Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

Kindle books have a lot of features that p-books (paperbooks) don’t have. However, not all of them work in all books or all types of devices/apps.

You probably don’t care about all of them equally, either.

For example, I won’t buy a book without text-to-speech (unless it is a graphic novel where the feature isn’t possible). I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car, and I don’t want to support books which don’t have it, because I feel that blocking the TTS (which is the way it works…if a publisher does nothing, TTS works) disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

For you, though, TTS (software which converts the visual words into spoken words on the fly) might be no big thing. Most people probably don’t use it…that would be my guess.

On the other hand, you might like Whispersync for Voice, where you can sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook (a recording of a person reading the book out loud, typically…very different fromTTS) and pick up where you left off.

Me? Meh. I just don’t use that…I’m not a big fan of audiobooks, unless I’ve already read the book (I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me), and I don’t tend to re-read very much. I can absolutely understand why people like it, though.

What’s weird to me is that Amazon doesn’t make it equally easy to search by all the different features.

Oh, I suppose some of it is marketing. If you point out that some books have TTS, you are really pointing out that others have blocked it…that may not be a message you want front and center as a retailer.

So, let’s take a look at finding books where you can use these two features, and then you can use one or both of them…up to you.

Whispersync for Voice

Amazon has a special easy-to-use web address for this one:

This actually takes you to the front page for this feature, which explains it and gives you links to free WSV books, ninety-nine centers…and in a wonderful new feature, it will automatically search your Kindle books looking for matches!

That was cool! It’s the best listing of WSV books I’ve seen. It shows you, easily, who the narrator is, and how much you’ll save getting the book as WSV as opposed to buying it separately as an audiobook (which you would have to do if you hadn’t bought the e-book). For me, for example, it showed this for

More Than Human
By Theodore Sturgeon
Narrated by Harlan Ellison
List Price: $20.97
Upgrade Price: $3.99
You Save: $16.98 (81%)

The fact that this is read by the truly significant author, Harlan Ellison, makes this much more intriguing for me.

If you want WSV, it’s easy to find.

If you only want books where text-to-speech hasn’t been blocked? Not so much.

Amazon doesn’t let you search by that, and doesn’t have a page for it.

What I’ve done, however, is use Google.

You can specify the site you want Google to search, by starting your search with something like “”.

I’ve then added some search terms to make it more likely to find what I want.

For example, Kindle book product pages will have the term “ASIN” (Amazon Standard Identification Number) on them. That helps cut down on false positives in my search…for one thing, TTS gets discussed in the Amazon forums, and if I don’t include that ASIN, I’ll get a number of hits for those discussions, not for actual books.

Here is the search I used: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price”

and the results:

Again, it’s not perfect, but it will work pretty well. You could add other things to that search if you want…for example, an author’s name: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” “Harlan Ellison”

or a topic: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” vampire

If you are wondering when to use the quotation marks and when not to use them, use them if you need more than one word to be taken as a single term. For example, if I did “vampire romance”, the found books would have to have that as a phrase. If I did

vampire romance

it will probably find books which have the word “vampire” and books that have the word “romance”. When I tested it, there were many, many more results when I didn’t use the quotation marks.

Have fun getting an earful of your books!

While we’re here, let’s do a quick poll:

Want to tell me more about it? Do you find that people consider it inferior to listen to books rather than sight-read them? I’ve gotten that from people: “You didn’t read it, you listened to it.” I wonder if those people think people with print disabilities aren’t reading the book? I will say, though, that I think my retention may not be as good when listening…perhaps because there is less mental processing involved. Do you prefer audiobooks over TTS? If so, why? Have you ever listened to TTS because you didn’t want to pay extra for an audiobook? That is, I think, why some publishers block TTS…they think that’s what happens. Feel free to let me and my readers (which likely include some publishers) know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

6 Responses to “Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books”

  1. Phink Says:

    Whispersync for voice is by far my favorite option. Before I heard of the kindle a few years ago I would buy the audio book and hardcover both if I could afford both or get the audio book from the library and play the audio book while reading the story. When Whispersync was introduced I felt as though I hit the jackpot. As a matter of fact I paid $199 for the kindle fire just for that option. I have a Galaxy for my real tablet use. I may be the only one who follows this blog that uses the fire pretty much for Whispersync only. I think listening to a great voice such as Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) adds to the experience. He did a great job with Judge and Jury. The best ever is the Harry Potter reader whose name escapes me.

  2. Phink Says:

    I said whispersync but I meant Immersion reading. Woops.

  3. EJC Says:

    While I admire your stance against books which do not allow TTS, I think your reasoning is flawed, My father lost the majority of his sight a few years ago. His passion has always been reading. I encouraged my mom to buy him a Kindle keyboard because of the TTS capability. He does not use it because even with voiced menus, it is difficult for him to turn on and off. On the other hand, audiobooks are easy for him to listen to on his KK.

    He has discovered that many textbooks in his field are in audio format and even read the figures to him. TTS cannot do this. For Dad’s level of vision which causes severe problems with reading, audiobooks are by far the better choice.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, EJC!

      I appreciate that perspective.

      One of the interesting things is that the range of print disabilities is huge, and if we include print challenges (those which do not rise to the legal definition of a disability), it becomes a situation of even greater diversity.

      There are people for whom, as you point out, TTS is not going to be the best solution. However, blocking TTS does not, in turn, mean that an audiobook is more available. In terms of my feeling about the appropriateness of it, I’m not arguing in favor of TTS over audiobooks. I’m arguing against blocking people from having the option of using TTS at no cost to the publisher.

      For some people with print disabilities and challenges, TTS is a wonderful feature. For others, it isn’t. For me, that still means that blocking that access is a disadvantage to some (but not all) of the people with these issues.

      As to personal taste, well, that’s an entirely different kettle of text. 🙂 My personal taste is definitely towards TTS over audiobooks. That has very little (if anything) to do with my stance, though. If it was a question of enabling TTS, as opposed to blocking it (which is the current situation), I would without qualms buy books without TTS. I also will (and have) bought EBRs (E-Book Readers) with no audio capabilities at all. I don’t think every device has to be accessible to every group, and wouldn’t pass up on a device because it doesn’t have TTS or other accessibility features built into it. Taking the active step to block access, though, feels different. Just my opinion on that, though. 🙂

      I’m glad your father has found a solution that works well for him. Others may find other solutions that work well for them…if they aren’t reading a lot of non-fiction with diagrams and such, like your father does, the inability to read out images may be less of a factor.

      Oh, and he appears to be able to open the books without assistance, right? I think these are the right shortcuts for TTS for the Kindle 3:

      Shift+Sym = start or stop TTS
      Spacebar = pause or resume TTS

  4. Gary Korzelius Says:

    I have always enjoyed Audiobooks all the way back when they called themselves “Books on Tape” and they had to mail them to you on cassette for your “Walkman”.

    I have never mixed the two though, either I listen to it or read it not both. With this new Whisper sync option I might actually start, you see I deliver mail for a living and can’t get much reading done while walking. So to be able to switch back and forth would allow me to read a whole bunch more books. Seems like a winner to me

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Gary!

      For me, driving time is like walking time for you. 🙂 I was a little surprised that so few people said they listened to books when I first checked the poll, but it is evening out. I always jokingly say that, “Driving time for me is no longer wasted non-reading time.” 😉 I certainly prefer it to talk radio, or commercial music radio stations. Sirius came with the car for three years, but I don’t plan on paying for it after that…

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