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Amazon's Whispersync, Reading and Higher Ed
October 31, 2013 - 9:00pm

The real question is what you think about the relationship between consumer technology and higher ed?

Is higher ed competing with Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. etc.?

What does that question even mean? What exactly are we competing for? Attention? Relevancy? Eyeballs? Dollars?  

This is the framework that we should take into thinking about what Amazon’s Whispersync technology means for higher ed.

If you haven’t tried Whispersync out yet then perhaps you are not an audiobook freak and a e-book enthusiast.   

A Whispersync enabled books means that (if both versions are purchased) that the audio book (played on an iOS, Android, or Windows Audible app) and an e-book (read on a Kindle or Kindle app) stays synced.

I’m totally hooked.

The proportion of Amazon book buyers that purchase both the Kindle and Audible versions of a given Whispersync enabled book is probably small. Amazon is not telling. But those of us that go the Whispersync route are dedicated book readers.  

We buy lots of books.   

We tell lots of people about our books.

You should definitely read The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer.

I’m listening and reading to this book now, (Whispersync style), and loving every minute.   

Whispersync increases how much reading I can do. I listen when I drive, walk, do dishes, fold laundry, run on the treadmill. I read in bed at night on my Kindle Paperwhite, and while waiting in line or in between meetings on my iPhone Kindle app.    

The audio and e-book formats reinforce each other. Reading and listening the synced book encourages more reading.

If given the choice, all my books will be Whispersync.  

So what does this mean for our students? What does this mean for the books and articles that we assign in our classes?

What if students are like me? What if they come to expect and want books on multiple platforms, on multiple screens, and in multiple formats?   

What if our students start saying:  “I’m paying all this tuition?  How come my information experience is so much better with Amazon than at your expensive university?”

Or worse, what if falling behind Amazon means that our students end up never falling in love the the books that we love so much? The books that we care enough about to put on our syllabus.

Whispersync is changing how I read.

Will the sort of consumer choice in the world of information that Whispersync represents have any impact how we think about curriculum, libraries, teaching, and learning?

What is the bigger risk for higher ed? Paying attention to Whisperync or ignoring Whisperync?

 

 

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