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Our Curriculum Is Not Whispersyncing
September 10, 2012 - 9:00pm

Have I told you how much I love audiobooks? Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the instant purchasing, lower prices, and multi-platform flexibility of Kindle e-books? Have we talked about our concerns about the ever widening gap between the curriculum and consumer content experience?

Well, things have just gotten better. And things have just gotten worse.

As an audio and e-book reader the world has been improving. Last week Amazon announced a new feature, Whispersync for Voice

Here's how it works. Buy the Kindle book, and for a reduced price you get the Audible audio version. For instance, the Kindle version of Brain Bugs is $10.95.  You can pick up the Audible audio version for $4.95 extra.   

The e-book and audiobook version are "Whispersync for Voice-ready." This means that the audio and the Kindle e-book version will sync up, providing that you listen to the audiobook on an iOS, Android or any Kindle tablet. You can check out a video from Amazon on how this works here.

I tested this out with a free version (in audio and Kindle) of a Tale of Two Cities.  

The syncing feature worked great when reading with my third generation Kindle (the Kindle Keyboard) and my iPhone for audio. The only problem I can see is that I usually don't like to listen to audiobooks on my iPhone, as I like the physical controls on my 5th generation iPod Nano.  (I'm actually sort of worried about the loss of the click wheel in the current Nano's).   

Despite what I consider a less than ideal platform for audiobook listening (an iPhone), I could see getting into Whispersync for Voice in a big way. The ability to switch back and forth seamlessly between audio and e-text is extremely appealing. Sometimes I want to read on a screen, sometimes I need to listen (while multi-tasking) - bringing these two experiences together would I think encourage more reading.  

So why have things gotten worse?

You know where this is going.  

This is where I lament that our course readings are often stuck in the old days of photocopied course packs.  

That we should not be surprised if our students read less and less assigned reading, and therefore get assigned less reading, if the consumer reading options are so much more flexible than the curricular options. That students are incredibly busy people, and finding a way that they can do the reading while multitasking (treadmill, beer pong, whatever) and then seamlessly switch to e-text would encourage more course reading.

Do any of us really believe that we have any chance to catch up to the consumer content experience with our curricular delivery systems? That we should even try? 

Should we admit defeat in our battle to compete with the Apple's and Amazon's and Google's of the world in the hope of winning a larger war? This larger war being the idea that getting an education was never supposed to be easy, and that having to work around limited digital options for completing course reading should not be considered a hardship when most of the rest of the world would sacrifice anything for the privilege of participating in higher education?

I could make this argument, but giving up on the "higher ed vs. consumer" meme would put too many edtech bloggers out of business.

Do you have any plans to be whispersyncing?    

If in some alternate universe this option was available to our students for all of they're readings, do you think that they would then read more?


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