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MP3 Players with Bookmark Capability

Copyright © 2007 Andrew B. Davidson. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: July 2007
If you listen to audio books, podcasts, radio shows, extended DJ mixes, or other long audio files on your MP3 player, you would doubtlessly find it useful to be able to bookmark your location in a file, so that you can choose that bookmark later to start listening again from the same spot. This is especially useful for Netlibrary or Audible.com audio books, which can be very long.

Incredibly, this very simple and extremely useful feature is a rarity in the world of MP3 players. Even the popular Apple iPod players do not have this feature. It really boggles my mind how rarely this feature is supported.

Many players will resume play where you left off when you turn the player off and then back on, but this is a very poor substitute for true manual bookmarking capability. For example, if you navigate away from your long file, you lose your place. I call this feature "On/Off Resume Play" because it resumes in the same place only when you turn the player on/off.

Some players will remember your place on a per-file basis, but only in files that have been specifically flagged as audiobooks. Apple iPod players fall in this category. Files purchased from Audible.com are generally flagged as audiobooks automatically. Other files have to be flagged manually. However, this is also a very poor replacement for true bookmarking as you not only have to remember to flag files as audiobooks manually (which may not even be possible depending on your player) but it allows only one resume point per file. And, if you happen to start a file playing from the beginning, you lose your place. I call this feature "Per-File Resume Play" to differentiate between On/Off Resume Play.

For some people, manual bookmark capability is very important feature. For me, that feature is an absolute requirement. It is a major annoyance to locate my place in long files. I would never use or buy any player without this capability. I simply listen to too many long files to be searching for where I left off all day long. Combined with the fact that many MP3 players fast-forward at extremely slow speeds, makes it even more of a requirement. I simply do not have the patience to hold down the fast-forward button for 10 minutes, waiting to get to the middle of a long file.

Generally there are commands on your MP3 Player to Save (or Set) Bookmark, Load (or Select) Bookmark, and Delete Bookmark. Save Bookmark remembers the current play time and file. Load Bookmark resumes play from the previously-saved bookmark time location. Delete Bookmark erases the bookmark from memory. Some players may not have Delete Bookmark, but will allow you to overwrite an existing bookmark.

Some players will remember the time and file when you save a bookmark, but, annoyingly, will not remember the playlist that was being played at the time. So, if your audiobook has (for example) 10 files in a playlist, it will remember your place in track 3 (or whatever) when you load the bookmark, but when that files ends it will not then go on to track 4. Ideally, a bookmark will remember not only the time and file, but the playlist that was playing when the bookmark was set. Rio MP3 players do it this way. I have not tested this feature with all Rio player models, but I suspect that all Rios that support bookmarks also support this valuable feature. According to a November 2006 post in this forum thread, the Creative Zen V Plus does not bookmark the entire playlist, just the one bookmarked file. I have not personally verified this and I don't know if they have since fixed it, but that makes Creative players much less useful in this regard.

MP3 Player Bookmark Feature Comparison Chart

This chart is a result of web investigation, reader reports, and my personal experience. This chart is being expanded... more coming soon...

If a player is not listed, I do not have information on it yet.

