Alexa, tell me a bedtime story (Audible comes to the Echo)
Update: as June 23rd, the general public can now pre-order Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) with an “in stock” date of July 14th.
Thanks to regular reader and commenter Harold Delk for the heads up on this!
This is something people with the
have wanted, and it’s another major new feature.
Your Echo (not yet available to the public on general sale, but a number of people have them, including me, when they opened it to invitation only sales) can now read you your Audible audiobooks!
Now, some of you might be surprised that I’m excited by that. Regular readers know I great prefer to listen to text-to-speech (TTS…software reading a book out loud to you) as opposed to audiobooks…unless I’ve already read the book.
For me, an audiobook is like a movie: it gives me someone else’s interpretations of the characters. Even when the person reading the audiobook is the author, I prefer to layer that onto the words myself.
Listening to TTS is, for me, like sight-reading…reasonably neutral. Yes, there are some mistakes (is “lives” the plural of “life” or a verb, for example?), but that’s akin to typos in a p-book (paperbook)…I do okay with those in both formats.
So, there are definitely times I might want the Echo to read me a book I’ve already read.
If you go into your Echo app (you probably have it on your phone, but you could be getting to it on a computer at http://echo.amazon.com), you’ll now see “Audible” as a choice in your menu.
“Audible” is an audiobook company, owned by Amazon.
Even though I’ve almost never bought an audiobook, I have 41 books there. That’s from free audiobooks, often that you can get because you bought the e-book.
If I want to hear Tim Curry reading A Christmas Carol, for example, I can now ask the Echo to play that for me.
This also works with Audible books you have with many books you may have borrowed from
This could work very well for kids, although I would use it as an adult.
These are the commands (maybe we should call those “requests”….commands sounds so…imperious) ;) you can do audibly with the Echo:
- “Alexa (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming…that’s going to be true for the rest of these requests), play the book [title]”
- “Alexa, play the audiobook [title]”
- “Alexa (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming), play [title] from Audible”
- “Alexa, (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming), read [title]”
- “Alexa, pause”
- “Alexa, resume my book”
- “Alexa, go back [30 seconds]”
- “Alexa, go forward [30 seconds]”
Skipping chapter is not currently supported by voice. You can skip chapters using the Echo app.
It will, by the way, know where you were in the book…even if you were sight-reading the e-book (if it’s Whispersync for Voice compatible).
By the time the Echo is released for general purchase (I’m guessing that’s in July), it will be quite impressive and even practical.
I guess I should say a quick word about what the Echo is. It’s an “ambient computing” device. You are using it somewhat like you would use Siri on your iPhone, but it’s always on and available. It can hear you quite well…across a room, perhaps in other rooms (and the latter definitely with an included remote).
Will it become part of your life?
I think so. It has recently been passing a test of that for me. :) I find myself wanting to use it when it isn’t available. In other words, I spontaneously see a use for it, not just when I see it or consciously think of it.
For example, I got out of the shower this morning, and wanted to hear the news. I’m away from my Echo right now, but I just wanted to say, “Alexa, what’s the news?” I would have heard a summary from several sources, some of it in recorded human voices, some of it via text-to-speech. Instead, I had to go into a different room and turn on the TV for CNN. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was an inconvenient time.
More than once, I’ve wanted to ask the Echo for weather information when it wasn’t available.
Oh, I’ve also now reordered something using the Echo. That worked just fine. It’s really a remarkable product:
We have animals around our house. We aren’t in the wilds, we’re in a suburb…but there is open space not far from us. We don’t see raccoons at our house, for example, but they might get under the deck. All of this gets our terriers really going: that’s part of why we are having somebody do yard clean-up right now. That should reduce unwanted animals. Oh, and I just found out one of our neighbors had a family of red foxes under their house! As the California drought continues, we’ll see a lot more of this…particularly, cougars in the suburbs.
This product is just like a regular kitchen garbage bag…but it smells like mint. The smell is somewhat strong at first, but not unpleasant.
We had a spot where there was a rat hole, and I tried a few things. Just sticking one of these bags in the rat hole worked! No sign of them at that hole again (which I had even covered up with aluminum foil previously, which often works…they chewed through that).
I was told what the cost of reordering the bags was going to be (you can currently only reorder Prime eligible products…not order something new, and not something which isn’t Prime) and could have declined. Interestingly, despite what I just said, this order wasn’t Prime…but had been last time, I think. It still ordered it.
Let me share with you a suggestion I’ve made to Amazon (through the Echo app), which I think could be huge for them.
I suggested that they let us give items we’ve ordered “friendly names”…”Pat’s vitamins”, “Mint garbage bags”, “Fluffy’s favorite cat toy”, and so on). That’s especially useful for the Echo, but would also be valuable for searching orders at the website
It would greatly add to “stickiness” for Amazon customers as well. You might not even remember the formulation of those vitamins (although it would give you the official name when you reordered it as part of the confirmation), which would make you less likely to want to go somewhere else. If you had one hundred of those (we could have that), recreating it would be a bear, even if another site allowed it.
I told them I’d like to be able to retroactively go back through my previous orders and add those names.
We’ll see if we get it. :)
Until then, for those of you who can, enjoy your Echo reading you a book around the house!
Whoops, one last thing: at this point, the Echo doesn’t have a sleep timer…so if you start it reading a book and then fall asleep, I assume it would just keep going until the book finished. I suspect a sleep timer is coming…
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.