Kindle Fire Immersion Reading and Audible Audiobooks

Experience Immersion Reading

I’m trying to find out more information about the Immersion Reading program being touted for the new Kindle Fire HD family.  I suppose I will be able to experience it more today, now that I have my hands on the new Kindle Fire HD 7″ tablet.

Immersion Reading is being advertised as listening to an audiobook version of whatever novel you have selected while seeing it highlighted on the screen of your Kindle Fire HD tablet.  I am guessing that Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading are one and the same on the Kindle Fire HDs.  Again – great marketing to Amazon to basically advertise 2 for the price of 1 when it is really 1 for the price of 1.

There is a good (and short) 47 second You Tube video on Immersion Reading.  Oddly enough, it is almost identical to the Whispersync for Voice You Tube video. About 30 seconds into the video, it shows the user clicking a button for $3.95 (for the chosen book) to ‘Add Narration for $3.95.’  On my current Kindle Fire, that link is not available and I cannot find a similar link on either the Audible.com site or Amazon.com site – so this option might be only on the Kindle Fire HD.

Possible Benefits of Immersion Reading (and a few concerns)

Many, many years ago, when I was working on my first Bachelor’s degree at BYU, I was a Reader for the Blind for two years.  I was paid to read all the classnotes and textbooks that my students needed for their classes.  This was very valuable to them and I learned first hand the benefits of not only reading a book, but reading it aloud.  My first semester in this program, I was able to arrange for my students to be in my general ed classes. Thus, I got paid to read my own books. First semester I earned straight A’s in every class.

When my children were young, I spent countless hours reading aloud to them.  Many of those hours were spent with me underlining each word as we read.  My children both inherited my love for reading and were reading at above High School level in first grade.

Immersion Reading can give you the benefit of reading and hearing the book simultaneously.  I don’t know that I will have too many uses for this – but can see it being a much more interesting way of reading/listening to a new release while running on the treadmill and allow me not to have to turn pages by hand.

For challenged readers and students that are learning to read, this will give them a way to hear and see a book at the same time. This is great.  We can use more good readers out there because books are so much richer than movies for helping us to learn and grow.

Concern 1: Busy parents will use this as an excuse to avoid reading aloud to their children.  I hope not.  I think that time is so valuable for teaching children to love reading and for bonding between parent and child.  However, what a great “reward” for an accomplishment if this could be used for supplemental reading.

Concern 2: Reading speed.  Will users be able to speed up and/or slow down the reading speed?  How much distortion will that cause on the audio portion?  My audiobooks allow for some adjustments – but I really dislike any of the faster or slower options.  So, if the child is actually trying to read along and the narrator is cruising at normal speed, will the child (or any person learning to read better) just get lost and quit watching the text and only listen?

I will be interested to see if this can be used for dual language immersion.  I am going to try to find out if I can get a novel in Italian and an audiobook in Italian (might be a few years in coming) and get my Italian conversation level back up to fluent.

Audible Audiobooks

Audible.com is a subsidiary of Amazon.  Now, they are linked even tighter.  I first started downloading audiobooks when I took up marathon running in 2004. Then, in 2006 when I got divorced, I became and Audible subscriber and got montly credits.  These audiobooks provided me a much needed companion when I was lonely.

I recommend you check out Audible.  I plan to do more research into the new book prices to see what the best deals will be.

If you like to listen to audiobooks, I highly recommend purchasing one of their plans.  It makes the books much cheaper.  As an example, I downloaded Delusion in Death this week. This audiobook would cost $27.29. Becoming a member reduced the price to $19.10 or 1 credit. I am currently a Gold Member and pay $14.95 a month to get one credit a month, so the audiobook cost me $14.95.  There are various packages available.  Several times a year members are offered great prices on audiobooks or 2-for-1 deals and such and it costs even less.

With the latest Amazon announcement, it now appears that Amazon and Audible will offer some great prices on the audiobooks if you already own the Kindle Book version.  I did get two of the Hunger Game audiobooks last night for $3.95 each.  This did not show up at first at Audible.com until I got to the payment stage, so make sure you don’t click the final purchase unless it is the price you expected.

There are several news blurbs on both the Audible.com and Amazon.com websites to show some of the Whispersync/partnership details.

My complaint: After the press conference last week, I logged in to Audible.com and they asked me if I wanted to enable the Whispersync features.  I said yes and then was prompted to change my Audible.com username and password to my Amazon.com username and password.  I had no problems with this.  However, I have listened to audiobooks on my iPhone for several hundreds of hours with the free App and had earned all sorts of cool “trophies and awards”. When I went to look for my new audiobooks, I could not get them until I logged in to the app again with my Amazon username.  This took away all my trophies and awards.  It is not a big thing (okay – I’m still pouting a little) – but I would think that if they were able to merge my online account so easily, they could do the same on the iPhone/iPad app.

Kindle Fire HD Audio, Audible & Kindle Fire HD Whispersync for Voice

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the “audio” changes that Amazon has announced for their slate of e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets.

Text-To-Speech

First off – let me state that I too think that not having Text-To-Speech (TTS)  (or speakers) on the Kindle Paperwhite is a big mistake. When the Kindle Touch was released, I felt that one of the things I disliked about it most was not having TTS.

Text-To-Speech was a thing of brilliance.  When one of my friends raved about how great her e-ink Nook was, I could retort with “But does it have Text-To-Speech?”  When she needed to buy her niece an e-reader, she chose the Kindle 3 because it had Text-To-Speech.  That was the main item helping her “go over to the dark side”, as she thought of it.

Another friend had a son-in-law that suffered a serious stroke in a rugby accident and had to learn how to redo almost everything.  Allowing him to use the Kindle 3 with large font and slow TTS allowed him to enjoy books again.

