Tag: audible

First Impressions Amazon Echo Dot and Home Automation

Hello all.  For something a little different today, I thought I’d share with you my first impressions of the Amazon Echo Dot and its pairing with the Philips Hue lighting system.  

I’ve been thinking about a an intelligent speaker for a while.  I regularly use Apple’s Siri on my iPhone to set alarms, timers etc and I was interested in having an always-on assistant in the home.  At the time of writing, there are three contenders in this market; the Amazon Echo, Google Home and the new Apple HomePod.  I was anxiously watching the Apple Keynote to see what kind of product Apple would announce.  While the HomePod looks interesting, its price was beyond my budget and also the emphasis seems to be on the Bluetooth speaker rather than the smart assistant integration.  The ability to play my Apple Music would have been nice though.  The Google Home was also of interest, but the Amazon Echo’s ability to play Audible audiobooks as well as the low price point of the Echo Dot were the deciding factors for me.  Our apartment is pretty small, and I only play music with a headset, so I couldn’t justify the extra expense for the better speaker part of the full Echo.

The Amazon Echo Dot is not officially available in Canada (why not Amazon?) so I had to turn to eBay to purchase one.  My eBay experience was excellent and it arrived a couple of days after I placed the order.  It arrived the same day as my Philips Hue White starter pack to enable smart lighting in our home.  I chose the Philips Hue system as it works with both Alexa and Siri.

The setup for both the Echo and the Hue lighting system was incredibly easy.  Fair enough, I am quite tech savvy, but if you are able to follow on-screen instructions and press buttons when required, you should have no problem.  In total, it took me about 45 minutes to have the Echo and the smart lighting setup and working fine.

The Philips Hue white starter pack comes with the Hue bridge (the tech that translates between your smartphone or the Echo and the bulbs) and two bulbs.  I placed one in our living room and one in our entryway.  However, I forgot that the light switch controlling the entryway turns on two bulbs, so I had to purchase another for the smart functionality to work.  I also have a white ambiance bulb (this one changes the colour temperature of the white light) and a colour changing bulb on order.  The lighting system works brilliantly.  It was easy to setup and it’s wonderful to be able to say “Hey Alexa turn on the living room lights” and they go on.  Apart from the fun aspect, it’s lovely to be able to turn the laundry room light on by voice if you’re carrying a basket full of laundry.  There are a lot more things you could do with it that I have not yet explored, such as the ability to have the lights come on at a specific time or to have them come on when you (or your GPS enabled smartphone) near home.  I am having a few challenges changing the colour temperature of the white ambiance bulb with Alexa, but I’ll continue to work on it.

The Amazon Echo Dot, too, is a lot of fun.  As well as the usual timers, alarms and general questions, I’ve used it successfully to get weather reports, a flash news briefing and to add things to my shopping list and to-do lists.  My to-do list manager of choice is TodoIst, and Alexa integrates wonderfully with it.  I maintain a shopping list on Todoist and asking Alexa to add something to my shopping list immediately adds it.  Likewise if I ask her to add something to my to-do list it will go onto my Today list in Todoist.  Asking her what I have on my to-do list will have her read out what’s on my Today view in Todoist.  Awesome.

I was concerned that, with Alexa not being supported in Canada some of the functionality may be missing.  It’s true that a lot of the location specific information is unavailable.  For example, if you just ask for a weather forecast it won’t pick up your Canadian location.  You have to specify “what’s the weather like in Montreal, Quebec.”  If you do that though it works fine.  Also you can’t ask it to find you the nearest Starbucks.  Mine thinks I’m in Seattle, so a long way to go for a coffee!  I understand you also can’t place any orders.  I was concerned though that it wouldn’t pick up my Audible account as it didn’t show in the Alexa app.  However, worked perfectly.

Like the App Store, Alexa has what they call a skill store. There you can download mini applications to enhance Alexa’s functionality.  Most of them are just a bit of fun, but others are useful, such as the Hue skill to integrate the ability to manage your lights.  I installed the Allrecipes and one called Miauw Miauw.  This allows Alexa to mew like a cat.  I had to uninstall it though as my own cat, Lushka, was freaking out thinking there was another cat in the apartment!

