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eBooks vs Audiobooks: is there a middle ground?

Short answer: yes.


I don't champion digital books, nor do I oppose paper ones. What I advocate for is fostering a love for reading and ensuring easy access to it.


In a world saturated with information and dwindling attention spans, finding time to immerse oneself in a book, especially for the younger generation glued to TikTok, can be challenging.


Convenience is a crucial factor in encouraging more reading. Easy access to books can be a driving force, and this is where ebooks prove beneficial.


Personally, I've turned to ebooks out of necessity. Like many adults, my life is bustling with activity. While a weekend trip to the bookstore is enjoyable, the desire to read strikes at unpredictable moments. For me, reading is a way to unwind after a hectic day, exploring non-fiction like Seth Godin's The Song of Significance or escaping into J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers when tired.


My goal is to read a book a month, but that goal presents its challenges.


With a day spent weekly in the car, I've turned to audiobooks to make that time productive. However, this is another issue of audiobooks: they are audio only. Personally, I can’t listen to a book while not doing anything and just stare into the distance (or at the wall) while the book is read to me. I would like to read this myself and use that excellent personal interior voice (that is always better) and also have my own pace of reading, re-reading a paragraph or stop and laugh (or cry) after a good plot point.


So the problem presents itself: if I am 2 hours into listening the audiobook and I want to jump to reading the ebook from where the audiobook stopped, how do I do that?


Solution: Whispersync


Whispersync, an Amazon technology, allows seamless switching between ebook and audiobook versions of the same title.


Requirements


  1. Kindle Account - this feature is exclusive to ebooks bought in the Kindle Store

  2. Works on iPhones, Android phones an tablets (I tried on iPads, but I would expect Android tablets and Amazon Fire tables will work too)

  3. You need to purchase the ebook via Kindle store and the Audiobook via Audible (both Amazon products), or use your credit in Audible

If you have an Audible account, the technology is possible too, found a detailed explanation of how to do that here.


The way I use Whispersync is via the Kindle App.


Let’s take The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien as an example.


As you can see in the below example, I have the ebook opened on my phone in the Kindle app and I am at 79% in the book.


If I tap anywhere on the page, I get the submenu that has a play button:



All I have to do is press the Play button and the audio version will start from the top of the page.


Connect the phone to any device you want (car, headphones, etc.) and the audio will output to that. The audio will play in the background, so you can continue to use the phone as normal. Once I want to return to reading, the app will be at the page where the audio stopped.


Magic!


However, not all books support Whispersync, particularly newly released ones. The ebook and audiobook versions must align for the technology to work. When purchasing a book in the Amazon store, look out for the Whispersync-ready sign to ensure compatibility.

While this may be familiar to some, for me, it has revitalised my passion for reading. I hope it does the same for others.



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