How to Play Audiobooks from Your Apple Watch

By Marc Saltzman

Want to listen to an audiobook from your Apple Watch? Call audiobooks today’s answer to books on tape — if you’re old enough to remember those. As you might expect, audiobooks are usually spoken versions of books — by a narrator — as if you were being read a bedtime story. This differs from a radio play, which is acted out by a cast and often with sound effects and music.

You can download millions of audiobooks from the Internet, including from within iTunes, but unlike podcasts and radio plays, they’re usually not free. Still, they’re a great way to have a book read to you — if you’re visually impaired, if you want to make a long commute in the car (or on the bus or train) a more enjoyable one), or if you have trouble reading and would simply rather hear someone read to you.

Audiobooks are available for new books (including New York Times bestsellers) as well as slightly older and even classic titles. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction; chances are, you can find an audiobook version of a paperback or hardcover book and many electronic books (ebooks) too.

Be aware, however, that copying a downloaded audiobook to a music folder in iTunes — to make it easier to control and play on an Apple Watch — might be a bit more difficult if the audiobook has digital rights management (DRM) encryption on the file, which might limit or prevent it from being copied to another device. DRM protects the copyright owner to help reduce piracy, which is the unauthorized distribution and/or duplication of copyrighted material.

Many thousands of human-read or computer-generated audiobooks based on classic works are freely available in the public domain and you can copy them over to Apple Watch. You won’t find many of these kinds of audiobooks in iTunes, so if you want to copy these freely (and legitimately) available audiobooks to Apple Watch, find them from websites such as Loyal Books, LibriVox, Project Gutenberg, and AudioBooksForFree.com.

Once you’ve downloaded the audio files — usually MP3s — to your hard drive, follow these steps to sync them to your Apple Watch:

  1. Launch iTunes and click the Music tab.

    In the top-left corner you should see a little icon with an arrow.

  2. Click this icon to bring up some options, including New.

  3. Click New with your mouse, followed by New Playlist.

    Give a name to your audiobooks playlist, such as “Audiobooks.”

  4. Wherever you downloaded the DRM-free audiobooks onto your computer — maybe your desktop or a Downloads directory — drag and drop them into this newly created playlist.

    Now you’re ready to sync your new playlist over to Apple Watch so you can hear your audiobook(s) without a nearby iPhone.