Avid reader that I am, the real Echo killer app if you like for me is the Audible integration.  Quite often I’ll be doing some chores and think, gosh I could be listening to my audiobook about now, but not been in a position to look for my phone, open Audible and start my audiobook.  With Alexa I can just say read my Scribe of Siena audiobook and she fetches it from Audible and starts playing it.  Add to this the quick connection with my Phonak Bluetooth streamer and it’s a real winner.  I only wish Amazon would add the ability to listen to audiobook samples via the Echo.

All in all, I’m really happy with my Alexa and the Hue light integration.  They are well worth checking out.  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Reading Roundup and Audiobook Giveaway!

First of all in honour of the new site name, Scottish eReader, and also in honour of my current obsession with Vampire Academy, I have decided to host a giveaway of the first three books in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series.  They are:

Vampire Academy Vampire Academy.  In which we first meet dhampir bodyguard-in-training Rose Hathaway and her best friend, good vampire Lissa Dragomir.  This is narrated by Stephanie Wolf. Go ahead and read my review of Vampire Academy.  Check out a sample.

Vampire Academy Frostbite.  This is the second book in the series and Rose’s relationship with Dimitri deepens as does her and Lissa’s knowledge of spirit magic.  This is narrated by one of my favourite narrators, Khristine Hvam.  Check out my thoughts on the book.  Check out a sample.

Vampire Academy Shadow Kiss.  Things start to get more serious between Rose and Dimitri and St Vladimir’s faces an unexpected threat and tragedy is ahead.  This is also narrated by Khristine Hvam.  Review coming soon.  Check out a sample.

The prize will be gift codes to pick up the first three books from Audible.com.  In order to enter the giveaway, please check out the books on Audible.com, OR share the giveaway on your favourite social media sites OR leave a comment below telling me why you would like to have these great books in audiobook format.  I will choose a winner at random on Friday 31st January 2014.  The prize will be Audible gift codes for the first three books in the series.  Note that you don’t need to subscribe to Audible to accept this prize.  As long as you have an Amazon account, you’re good to go. Good luck!

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Added to my library this week

Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and Last Sacrifice AKA the last three of the Vampire Academy books.  I picked these up in Kindle and Audiobook formats.

I used another Audible credit to preorder Words of Radiance from Audible.  This is the second in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive series.

From Netgalley I received an advance reader’s copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  The description intrigued me:  In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  I will of course post a review once I’ve read it.

I was also asked by the author, Chinenye Onyeaso to review The Land of Honey.  The story is about a couple who immigrate from Africa to Canada (set in Edmonton) and the journey and challenges and joys as they work to make a home in Canada. It captures the reality of life for immigrants and provides a window on how they tackle life in a new country, will they hold together and stay, or cut and run? as well as how the different cultures affect the relationship dynamics,  and helps the wife Anuli her find her voice.  I’ve read a few pages and loved the writing style.  I look forward to reading the rest of it, and will of course give my review.

Have a good week, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Legend by Marie Lu – Review

Legend by Marie Lu – ReviewLegend by Marie Lu
Series: Legend #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Mariel Stern, Steven Kaplan
Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Legend by Marie Lu is the first in a YA dystopian trilogy and tells the story of Day and June two teenagers on the opposite sides of the political fence.  June is a young government soldier, while Day is a freedom fighter.  When June’s brother is killed during a raid on a hospital in which Day is taking part, their paths collide.

What I liked

The romance.  It’s an old trope, but an effective one, to have the protagonists fall in love but be unaware that they are in fact mortal enemies because of their political viewpoints.  (see You’ve Got Mail, Pillow Talk, The Shop Around the Corner)The added personal motivation of Metias’, June’s brother’s death adds an extra element to the mix.  Lu builds up an excellent tension for the reveal of the identities to each other.  She actually had the revelation take place earlier in the book than I’d expected – however, it works well, as the rest of the book is devoted to finding out the truth behind Metias’ death.

The setting.  I found Lu’s world nicely written.  The dystopian side of it is very subtle at first, and it’s only when we learn more about it that its nature really becomes apparent.  This fits in with June’s growing understanding of her world.  I liked that our learning about the world was tied into the mystery of Metias’ death.