MP3 Player Name Has
Bookmarks?
Notes
Apple iPod (all models, all generations, 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, Mini, Nano, Shuffle, Video, etc)  NO No manual bookmark capability; per-file resume play only. File must be flagged as an audiobook in iTunes to resume. One resume location per file (automatically set to the last time listened to).
Archos Gmini 402  YES  
Archos Gmini XS100  YES  
Archos Gmini XS202  YES Archos Gmini XS202s has 16 bookmark slots, at most one bookmark per file.
Creative Muvo V100  NO  
Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra  YES Each track can have 1 bookmark.
Creative Zen Nano  NO  
Creative Zen Nano Plus  NO  
Creative Zen Micro  YES  
Creative Zen Sleek  YES 10 bookmark slots.
Creative Zen V  YES 10 bookmark slots. Reader reports that bookmarking is difficult to use.
Creative Zen V Plus  YES 10 bookmark slots. Does not remember the entire playlist, just the bookmarked file (according to this forum post.)
Creative Zen Vision  YES 10 bookmark slots.
Creative Zen Vision W  YES 10 bookmark slots.
Creative Zen Vision M  YES 10 bookmark slots. Cannot bookmark video files.
COWON iAUDIO U3  YES The manual states each track can have 1 bookmark and bookmarks not allowed on movie files. However, a user of this device reports that you can indeed set multiple bookmarks per file.
COWON iAUDIO U5  YES According to this forum post, remembers the entire playlist as well as the bookmarked file.
Microsoft Zune  NO Resume play with video (WMV) files only. Only workaround for audio files is to convert them to WMV (e.g. using Windows Movie Maker).
Motorola M25  YES 10 bookmark slots. Several reports indicate that there is a bug which causes the bookmarked location to drift backward in large files like audiobooks. Drift increases the further into the file the bookmark is set.
Motorola M500  YES 9 bookmark slots.
Rio Carbon  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio CE series  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio Chiba  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio Eigen  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio Forge  YES Remembers the playlist also. One reader has reported that there is a bug which causes the bookmarked location to drift backward in large files like audiobooks.
Rio Karma  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio Nitrus  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio One  NO  
Rio Pearl  YES Remembers the playlist also
Rio PMP-300  NO  
Rio PMP-500  NO  
Rio S series (S30, S35, etc)  YES 9 bookmark slots. Remembers the playlist also.
Rio SE series  YES Remembers the playlist also.
Rio S10  YES 9 bookmark slots. Remembers the playlist also.
Rio S11  YES 9 bookmark slots. Remembers the playlist also.
RockBox firmware Players  YES GEEK ALERT: Player firmware must be re-flashed with the RockBox open source firmware. Files with DRM are not supported. However, it has several useful bookmark-related configuration options. Hardware models include (as of March 2007): Some Archos models, iRiver H100, H300 and H10 series, some Apple iPod models, iAudio X5 and M5 series, Toshiba Gigabeat X and F series, and Sandisk E200 series. See RockBox site for details.
Samsung YEPP YP-T8  YES A reader reports it supports manual bookmarks. However, it is apparently discontinued and hard to find in the USA.
Samsung YEPP YP-T9  NO A reader reports it does NOT support manual bookmarks.
Sony Network Walkman  NO Sony claims "bookmarking" as a feature but you can only "bookmark" the beginning of a file, not a time within a file. This is not really bookmarking at all, and is verging on outright fraud by Sony to claim it as such.
This list is being expanded... more coming soon... If you have more information please report it.

Know Another Bookmarking MP3 Player?

Do you have a correction or more information for this list? Or any comments or feedback? If so, you can email me at AndrewDavidson {at} AndrewDavidson {dot} com, or use my Feedback Form if you prefer.

My Personal Experience

I have personally used the Rio S10, S11, S30 series, Nitrus and Chiba and can verify their bookmarking capability. It remembers the playlist also which is critical, and there is no drift of the bookmark position. The only negative is that the bookmarks are named "Bookmark 1" etc and so they do not display exactly what is bookmarked.

I have also personally tested the iPod and RockBox.

All other player reports in the chart above are either from online manuals, reader reports, or other web reports.

Summary

All Rio brand players (except the very early models like the PMP-300) have bookmark capability and remember the playlist as well, but sadly these are discontinued. Many Rio players are still available on eBay inexpensively, however, they are getting more and more scarce. Also, many Rio models are so old they support only USB 1.1 rather than USB 2.0.

Rockbox is a solution for those geeky enough to be willing to install a new open-source firmware on their player. I would not recommended it for the general public but if you are willing to experiment with beta software it's worth a look. However, it does not support DRM-protected files (e.g. Netlibrary audiobooks) so it is not a solution unless your files are DRM-free. It is a totally new firmware and a great collection of software. Not only does it support bookmarks but it has dozens of other features including JPEG viewing, games (even Doom!), customizable themes, fonts, backgrounds, and much more. Plus it is open source so many times you can cutomize it to fit your needs. The players include the first generation iPod Nano, the iPod Video, plus many other iPod and MP3 player models.

Several Archos players support bookmarks, however these players are rather bulky compared to smaller flash-based players people are accustomed to nowadays. Some Motorola players have bookmarks, but there are reports of bugs when loading bookmarks.

Several Creative and COWON MP3 players support bookmarks. However, reports indicate that when you load a bookmark, it doesn't load your previously-playing playlist, only the file itself. Currently, Creative and COWON players are the main bookmarking MP3 players that are still on the retail market and readily available.

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