Guide to Recording Audiobooks


Basic requirement: head/earphones and microphone, or combination. We highly recommend using a microphone instead of a headset for two reasons: first, because jaw movement while speaking can cause noise on a headset, and second, because microphones generally produce higher-quality sound.

Recommended: Portable studio setup using a microphone isolator or sound dampener. You can make a makeshift one using towels or egg cartons.

See also: recommended equipment (Librivox).


Record MP3 Audiobooks using Audacity

  • Pro: Many options for audio editing once recording is complete.
  • Pro: Available for all computer operating systems.
  • Con: Harder to edit individual sections of books.
  • Con: Difficult to record books where page numbers are important (non-fiction books with an index, for example). Would need to either record or label each page separately. 

Record DAISY Audiobooks using Obi

  • Pro: Easy to edit individual sections of books.
  • Pro: Easy to record with page number references.
  • Pro: Daisy output means more users may benefit from this format.
  • Con: Limited options to improve audio quality once recording is complete.
  • Con: Obi is only available for Windows users.

Getting Started

  1. Set up equipment and recording software. Instructions for Audacity | Instructions for Obi.
  2. Create a test recording and then export the test as an MP3. Use headphones to check for:
    • background noise,
    • volume level,
    • clipping,
    • abrupt changes in sound.

If this is your first time recording and you would like some feedback, please consider doing a short (one poem or short story) contribution to Librivox for feedback.

Recommended readings

What to Read

The way you divide the tracks will depend on the book. Generally, except for a first two tracks and the front matter, the rest will follow the table of contents.

Track 01: <insert book title>

The first track or section is a short one: read the title, author's name, the author's last name spelled out, published by and (optionally) "Read by", followed by, "month, year". The name of the section should be the book's title.

For example: "Tribes by Arthur Slade. S-L-A-D-E. Published by HarperCollins. Read by David Van Der Molen in February, 2015."

Track 02: About this Digital Talking Book

Say "About this digital talking book" and then read the NNELS Terms of Use beginning with "This digital book provided by NNELS...". Title the track "02 - About this Digital Talking Book."

Subsequent Sections

The rest of the sections should be based on the book itself and in printed order.

Each section should announce the name of the section followed by the content. For example, "Dedication. To Michael, with love."

Example sections:

  • Praise for (this book)
  • Publishing Information
    • Note: This is the verso page. Please read everything as print. However, the Library Cataloguing section can be skipped.
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Epigraph (standalone quote before the book begins)
  • Prologue
  • Introduction
  • Part 1
  • Chapter 1
  • Afterward
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author

Note: In Audacity or other recording programs, these name would turn into the labels. In Obi, these would be the section names.

After Exporting

  1. If you're recording in MP3 format, create a playlist file. (This isn't required if you're producing a DAISY file.)
  2. Name your folder the title of the book.
  3. Zip the folder (or all the files inside the folder).
    • Zipping in Windows
    • Mac: Zip with Unarchiver (while Mac has a built-in Compress tool, the resulting zips are frequently incompatible with other operating systems and stores many hidden files)
  4. Name the zip using this format with alphanumeric characters only with spaces replaced by underscores:
    • For example, if it's Aug 16, 2015 3:40:12 PM and the book is "The Lady's Companion" in DAISY 2.02 format, I would end up with:
  5. Upload the file to NNELS with the requested information.
  6. Send an email to to let us know it's done!

Got Questions or Feedback?

If you have questions or comments on any parts of this guide, please post in the Content Production Forum or contact us.

Thanks for contributing to NNELS!