The Curious Case of Audiobooks on iOS and macOS

I don’t use Audible (yet), but the situation regarding Audiobooks on macOS Mojave and iOS 12 feels a bit like a UX conundrum at the very least.

For starters, the Audiobooks feature resides in iTunes on macOS, but it’s in Books on iOS. I understand arguments for both, but it feels like Apple’s design or product team should have picked one app that the Audiobooks feature would live on from here on out, and then made the change for both platforms – even if that meant waiting for a future version of iOS and macOS. The current situation is just too confusing, even if it’s meant to be an interim solution. I am not yet running the macOS Catalina beta, so I’m not sure what the next version of macOS will bring for Audiobooks. Hopefully it will be an improvement.

Strangely, there appears to be almost no interface in iTunes Mac at all once you’ve acquired an audiobook. It’s just a list. Launching the audiobook in iTunes does not have any chapters listed, either. The audiobook is basically one long audio file from the looks of things (though it may have chapters or tracks under the hood).

Opening the audiobook in Books on iOS does present a list of tracks, which makes a little bit more sense to display it that way. However, it is odd that they don’t call the items in the list chapters, but that could just be an audiobook convention that I’m not familiar with. It just seemed that books have chapters… so why not audiobooks?

Additionally, navigating to and from the audiobook was a bit disorienting in Books on iOS. It was difficult for me to navigate around to see where the digital version of the printed book was. Eventually, I found it – and it turned out I needed to play with some sorting as well, and now that I’ve used it a few times on iOS it feels a little less clunky. But it definitely wasn’t an immediately intuitive experience, so clearly they have more work to do on the user experience side. Perhaps iOS 13 will bring improvements.

The current state of audiobooks on macOS and iOS feels like a mixed bag of user experiences, so it will be very interesting to see what Apple does in the future for Audiobooks support in macOS Catalina and iOS 13.