The characters.  I really liked both June and Day and was fascinated by the parallels, contrasts and comparisons drawn between them.  Sometimes it was a little heavy handed though – it didn’t need a character to explicitly say that their lives could have been the same had Day’s not taken a different turning at one point.  I liked that June was very book smart, but is rather naive and trusting whereas Day is equally intelligent, but his knowledge is more street smarts.  Unlike June, his experiences have made him bitter and not very trusting.  I liked that their relationship with each other made them both really think about their points of view.

What I didn’t like

The narration.  I found it hard to become engaged in the audio narration of this book.  I personally didn’t enjoy Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan’s narration, which I found rather flat.  That is my own opinion, and of course you may enjoy the narration.  Here’s a sample.

All in all, I really enjoyed Legend and gave it four stars out of five.  I look forward to continuing with the series.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

four-stars

Reading Roundup – 20th December 2014

Reading Roundup – 20th December 2014Various by Cassandra Clare, Kerstin Gier, Marie Lu, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: Various
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Dystopian, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from Audible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

As I may have mentioned before, my job requires me to work regular nightshifts.  Now, it’s a very reactive job, so some of the time you are waiting around for something to go wrong.  That is the point at which I rely on my audiobooks to get me through the nights.  I need to keep my eye on the computer screen at all times to watch for alerts, so I can’t really focus on a Kindle or other reading matter.  However, in those circumstances, audiobooks are a real lifesaver.  I can keep my eye on the screen while still enjoying my story.  Having my mind on the book also helps me stay awake.  As well as nightshifts, I also enjoy listening to a few chapters of a book before going to bed.  

With Whispersync for Voice it’s even awesomer.  During my breaks I can pick up the Kindle book for a bit of variety and it keeps my place.  I’m certain I wouldn’t get through as many books as I do if it weren’t for these nightshifts.  From January I’m moving to regular dayshifts so I fear my book consumption may drop, unfortunately. 

One production I listened to during this week’s nightshifts was the BBC Radio 4 production of Gaiman’s Neverwhere starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer and Benedict Cumberbatch which I picked up from Audible.  This is a wonderful production of a great story and I loved it.  McAvoy in particular really made me laugh with his interpretation of Richard Mayhew.  I understand it’s going to be repeated on the radio over the festive season, so I would definitely recommend catching this one.

When do you like to listen to audiobooks?  Let me know in the comments.

Added to my library this week

From Netgalley I picked up Hobbit Lessons – A Map for Life’s Unexpected Journeys by Devin Brown.  The blurb says: For generations, The Hobbit has been loved and shared by readers who thrilled to the challenges faced by the band of fourteen. Most didn’t realize, however, that some of life’s greatest lessons could be learned by going along on that journey. Discover these and other exiting truths from Bilbo Baggins journey—without the danger of being eaten by a dragon.  It sounded a fun read, so I picked it up.

Since I loved Cinder and Scarlet so much I used an Audible credit to preorder Cress, a book I also have on Kindle preorder.

I’ve been hearing a good deal of buzz about Veronica Rossi and when her Under the Never Sky was on special I picked it up on both Kindle and Audible.  I’m not 100% certain that the story will appeal to me, but for the price I paid I am certainly willing to give it a try.

So I’ll take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014.  I will be posting a review on Monday 23rd December and will do a year roundup and anticipation of 2014 the on Friday 27th.  Have fun!

four-half-stars

My Eight Top Audible narrators

As many of you know, I am a big fan of audiobooks.  I find though that I am very sensitive to the quality of the narrator.  Much of the time I will choose whether to buy a book in Audible format or Kindle format based on the Audible sample.  A great narrator can bring a whole extra dimension to a book, and so I thought I’d share some of my favourite narrators with you.

James Marsters

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is narrated by James Marsters whose narrative style fits perfectly the jaded, harassed attitude of Chicago’s only consulting wizard.  He doesn’t do distinct character voices to the extent of some narrators, but when Marsters is narrating he IS Harry Dresden.  This is one series that is definitely best experienced in audio format.  Check out a sample here:

Nathaniel Parker

At the helm of the Artemis Fowl series is Nathaniel Parker.  I’ve grown quite fond of narrators who have different voices for the different characters and Parker is one of the very best.  I adore his Irish accent for Artemis and if memory serves he has even distinguished between an Australian and New Zealand accent.  You can find a sample here

Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

These two narrators are very much linked in my mind because between them they narrate the Wheel of Time series.  An average WoT book is over 30 hours long, so it’s nice to have a switch up of narrator part way through.  I enjoy the voices they give to each character, with Reading’s Seanchan accent being particularly memorable.  Have a listen to this sample.

