Synergy. It’s a marvelous thing when it happens, sometimes with intention, but as often unexpectedly. Synergy has happened at Amazon.com, between two separate divisions that combined their technologies to produce something wonderful. The result is Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading, new technologies that synchronize Kindle e-books and Audible a-books, seamlessly.
My interest in this comes from a huge increase in my hunger for fiction this year, which has mostly replaced my prior hobby of playing video games to excess. I attribute my increased reading to the Kindle Touch. Reading a physical book used to give me enjoyment. I enjoyed the feel of the paper pages, the smell of the book. But no longer! I am officially converted! The sole reason is the speed at which I can read on the Kindle. Something about turning the pages, perhaps.
Not that it took a great deal of time to turn a page, but the act has somehow been taken out of the process of reading so that now, it’s just a TAP on the screen. Furthermore, there’s the enormous benefit of having an instant dictionary on hand–just touch a word for a moment, and a definition appears. So, I read a lot more than even a year ago, perhaps 5x as much, easily. And not solely on the Kindle–I also read physical comic books and graphic novels in greater numbers than ever before.
It is now possible to begin reading an e-book on Kindle, then switch to your iPod, running the Audible App, and continue listening to the professionally narrated version of the book where you left off! The technology that made it possible to read an Audible e-book on one device, and then switch to another device to continue reading–called Whispersync–now works with Amazon’s audiobook division, Audible. It’s like magic for a book lover.
But that’s not the half of it. Immersion Reading is a new technology that goes one step further, and will play in sync with the e-book, highlighting as it goes! This is not merely a text-to-speech engine; no, it’s the professionally narrated audiobook, made possible by this collaboration (as a result of Amazon acquiring Audible).
As an unabashed fan of Amazon’s services for the past 10 years, I find this new technology remarkable. But not surprising! It is yet another compelling reason why I will allow Amazon to take yet more of my money every month–because the services are valuable to me, and well worth the cost. With a Prime membership, I access Instant Videos, which is like the best of Netflix and Hulu combined–with the option to purchase any currently-running TV series on the spot, without obeying Hulu’s release schedules or waiting for Netflix’s admittedly good but somewhat slow licensing of new shows. Quite a bit of content is free, and that which isn’t is affordable. Not to mention, Prime membership includes free 2-day shipping on all orders. No minimum totals! I was sold on Prime for the streaming video content alone, and the shipping benefit is also welcome.
Now I find myself enamored with Amazon’s new Audible division and purchasing a membership. Audible has been around for over a decade–in fact, my account was created back in 2000. I found the service over-priced during all those years, simply because I could buy the physical audiobook on tape or CD for the price of the monthly membership. But the price has changed. Now, under new management, Audible costs about $7.00 per month for the first three months, and then about $15.00 per month after. It is already a good price without the 3-month promotion. Have you seen the price of a new unabridged audiobook on CD lately? They’re usually over $30.00. The Audible membership includes one free audiobook per month, plus 30% off for any additional titles.
There are many cases where I will not need to buy both the Kindle e-book and Audible “a-book”, because I will decide to listen only, not read. But for a beloved classic, such as Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire, having both is enjoyable for repeat reading and listening. (Personally, I think the whole “Grand Admiral Thrawn” plot is where they’ll be going in the next movie, given that J.J. Abrams brought Khan into Star Trek Into Darkness–maybe that’s a stretch, but there’s precedent, and what source material will Abrams use for Star Wars 7, given that some members of the old cast will be present? What other than the Thrawn trilogy makes sense? It takes place 5 years after ROTJ).
But the main reason why this appeals to me is that I now have 12 Amazon wishlists, which I update weekly, and about 150 items in total. Ah, wishlists, another fascinating Amazon innovation for readers! Listening to an audiobook is good for the health. It encourages moving. While increased reading is good, that has led to less movement, which is bad. An audiobook will get me out taking walks again. I’ll take them along for the ride when mowing the yard and working in the garage or in the yard. I will also listen with the kids. And, hopefully, begin checking off those wishlist items more quickly.