iBooks vs. Audiobook Chapters

Update 9/21:  Chapters appear to work very well in iBooks on iOS 9.  iBooks might show you the cover artwork instead of the current chapter artwork when you resume playback, and it’ll still display “(null)” when the author/artist tag is blank, but it seems Apple’s resolved all other issues that we’ve come across.  If you encounter anything strange, would you let us know at support@splasm.com?  Thank you!

Update 7/22:  Apple’s acknowledged the issue exists but can’t be specific about when a fix will be available.  It may be coming in iOS 9, and the public betas seem fine, but things are subject to change so we can’t bank on it.  We’ll let you know when we have more details.

The relationship between iOS and audiobook chapters, a love-hate tangle since iOS turned 5, has taken a bit of a turn with iOS 8.4. Audiobooks have moved from the Music app to iBooks, cause for a religious froth-fest, in some circles, and the user interface has gained a welcome tweak or two…but a nasty surprise awaits those with audiobooks with multiple chapters in a single file and artwork assigned to one or more of those chapters: the progress bar doesn’t update properly when playback reaches the second or later chapters, and some users report their bookmarks aren’t restored correctly when they return to an audiobook in progress.

This turn, unfortunately, means audiobooks created with our Audiobook Builder may be affected.

Researching the issue, we’ve found it’s definitely only at play when more than one chapter is defined and chapter artwork is both present in a video track and referred to as such by the audio track, in the same way chapter titles work (a text track referred to as a chapter list by the audio track).  Disable the chapter artwork track or simply remove the reference between the audio track and the artwork track and things settle down nicely. Since the artwork is displayed properly, our take, then, is something isn’t quite peachy-keen in the way iBooks hooks up the user interface when artwork is present.  And, at present, there isn’t a way to make iBooks play nice with your pre-existing audiobooks.  You can listen still listen to them, still use the nifty, new swipe gestures, and even scrub the playhead while listening – it’s just that the playhead won’t move and the time indicator will remain at 0:00 under the chapter artified circumstances we’ve researched.  Bookmarks may be problematic, though isn’t that just par for the course?

For now, when you’re creating a new audiobook with multiple chapters, don’t set up cover art or chapter art before building in Audiobook Builder and everything should be fine in iBooks.  You can even assign cover art in iTunes without any ill effects (for compatibility with as many iDevices as possible, Audiobook Builder copies cover art to each chapter, bringing on the iBooks issues, while iTunes doesn’t).

And now our hands are outstretched, our bug reports uplifted to Apple for a little clarification of intent.  The best-case scenario is a fix in iOS 8.4.1 or iOS 9, whichever comes first.  The forthcoming public beta of iOS 9 may even provide the answers we seek…  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

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