Marisa Calin

Marisa Calin narrates Kerstin Gier’s Gem trilogy and does a fantastic job.  One of the charms of this series is the main character, Gwyneth’s, spirit and humour and Calin captures that perfectly. 

Khristine Hvam

Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is narrated by Khristine Hvam.  Again this is a series I enjoyed in audio format thanks to Hvam’s wonderful narration.

Simon Vance

The second book in Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer trilogy, The Blinding Knife, is narrated by Simon Vance and was one of the first books I listened to in audio format.  It was partly due to Vance’s excellent narration that I became interested in audiobooks.

Samantha Bond

I came across Bond’s narration through her work on And Furthermore Judi Dench’s autobiography.  She captured very well the warmth and humour of the book.  I saw that she is narrating the new Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, so I switched my preorder from Kindle to Audible.  I think her narration will work very well for the book.

Honourable mention: Roy Dotrice

Although I personally have never enjoyed George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series in audio format, I know he is a fan favourite.  In fact, he is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most character voices for an individual audiobook.  My problem with the SoIaF audiobooks is simply that I got to know the HBO show before listening to the audiobook so Dotrice’s voices no longer match up to my own imagination – for me, Peter Dinklage IS Tyrion.

So, are your favourites on this list?  Who do you enjoy listening to?  Let me know in the comments.

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott – Review

cold_magic
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott – ReviewCold Magic by Kate Elliott
Series: Spiritwalker Trilogy #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Charlotte Parry
Length: 17 hrs and 45 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott is the first in the Spiritwalker trilogy and tells the story of Cat Hassi Barahal as she comes to terms with the strange new path her life is taking her and the new powers she acquires.  Cold Magic has been on my TBR list for some time.  I’d picked it up several months back when it was on special offer on Kindle for $1.99, but never got round to reading it.  It moved up the list a few weeks ago when I read an intriguing article on the magic system, yet it never quite made it to the top.  Finally  a couple of weeks ago, Audible released it as an audiobook.  This is the first of the books to be released on Audible, so I picked it up to listen to during my nightshifts and it finally made it to the top of the list.  I’m very glad it did!

What I liked

Interesting themes.  Elliott explores some interesting themes in this novel.  One of the major ones is magic vs technology.  The society in which Cat lives is beginning to make progress with industrialisation and this engenders conflict with the powerful Mage Houses, the magic wielders.  It is notable that the brunt of the Cold Mages’ destructive power is directed at symbols of industry and innovation – an airship and a factory.  I look forward to seeing where this goes in the subsequent books

Another interesting theme is that of family and betrayal.  Cat feels deeply betrayed by the actions of her uncle and aunt as does Andevai’s family to some extent by his changed attitude since his becoming a Cold Mage.

Identity is another interesting theme explored in the series.  Cat strongly identifies with the Hassi Barahals who raised her, but after what she perceives as their betrayal she is no longer certain about who she is, especially given the new powers she discovers. When she meets her half brother Rory, her identity is thrown into even more confusion.  This theme is even more apparent in the character of Andevai who is torn between his identity as a member of a poor but loving family and his status as a Cold Mage.  It appears he is struggling to fit in with either community.

The worldbuilding.  Ms Elliott’s blog is entitled “I make up worlds”  and it’s clear this is something she very much enjoys.  The worldbuilding in Cold Magic is excellent.  I enjoyed the alternative history variation of our world that she has created.  I especially enjoyed the intelligent trolls – one of whom is a solicitor!

I understand one of the lynchpins of the series is intended to be the relationship between Cat and her cousin Bee, whom she loves like a sister.  It’s clear that they are very close, and protecting each other is a major motivation for the two.  However, the cousins don’t spend much time together in this book so it doesn’t come across as strongly as it might.  I suspect this may be more prominent in the next two books.

