The most exciting new feature for me from today’s new Kindle announcement is Whispersync for Voice. This is a feature that seems natural for Amazon. It allows you to listen to an audiobook, and then pick up your kindle and read, and then return to the audiobook again. As someone that listens to a lot of audiobooks and loves kindles this is a perfect idea.
And Amazon is well positioned to make it happen. Amazon is the largest ebook seller. Audible.com (owned by Amazon) is the largest digital distributor of audiobooks. This just makes sense for Amazon to try. Here is the Amazon commercial about it.
The flagship product for this will be the new Kindle Fires. With the Kindle Fire you can alternate back and forth between professionally narrated Audiobook and the kindle ebook on the same device. And for those that are interested, you can actually have the ebook be highlighted as you listen to the narration. This might be good for younger readers that are trying to read a book that is a bit too hard for them on their own.
Update: The Kindle 3 (or Kindle with Keyboard) just got a firmware upgrade that makes it the only eink Kindle that will allow you to listen to the audiobook and read the kindle book on the same device.
However, you do not have to buy a new kindle fire to make this work. All you need is any Kindle device (eink, any kindle app, computer or kindle fire) to read the ebook, and listen to the audiobook on an iPhone, android phone or any Kindle Fire.
You can try it out now if you like. There are just over 13000 books that are currently read to work with Whispersync for Voice.
Amazon has a couple dozen public domain books where you can try it out for free. I picked up The Three Musketeers. I checked the book out from the library earlier this year and did not finish it before I had to return it.
How to use Whispersync for Voice
Right now you must start on the Amazon Kindle side. You can go here to browse for books. (Here are free books to try, and here are some sale books as promotion, and a list of free books compiled by BooksontheKnob).
I assume that finding books will become easier as there are more books and more search ability. Once you find a book, you buy the Kindle version of the book. Then click on the Audible Audio Edition (usually the last link). That will take you to an Amazon page for the Audible.com book.
That while take you directly to the Audible.com Cart if you have an account and are signed in. You might need to sign in and/or create an account. But that is an easy process. You should use the same username as Amazon to make sure the accounts recognize one another. If you have an older Audible account that is not linked to you Amazon account there is a conversion process that allows you to change your Audible.com account to an Amazon linked Audible account.
Once the book is purchased on both formats you start reading and it will sync locations just like syncing locations across kindle devices.
First sometimes there are multiple versions of a single book on either kindle or audible’s side. This is more common with public domain books. But it can be the case with other books as well. Promotional editions or abridged audiobooks are another common reason why there are multiple editions. You can see that with The Three Musketeers there were four different Audible version (and even more kindle editions.) The top one (the first one I tried) was the wrong Audible edition. It took several tries for me to be able to figure out what the problem was. The problem was that I needed to be choosing the last version of the audiobook. (Books On The Knob noticed the same problem and compiled a useful chart of the free classic Kindle books and their corresponding free Audible Audiobook.)
The second problem I had was that using my iPhone and my Kindle 4, I had to manually tell the devices to sync. On the iPhone I found a new “Sync Position Across Devices” under the settings screen. And on the kindle I had to push “Sync to Furthest Page Read”. Once I did this the positions were synced. (You do have the option to not jump to the furthest position.
If more than one person is reading a book at the same time, this will not work. Also if someone has already read a book or listened to the audiobook on your account, then you need to reset the position info so that Amazon knows to start again at the beginning Here is a guide on how to do that.
If you are like me and you have lots of both kindle and audiobooks you may have one and you can buy the other to make a full set. As you can see here, when I looked at this book I own on Kindle, Audible already knows that I own it and suggests that I buy the audio version.
There is a similar note on the Amazon Kindle side as well that suggests I buy a kindle books when I already own the Audible.com version.
The price is about 40% off in this case. But there is a wide range of prices for these add-ons. I think it is completely reasonable to charge $3 or $4 for the privilege of syncing the books together. I think it would be even better that they offer this feature for free. But Amazon is a business and they need to make a profit. However, I saw several instances where the add-on audiobook was $12 or $13 and with very few exceptions, that seems like too much to me. I already own the audiobook for IQ84, but I have not started listening to it yet. It is nearly 1000 pages or 46 hours and would be a great books to use this on. But because I purchased the audio version first, there does not seem to be any discount offered. At least at this point, the discount only seems to be on the Audible.com side.
Overall I think this is a really great feature. The market will help determine if the amounts that Amazon wants to charge and the amount that customers are willing to pay are able to match up.