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3 Ideas to Improve Amazon's / Audible's Whispersync
September 23, 2012 - 9:00pm

Whispersync is Amazon's new feature that allows for Kindle e-books and Audible audiobooks to sync up. This makes perfect sense, as Amazon owns Audible, and can leverage common platforms and accounts to provide a seamless reading experience across e-book and audiobook reading methods.

The idea is that we can get more reading done if we can easily move between platforms, listening to our books while multitasking (driving, exercising, cleaning etc.), and then reading the e-book during those times in which it is rude to have earbuds stuck in our ears.

I love the option of switching back and forth between audio and e-paper (or paper). Most of my reading is done via my ears, but most of my pleasure reading comes through my eyeballs.  

The genius of syncing up the e-book and the audiobook is that the technology gives to us the thing that is most valuable - more time to read.   

All of us would read more books if we had more time to read. 

By syncing a book across platforms, including a Kindle smart phone app, a dedicated Kindle reader, and the audio version, we can read more by reading in smaller chunks. We can get a bit of reading done whenever we have a few minutes. And then we can transition to longer stretches of pleasure reading with our dedicated Kindle reader.

Whisperync is a terrific concept, but in execution Amazon has fallen a bit short. I'm hoping that we are in the early days of cross-method / cross-platform book syncing - and that Amazon will rapidly evolve this service.  

3 ideas for Whispersync:

1. Allow Kindle Book Purchases via Audible: The way it works now is that you purchase the "Whispersync Voice-Ready" Kindle book first from Amazon, and then you are given the option to buy the audiobook. For example, you can buy the Kindle edition of Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics for $9.55. You are then given the option of buying the Audible audio version for $7.95. On Audible, this book costs $19.59 or 1 credit for members. There is no way to go the other way, to buy the audiobook from Audible and add on the Kindle book. Most audiobook shoppers get our audiobooks from Audible, not from Amazon.  For audiobook fans, the audiobook is the primary means of reading. The e-book is an "add on." By requiring Whispersync purchases to go through the website, Amazon is making it more difficult to find and purchase books.

2. Bundle Kindle Books in with Audible Credits: The bigger problem with the Amazon/Kindle centric Whispersync system is that the program does not work well for Audible subscribers. I'm a longtime Audible Platinum subscriber, a program that gives me 24 books (really credits) for $229.50. This works out to $9.56 a book. The Whispersync program is a bad deal for me (and all Platinum subscribers), as the typical cost of a book would jump from under $10 bucks (for the audio version) to around $18 bucks.  What Audible should do is come out with a "super credit" - one that buys both the audio and the Kindle version of the book.  I would pay $12 a super credit, as having the book in both formats is valuable, but not so valuable that I want to double pay for the book. This seems like a good deal for the authors, the publishers, and Amazon - as delivering the digital audio and e-book file does not cost Amazon or the publishers anything extra. My guess is that making a dual format book affordable would drive book sales.

3. Introduce A Dedicated AudioBook Device: The idea of reading audiobook and e-books, with everything seamless syncing, is wonderful in theory. In reality, the hardware makes syncing across audio/e-book formats somewhat challenging. I listen to my audiobooks books on an iPod Nano. Since the Nano is not WiFi enabled syncing is impossible. Syncing only works when listening to the book on an iPhone, or a Kindle device.  Amazon should come out with a dedicated audiobook reader. Call it the Kindle Spark, or the Kindle Ember. A small device that works well for exercising, and that is WiFi enabled so syncing works.  A small screen would even allow for Kindle reading, and for purchases of digital books right from the device.

Can you improve upon these ideas?

Are you interested in dual format, audio and e-book reading?



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