The narration.  I listened to the audiobook narrated by Charlotte Parry.  A poor or mediocre narrator adds little to a book other than saving you the trouble of reading it for yourself, offering little more than the Kindle’s robotic text to speech.  A great narrator, on the other hand, really brings the characters to life.  Ms Parry is of the second variety.  It was easy to tell which character was speaking by the voice she used, and she picked up the stage directions perfectly (he said coldly, for example).  Here is a sample.

      Cold Magic

What I didn’t like

The overall story arc.  At this point, I’m not entirely certain what our protagonist’s goals are other than self preservation and what the consequences might be if she fails to achieve them.  I hope this is clarified in the subsequent books.

All in all, I very much enjoyed Cold Magic and gave it four stars out of five

 Buy amazon Buy kobo Badge bookstore lrg Buy audible

four-stars

Reading Roundup – 23rd August 2013

It certainly isn’t a good week to be a bookworm in Quebec.  Canada’s Globe and Mail is reporting that Quebec’s legislature has opened a hearing on pricing for new books.  Being discussed is the question of whether or not to prevent the price of new books being discounted by more than 10% for the first nine months after release.  The stated intention behind this is to protect the smaller bookstores, especially smaller Francophone ones, from the big hitters such as Amazon and Walmart.  Now, while I can appreciate the sentiment, I’m really not certain that keeping book prices high is really going to help anyone.  Smaller bookstores are never going to be able to compete with Amazon on price, so perhaps the government should concentrate on supporting them other ways.  For example subsidising author signings in the province, sponsoring book groups, or subsidising the cost of Quebecois francophone books.  Most Quebec produced books are still noticeably more expensive than their English counterparts.

This week I have been working nightshift.  As my job is very reactive – sitting around waiting on servers burping, not many human callers – I find it’s a perfect time to enjoy some audiobooks.  The books help to keep me awake, but I can keep my eye on my computer screen at the same time watching for issues.

I couldn’t decide what to listen to.  I was torn between Insurgent – the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Summer Knight (Dresden Files book four), Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic or Golem and the Jinni.   Now, I can often tell by the sample provided by Audible how much I’m going to enjoy the book so I went and took a listen.  It was a very close call, but Summer Knight just edged out Cold Magic.  Here’s the winning sample.

      Summer Knight

James Marsters’ narration of this series is pitch perfect, and this sample is an excellent demonstration of the talents of both writer and narrator.  It rained toads.  Let me say that again.  It rained TOADS, great big slimy TOADS!  And, of course, things don’t get any better or easier for poor Harry.  If you have not yet started this series about Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only consulting wizard/private eye I can strongly recommend it.  It’s also an excellent one to start on audiobooks thanks to Marsters’ wonderful work.  

The sample for Cold Magic also drew me in and had me wanting more – it will be one of the next books I listen to.

Added to my library this week

Audible gave me a free $5 voucher, so I spent it on Hammered, the next in the Iron Druid series.

With Cold Magic, I’m on a bit of a Kate Elliott kick, so I added King’s Dragon to my library.  This is the first in a the Crown of Stars series, one I’ve read before apart from the last book.  I had been reading it in hard copy, and they got donated to a secondhand store when I left New Zealand.  This is why I love my Kindle!

I made the mistake of browsing Amazon’s monthly deals on my Kindle Fire, and ended up purchasing two cat mystery books.  One, Murder in a Casbah of Cats apparently tells the story of a PI who cat sits for a millionaire thinking it will be an easy job.  Sounds like famous last words… I have a feeling he’d rather be back with the criminals!  Sounded like a fun read for a couple of dollars.

The second one I picked up was Kitty Kitty Bang Bang about a pet therapist dealing with upper crust kitties in Laguna Beach whose owners keep turning up dead.  That sounded fun, too.  Again this is on special for a couple of dollars.

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season.  Some people are even calling Shannon the next J.K. Rowling.  That’s high praise indeed.  I couldn’t resist, so I added it.  I will of course let you know what I think.  I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Sigh.  My TBR list keeps growing rather than getting less.

What did you add to your library this week?  Let me know in the comments.

Audible and Canadian Kindle Fires – Progress!

