The truth about Apple and audiobooks


This story does not (yet) end happily.

I knew I’d buy an Apple watch…but my rationalization was that it would consolidate my other wearables for audiobooks and fitness.

For books, I’d buy the watch so I could finally give up my ancient and beloved Apple Nano, which I had already replaced several times on Ebay.

For fitness, I’d happily bequeath my unloved Fitbit and dreary Polar Heart Monitor to my kids, and use Runkeeper or another app.

But I absolutely had to be able to listen and run without being tethered to my iPhone.

Audiobook lovers beware!  If you’re going to buy an Apple watch for listening, fuggedaboudit.

You can’t use your watch and listen to an audiobook purchased from Audible OR shockingly, from Apple.  Want to know more?

Audible, owned by Amazon, has not released a watch app. In fact, there is absolutely no mention of the watch on Audible’s tech support FAQ.  In response to my email, Elisa of Audible Customer Service politely wrote back to me:

Based on your e-mail, I understand you would like to know how to add a book to your iWatch. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and I am happy to assist.

Ann, I appreciate your interest in enjoying audible on your iWatch, which is a great idea. At this time, the option to download audiobooks to your iWatch is not available. Currently, we don’t have an update for a release for the application on this device but I will certainly forward your request to our development team so it can be reviewed and taken into consideration. We always appreciate customer input, since it lets us know how we can improve.

I understand this can be an inconvenience to you our valued customer and as such I extend my deepest apologies.

In the meantime, if there is anything else I can assist you with please don’t hesitate to let us know.

OK, I get it:  Amazon ain’t going to help Apple.

How about Apple’s own iBooks?  Surely those would work?

After years of buying from Audible, I downloaded my very first audiobook from Apple, choosing Joshua Cohen’s The Book of Numbers. Everything costs more on the iTunes store, since I can’t use my Audible discounts but I’m a woman on a mission. I tried to synch, and although I got a promising “sync complete” message on the iPhone app, I could not find anything on the watch.  Where was my audiobook?

I asked in my local Apple retail store, and they were friendly but clueless.  Let us know what you find out, they chirped!  Then I scheduled an appointment with Apple’s “get to know us” phone support for new watch owners. Josh stayed with me for 30 useless minutes.  Halting and humorless, clearly reading from a script, he informed me that he could not answer my one question:  how do I sync an Apple-purchased audiobook to my watch?

At his suggestion, I booked an appointment with AppleCare Telephone Support. I told them in advance what my issue was.  Was I the first watch owner person who ever asked this question? Believe me, I felt a huge responsibility to get it right for you, my fellow audiobook lover.

But Matthew, the tech support person, did not know the answer to my question. Wasn’t an audiobook just like a music playlist, he questioned?  Trying to be helpful, he kept me on hold while he checked….and checked…and checked.  No, ruled the Apple gods, you cannot sync an Apple iTunes store audiobook on your watch. The best I could hope for was a future software release.

So now my #1 one reason for buying the watch is gone.

Should I keep it anyway?  Truly, it is handsome.  I have always loved watches, and this one is sleek and beautiful.  And I could tell you about the watch’s great ability to check my heart rate.  I like the timer.  I like the “haptic” buzz that warns me when my next appointment is coming up.  And I really like the text messaging.   I have been a great enthusiast of voice dictation and now my facility pays off.  I am perfectly happy talking to my wrist.

But the books!  I want the books!

PS if you have figured out another solution, please let me know.

Ann Kirschner is Dean of Macaulay Honors College, board director, and writer. 



  1. Yes you can listen to audible audiobooks on your apple watch. I have done it. You do have to work at it. The process is straight forward but tedious. First you have to remove the drm from the audiobook. There are several tools for doing this. Then you will be allowed to put the audiobook which looks like a song to itunes in a playlist. The playlist can then be synchronized with the apple watch. It is tedious but fairly fast on a good performance computer.

  2. I have been successful with MP3s loaded from CDs borrowed from the public library. I copy the CDs for the book into iTunes as music, create a playlist in proper listening order (you don’t want shuffle here), and then sync the playlist to your Apple watch. No extra step for DRM removal required. I have also contacted Audible about creating an app. If they hear from enough members, perhaps they will comply. Hope this helps

  3. I am today retuning the Watch, I searched everythwere about the stuff Apple dosnt want you to know about with the Watch, many apps that are third party are simply remote controls. I like podcasts also and the only app available is just a remote control for the phones acmopnying app to play podcasts. Uggg I’m not going through the trouble to remove and re title audiobooks. Forget it! I’ll just use my old method. Besides this Watch only monitors activity, heart and only one music playlist. Its expensive junk. Pretty but so unuseful it makes me want to throw it at the wall. Why aren’t more people talking about these things, #whattheAppleWatchdosntdo, and why Apple Watch 2 really sucks. it dosnt do a whole lot and is so useless..l want to make a reboxing video. And I researched weeks about the Watch.

  4. Go to the audible help section on you PC and it steps you through how to make iTunes your preferred player of the audible files. You then add a new playlist in iTunes and put your books in there.
    I got all this info from the Help Centre on the audible website., so try there.
    Remember to sync everthing