Yes – the voice was monotonous.  But I also got a big kick out of hearing punctuation and occasional mispronunciations.  I could speed it up or slow it down.  I could switch between a male and a female.  The only time I really got annoyed was listening to scriptures – so switched to reading them instead.

When have I used TTS?  On nights when I could not sleep and wanted a quiet voice to help me go to sleep. Recovering from eye surgeries and eye injuries when I could not open my eyes.  Recovering from a kidney stone when I was too exhausted to move from shaking so hard from pain the day before.  Running/walking on a treadmill when a new book came out and I didn’t want to turn pages or wear glasses.  Running around an indoor track when I had a book that I wanted to listen to.  On a car trip across Michigan to Chicago to visit my mother-in-law when the battery on my phone was dying.  These are just a few examples.

Amazon has taken this “luxury” away from low-end e-readers and those users.  Instead – they now want to use their tablets to make more money for their subsidiaries.  (More on this in the second half).

Whispersync for Voice – Part 1 – Basic details

Amazon is now touting Whispersync for Voice.  Switch seamlessly between your e-book and audiobook.

Of course, it has to be an Audible audiobook (owned by Amazon) and a Kindle e-book.

Supposedly – here is how it works:

Step 1) Buy the Kindle Book.  Great! I have tons of Kindle books!  I have several series of Kindle books.  In fact – I have every In Death book by JD  Robb on both the Kindle and also on Audible.  This will work perfectly.  (Insert cyncism here)

Step 2) Add Narration. Sounds good – I’ve bought about 75 Audible books to listen to while marathon training.  This will be just like Text-To-Speech, but this is no monotone voice.

Step 3) Switch between reading and listening.

I’m in.  This will be awesome.  But here is the catch – you need a Kindle and the free Audible app.

Perfect – I have Kindles and I have the free Audible app.

But what about users that don’t have a smart phone and can’t use the free Audible app?  Does this mean this option is not available to them?  No – because it also works on Kindle Fire! Here are all your choices for the Kindle Fire.

Don’t have a Kindle Fire? Don’t have a smart phone for the free Audible app? Maybe you can buy those at Amazon.com.  Otherwise – Whispersync for voice will not work for you.

Kindle Fire owners can listen and read simultaneously.  This works good for me – but not everyone reviews devices (therefore having access to lots of them) and has that capability.

Again – Kindle Paperwhite will not give you any of these audible capabilities – Whispersync for Voice or Text-To-Speech.

Whispersync for Voice – Part 2 – another way to earn money

My next post will have a bit more about the Audible side of things, but lets face it.  The reason Amazon has switched away from Text-To-Speech is that is did not make them an extra penny.  It wasn’t on all books and they hid the checks for that well.  But, it did not cost a penny more to buy a book with TTS enabled than it did to buy a book without it.  In fact, some of the more expensive books did not enable this.

With Whispersync for Voice – guess what?  It doesn’t come free with (hardly) any books!  Yes, there are certain free Kindle books that also have free Audible books to go along with them.  These are mainly classics and copyright free.  Here is the link to the Free Whispersync Books.

However, with the exception of the above books, Audible books cost money.  Sometimes a lot of money.  Usually more than the Kindle Book.  Amazon is offering some discounts – but I’m not sure these will last forever, or that there are not a lot of conditions.

So – if you want Whispersync for Voice on anything other than 26 titles, expect to pay for it.  Amazon is not stupid – they took away a free service and are trying to convince us to pay for it.  Bravo for their marketing strategies.

Whispersync for Voice – Part 3 – my complaint

I’ve just started looking into this – but I already have a big complaint.  Maybe my complaint is not the fault of Amazon, but of greedy publishing companies and greedy authors.

As I mentioned – I have every In Death book by JD Robb in both Kindle Book format and Audible audiobook format.  Heck – I even took today off work and ran 21 miles on the treadmill reading the latest book that just got released (device utilized: Kindle 3 with perfect page buttons). Books that have Whispersync enabled are marked accordingly on their information page.  I checked 10 JD Robb books and nary a single one of them has Whispersync enabled.  This is ridiculous!  I have paid good money for both versions and cannot use this feature.  Since we know that Amazon will do almost anything to make money – this leads me to believe publisher are playing their greedy games.

Current experience with Whispersync

I’ve been playing around with Whispersync on my Kindle Fire 1 and iPhone.  I downloaded the free Kindle Book and free audiobook of Dracula by Bram Stoker.

It was a bit confusing at first because I had read on the Amazon.com website that the Whispersync technology worked within the books on the Kindle Fire.  Upon digging a little more, this does not apply to Kindle Fire 1.  Next weekend I will have the Kindle Fire 7″ HD and can test this new method on that device.

Testing method one – advanced a few pages on the Kindle Book of Dracula and sync’ed the Kindle Fire.  I had to refresh the Audible app on the iPhone, but it found the location of where I had left the e-book and asked if I wanted to go to that location.  4 stars.

Testing method two – let the audiobook of Dracula play for 15 minutes on my iPhone and refreshed the app and sync’ed the Kindle Fire.  No message on the Kindle Fire asking me if I wanted to match up with the different location based on the audiobook.  1 star.

Testing method three – let the audiobook play for a few more minutes. Refreshed app. Closed book on Kindle Fire. Sync’ed device. No notice. Opened the book and found the Sync to farthest page read. It let me know that I was at the farthest page read. 1 star.

I also repeated testing methods 2 and 3 on my Kindle Keyboard with the same results.

So – clearly there are a few disconnects at this point in time between the audio to e-book sync.  But – kudos to the Audible app because it is working well.

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