Many long time audiobook fans have audiobooks on cassette still residing on their shelves or in closets. Some of these may be Hard-to-Find favorites such as Karen Robards One Summer (Hunting for Hard-to-Finds) that still aren’t available as digital downloads. (Editor’s Note: Huzzah! One Summer IS now available!) We’re now spoiled with listening to our books via iPods or MP3 players and we want that same convenience with these cassette copies so how do we convert them into a usable format?
While this won’t be a step by step tutorial on converting your cassette tape versions into MP3 files, I’ll point you towards informative YouTube videos for those wanting a free option (if you’re willing to forgo the hand-holding paid software provides). And I’ll introduce you to some excellent paid software that makes conversion from cassette to MP3 a breeze.
The first detail you need to be aware of before launching into this endeavor is that there is no way to speed up conversion time when going from cassette to MP3. However long your audiobook is, that’s how long the conversion time will take.
Basically, you are using your computer as a tape recorder and then saving each of those recordings as an MP3 file on your computer’s hard drive. I find setting a timer as I have a cassette playing/recording helps me stay on top of it. There are also timers provided within these conversion methods allowing you to go to bed or to work while leaving the recording in progress. Remember, getting one cassette converted per day is working towards your ultimate goal of preserving old favorites in case a cherished book is never rereleased in digital format. Cassettes are only going to last so long – what a crime it would be to see work by Anna Fields or others go the way of the dinosaur.
Several years ago when I first started converting my audiobook cassettes, I went the free route and was more than happy with my efforts but once I discovered the Spin It Again paid software, I never looked back. The software actually talks to you as it walks you through the steps and calls out at the end of a tape when enough silence is detected to signal it’s over. Yes, you can turn what becomes an annoying feature off! They provide a free trial – a song’s length I believe. You’ll notice that most reference music but they work equally well with audiobook cassettes so don’t be deterred.
Audacity is a free open source software for recording and editing sound. Once downloaded, it looks scary to the uninitiated but realizing you don’t need to know everything it’s capable of and that you’ll be following basic directions found in these YouTube links, will help you put the blinders on and move forward.
This first video gives you detailed instructions on how to start recording with Audacity. He is recording from a radio – pretend it’s a cassette player and follow along. How To Convert From Cassette with Audacity.
This second video is very short but adds detail about setting the timer in Audacity so the program doesn’t endlessly record if you’re away from your computer. I use an old boombox cassette player that switches to the second side of the tape on its own, allowing me to record anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes at a time without being involved in the process. How to use the Timer in Audacity.
This third video discusses recording your own audiobook (with your voice) or podcast but it shows additional useful information such as how to cut out silent spots from your recording and tagging your file with author name, title, chapter, or cassette number before exporting it as an Mp3 file. How to Tag your MP3 file in Audacity.
I’ve never claimed there wasn’t time involved in this process. :P But it becomes rote and in the end you have preserved something valuable for yourself that can easily be added to an iPod Playlist just as we did in the Tantor Download tutorial for convenient listening.