Chromebooks currently do not play m4b audiobook format. This is bit of a pain for audiobook fans and means that other devices often get employed for these duties. I recently wrote an article which shows you how to run the most-excellent Audible on a Chromebook, which may do for most. For me though, I want to be able to play audiobooks on a Chromebook which have no DRM. After much faffing around and trying things out, I’ve found something that finally works. You see, an undocumented feature of Music Player for Google Drive allows you to open m4b audiobooks on a Chromebook due to m4b being a subset of mp4 – hurray. The rest of this article walks you through the painless process of getting the app running on your Chromebook and then looks at some of the limitations you currently will encounter.
Installing the app
Installing the Music Player for Google Drive couldn’t be easier. Just go to the web store search for music player and add to Chrome:
Play Audiobooks on a Chromebook
Once you have the app installed on your Chromebook, open it and grant the app the rights to be able to open files from your Google Drive account and then click on ‘Add audio files from Google Drive’:
then select an appropriate audiobook from Google Drive. If you do not have an audiobook, then you can get hold of a sample file from Naxos here.
Once you’ve opened the file, the player gives you a few controls, such as start and stop, but they are pretty sparse.
The main limitation of the Music Player for Google Drive is that you need to be connected to the internet for it to work. So, it’s unlikely you’ll be using this in your car as you speed along the motorway.
You need to grant permission to the app to allow it to open audio files. For some, this may be perceived as a privacy issue, however the authors of the app have provided the useful note:
The application needs access to the Google Drive files you have opened with the application in order to play them. It also needs your User ID in order to have the authorization flow work properly for multi-signed-in users. The application does not read, save or use your identity or Google Drive files in any way other than clearly intended.
Also, as previously mentioned m4b support isn’t documented, so you do not get information about the chapters and book cover shown. As a result getting back to where you previously left off involves a bit of guesswork.
Better than nothing
For me, just being able to play audiobooks on a Chromebook with Music Player is a real bonus. Up until very recently, I’ve been on the hunt for an app like this and have considered working on something myself. Fortunately for me, I no longer need to spend ages hacking code together as a reliable solution exists. I would like to see this feature baked into the files app with offline support and the ability for chapters to be recognised. Until that day, or something better comes along then Music Player for Google Drive is the best way to get audiobooks to play on a Chromebook.
If you want to have a look through the project and tinker with the source code, then have a look at the github page.