasts. This means each track has its own separate description and cover art, which is a waste of screen real estate. It also doesn't support certain embedded tags, like Narrator(Composer). And third, Emby does not support embedded chapter marks for single-file books. This last one does not affect me personally because all my audiobooks are chapter-split, but it speaks to the rough, sort of unfinished feel of having an audiobook library in Emby.

Certainly, Emby is a serviceable solution for audiobooks---it offers various platforms for clients, compared to the mobile-only third-party clients that use Plex as a backend (because official Plex clients don't fully support audiobooks, since they have no album-level Resume feature)---but Emby doesn't feel fully featured, as it were, compared to Audiobookshelf.

Yes emby does fully support embedded chapters in single file audio books.

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2 hours ago, Luke said:

It certainly does support embedded tags such as composer. Why do you think that it doesn't?

Because all of my audiobooks have a Narrator listed in the Composer tag, but Emby is not detecting it when prompted to scan for missing metadata.

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2 hours ago, Luke said:

Yes emby does fully support embedded chapters in single file audio books.

Not the last time I tried it. If it does, that is very recent.

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1 minute ago, Chyron said:

Because all of my audiobooks have a Narrator listed in the Composer tag, but Emby is not detecting it when prompted to scan for missing metadata.

Actually we're just not showing the composers tab in the audio books library. Is it common for audio books to use Composers? I didn't see that when looking at many popular mainstream audio book apps.

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2 minutes ago, Luke said:

Actually we're just not showing the composers tab in the audio books library. Is it common for audio books to use Composers? I didn't see that when looking at many popular mainstream audio book apps.

The "Composer" tag is where the Narrator metadata is stored.

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3 hours ago, Luke said:

Yes emby does fully support embedded chapters in single file audio books.

I just tested this. As of v4.7.9.0 it does not. I imported an .m4b audiobook as a single file with embedded chapters, and the web app only lists the one entry in the chapter list.

So no, it doesn't.

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Just now, Chyron said:

I just tested this. As of v4.7.9.0 it does not. I imported an .m4b audiobook as a single file with embedded chapters, and the web app only lists the one entry in the chapter list.

So no, it doesn't.

What chapter list do you mean?

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Okay, wait. The Play Queue only shows the one entry. You have to click the word "Chapters" (in the Now Playing screen) below the Play Queue button, and the embedded chapters show up underneath the cover art. Again, with space used for a separate cover for each chapter... and also listed horizontally. If an audiobook has track-split files, each track shows up in the Play Queue. So they are in a place that is not obvious, and their location in the Now Playing screen differs whether they are embedded or not.

Which supports my point of the UI for audiobooks being rough around the edges.

 

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Edited by Chyron
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Happy2Play
21 minutes ago, Luke said:

What chapter list do you mean?

As discussed elsewhere Single book chapters only appear during playback, Play Queue, Chapters tab

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We can have those chapters display on the detail screen as well for the track.

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Additionally, the Play Queue for audiobooks easily allows each track (chapter) to be reordered and removed from the queue. There is no reason why this is necessary, and creates more of an opportunity to accidentally mess up the chapter order.

 

On 9/19/2022 at 9:59 AM, Luke said:

We already have those filters and already automatically organize based on id3 tags. Were you aware of that?

No, Emby does not support the SERIES or SERIES-PART id3 tags. Emby has Collections, and those collections automatically match to themoviedb. Themoviedb doesn't host any audiobook metadata.

There are just various aspects in which the audiobook experience in Emby is, as I said, rough around the edges. I still use Emby for video and occasionally music, but my daily audiobook driver is Audiobookshelf---having stopped using Plex altogether since installing ABS as I have no use for it anymore.

Edited by Chyron
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I will say that I've built an Audiobook streaming app that supports Emby as a backend and also built an Audiobook metadata plugin. The main features from my perspective where Emby falls short:

  • Series grouping (separate from collections)
    • They need to be ordered, possibly have descriptions, show up on the relevant author.
  • Getting chapters is track specific rather than book specific
    • This means making at least an extra API call to get the chapters
    • It would be awesome if when Emby scans an Audiobook in it generates chapter markers at the book level, whether those come from individual tracks or from embedded chapters in a single track.
  • Storing position in audiobooks is also track specific
    • Technically the Emby API supports storing position at the "Album" level but the Emby UI doesn't handle it that way so doing so breaks integration with other Emby apps
    • Storing position on the Book makes resuming a lot easier and more stable
  • Audiobook metadata is very hard to deal with
    • No matter what you do (at least I couldn't fix it) if any slight matches come back from Music sources other agents don't pull metadata so I have to get more specific in identifying searches.
    • MusicBrainz has little to no metadata for books, what little they have is usually based on CD versions of audiobooks, something that is pretty much unused
  • Narrators
    • Narrator need to be a first party tag
    • Audiobooks can have multiple narrators, it needs to work like authors but have the ability to be distinct
  • Audiobooks aren't just a music library with a couple of specific oddities
    • There have been a lot of improvements here over the years especially recently, but Audiobooks never feel like a first class citizen in the way Movies, TV Shows and Music do. I think this is in large part due to them just being a slightly modified music library type.
    • Audiobooks have to be taken as a whole if there are multiple tracks, those are just parts of the single book. Which goes back to my suggestions on chapters and stored position.

I completely understand the development process is iterative and I believe Emby will get there. These are the things that bugged me as I was writing a purpose built app for audiobook comsumption and I eventually found that Audiobookshelf supported the use case slightly better, though I still run Emby for everything else. 

 

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Quote
  • They need to be ordered, possibly have descriptions, show up on the relevant author.

This is supported already for individual books.

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Quote
  • Storing position in audiobooks is also track specific
    • Technically the Emby API supports storing position at the "Album" level but the Emby UI doesn't handle it that way so doing so breaks integration with other Emby apps
    • Storing position on the Book makes resuming a lot easier and more stable

Just like TV series, it makes more sense to store this information with the media and not the virtualized grouping. Storing with the album would be much more complicated because the media tied to that album could change at any time and this would have to be handled.

It is much easier to just find the last played file within the album and either continue it or start with the next one. That is what we do with TV series and it works well, and the concepts have been applied to audio books.

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