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O'Reilly and Associates
MP3: The Definitive Guide
Scot Hacker
The phenomenally popular MP3 algorithm lets users compress audio data to a fraction of its original size, and has led to a revolution in file-based music storage and distribution. MP3: The Definitive Guide is the bible of this phenomenon -- a fast-moving guide to the juicy bits for MP3 power users. What sets this book apart is its attention to detail, including coverage of legal issues, "home-brew" solutions, and concentration on audiophile concerns.

amzn-buy Nearly 400 pages long, MP3: The Definitive Guide will show you how the MP3 codec works, how to choose the best MP3 player or ripper/encoder for your platform, how to work with ID3 tags, playlists, skins, and plug-ins, and what to be careful of when it comes to equalization. The book introduces concepts related to building a virtual database of MP3 files, organizing large collections, burning custom compact discs, and building your own MP3 playback hardware for the home or car. The book also discusses formats and codecs currently competing with MP3. Users of "alternative" operating systems aren't left out -- in addition to coverage of Windows tools, you'll find screenshots, descriptions, and detailed how-to information for users of MacOS, Linux, and BeOS as well.

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Table of Contents

Each section of the book is further divided into many, far more detailed subsections (not shown here). Two of the chapters are online in their entirety at O' (linked).
1 - The Nuts and Bolts of MP3
MP3 Basics
Rights, Piracy, and Politics
2 - How MP3 Works: Inside the Codec
A "Perceptual" Codec
The Anatomy of an MP3 File
3 - Getting and Playing MP3 Files
Choosing and Using an MP3 Player
Players by Platform
Obtaining an MP3 Player
Organizing Your Collection
Equipment Considerations
4 - Playlists, Tags, and Skins: MP3 Options
MP3 Options and Considerations
Equalization and Sound Quality
ID3 Tags and Playlists: The Virtual Database
Skins: Dressing Up MP3 Players
Plug-ins: Extending Your Reach
Listening to MP3 Streams
Performance Considerations
5 - Ripping and Encoding: Creating MP3 Files
General Encoding Principles
General Ripping Principles
Ripping and Encoding Tools
"Ripping" from Other Sources
Roll Your Own Compact Discs
6 - Hardware, Portables, Home Stereos, and Kits
Playing MP3 Through Your Home Stereo
Portable Players
Hand-Held Computers and Other Devices
Home Stereo MP3 Players
Car Players
Kit Players
7 - The Not-So-Fine-Print: Legal Bits and Pieces
The Rules of Engagement
The Players
8 - Webcasting and Servers: Internet Distribution
Fundamentals of Internet Distribution
Offering Files for Download
Webcasting: Real-Time MP3 Broadcasting
An Interview with's "High Geek"
9 - Competing Codecs and Other File Formats
The Architectures
The Codecs
Appendices and Index

About the Author

Scot Hacker has been obsessed with music since his early teens, and has been a digital audiophile for half a decade. After earning a B.A. in Philosophy at UC Santa Cruz, he made a living writing reviews of jazz and improvised music for The Utne Reader and The Cadence Journal of Jazz and Blues before graduating to the role of Content Manager and Production Editor at ZDNet. Hacker's interest in digital audio and fine computer systems has evolved into a regular series of articles for PC Magazine,, Windows Sources, ZiffNet, Japan's ASCII Magazine, and the CompuServe network, as well as television appearances and trade show gigs. Hacker is the author of the definitive The BeOS Bible, a best-selling guide to the high-performance operating system optimized for digital media, including audio compression, encoding, and playback.

Technical Editors and Contributors

From the book's Acknowledgements:

As with any book of this scope, the author did not work alone. I am much indebted to my editor Simon Hayes for helping to get this project off the ground and for his guidance in structuring and shaping this book in the "big picture." I am also most grateful for the many contributions made by our pool of technical editors:

  •'s "High Geek" Sander van Zoest, who offered much "behind the scenes" information, especially on the broadcasting and streaming side of things, and for turning me on to MP3 products and technologies before they happened.

  •'s Gabriel Bouvigne, who posesses a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of MPEG's technical arcana and who helped to flesh out the details of this book in numerous ways.

  • Lifelong audiophile Mike Knapp, who can build high-end amplifiers in his sleep and who contributed immeasurably to Hi-Fi issues throughout the book.

  • Bruno Prior, who literally built a house around an extensive room-to-room home MP3 network, and who seems to have used every MP3 tool on the planet extensively. Prior also contributed much on the topic of encoding from analog sources.

Ordering Information

Available in most book stores, or can be ordered online:

amzn-buy List price: $29.95
Amazon price: $23.96
ISBN: 1565926617
400 pp.