After reading this thread, I believe a lot of iPod recommenders missed mle53's point that if your preferred source of audiobooks is a free source, like OverDrive Media audiobooks from your free public libary, then you won't be happy with an iPod--you would have to do manual conversion on your computer. It seems the Creative Zen V or V Plus is best in the free-audiobook case with its bookmarks, though its resume function seems to not work properly in the Pause-then-auto shuttoff case (some people report they need to manually stop a running song/podcast in order to resume properly). And perhaps the new Creative Zen will also be good.
For podcasts or books bought from iTunes, iPods seem the best player, because of the faster playback option reported above, resume function for all podcasts, and nice integration with iTunes. I've found iTunes is the best way to find podcasts, and perhaps the best podcatcher too and don't have an iPod. If you don't mind listening at normal speed, and don't switch from podcast to podcast (so don't need resume for all songs/podcasts), then the iPod does not seem any better at podcasts than some other players (I think the Creative Zen V/V Plus comes with a podcast app that syncs podcasts like iTunes does with iPods).
The economics of free audiobooks is compelling: you can buy a refurb Creative Muvo TX for $20 and with rechargeable AAA cells, you're done spending money. For more choices of books, though, you need to buy from Audible or iTunes.
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