This evening when I went to download my latest Audible read to my Canadian Kindle Fire, I got a big surprise.  A message popped up advising me that I could now listen to and shop for audiobooks natively from my Kindle Fire and that I should uninstall the Audible app.  I did so and found that my audiobook played in a new, integrated player.

Screenshot 2013 08 17 18 29 37

I also noticed that individual Audible audiobooks now appear in my carousel and can be added individually to the Favourites drawer rather than just the Audible app itself.  Being a Kindle, of course they’re trying to sell you things, and I see that when I view an audiobook in the carousel, I now get recommendations for other audiobooks.

Searching the Kindle is now integrated with my Audible library.  Searching for an audiobook will find it in your Audible library ready for downloading.

It seems that they’re not quite there yet with the integration though.  Audiobooks doesn’t appear in the top menu bar, and clicking on one of the audiobook recommendations doesn’t take you anywhere yet.  Clicking on Shop still only shows three options available to Canadians: Books, Games and Apps.

At this point Audible books are still not showing available from Amazon.ca and Immersion Reading doesn’t yet work.  However, the arrival of the integrated app for Canadians and the indication that we will be able to shop for them would strongly suggest that the rest of the integration is not far behind.

Personally, I’m really excited about this development – the lack of Audible integration for Canadians was my one major disappointment about the Kindle Fire.  I really look forward to future developments.

What developments would you like to see for the Kindle Fire?

Audible and Kindle – A Match Made in Heaven

Get 1 free audiobook credit at audible.com!

As many of my regular readers will know, I am a big fan of both ebooks and audiobooks.  For those of you unsure about e-reading or looking to take the first step, take a look at my Newbie’s Guide to eReading.  If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

For my audiobook needs I go to Audible.  Here’s how it works.  You can either buy audiobooks at full price, with no membership or monthly commitment.  An average audiobook, say for example The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling, costs around $25 USD for non members.  A larger book, like say Fires of Heaven from the Wheel of Time may be as much as $60 USD, but most are in the $25 USD range.

Alternatively, you can choose to take a membership with Audible.  The basic plan $14.95 USD per month which gives you one credit per month to use on any audiobook.  An ideal introduction to Audible.  The Platinum plan, which I have, is two credits to spend on books a month.  That costs $22.95 USD per month.  They also have an Annual plan for which you pay $149.50 USD for 12 credits or $229.50 USD for 24.  Try Audible Now and Get A FREE Audiobook.  Monthly memberships also entitle you to substantial discounts on a la carte audiobooks over and above your one or two a month.

I understand that many of you may be reluctant to sign up for a monthly plan.  With Audible there is no term commitment.  You are free to cancel your membership at any time with no additional charges.  Audible is part of the Amazon family, which means outstanding customer service.  I can personally confirm that cancelling a membership is no problem.  I did that at one point before I became addicted to audiobooks.  If memory serves, they offered me a deal where I paid something like $10 or $20 a year, got no credits, but retained my membership discount on a la carte audiobooks, but I could just as easily have cancelled.

As I mentioned, Audible is part of the Amazon group of companies which allows it to offer the totally awesome Whispersync for Voice.  This is where the Kindle ebook and Audible are bundled together and your place is synced across all devices both for reading and listening.  You do have to buy the two separately, but the Audible audiobook is offered at a substantial discount, usually for $3.99 – $12.99 USD.  With Whispersync for Voice I might listen to a chapter or two on my iPhone during my commute, read on my Kindle during my lunch hour, switch back to Audible to travel back home and I never need to worry about keeping my place no matter what medium I’m enjoying – Amazon and Audible do all that for you.  Not every audiobook or Kindle book is setup for Whispersync for Voice, but a significant number are, and it’s growing.

You can see what I mean by looking at my Audible library:

Audible ws library

You can see that under the eBook companion column, Knife of Dreams has Whispersync for Voice enabled.

Ws 2

Here you can see that I have the audiobook for The Count of Monte Cristo and as I don’t yet own the matching Kindle ebook it is prompting me to purchase it.

If you’re in the US, Amazon makes it super easy for you to get setup with Whispersync for Voice.  If a Kindle book is compatible it will have the words Whispersync for Voice: Ready right at the top of the book details.  Once you’ve purchased it, you will be asked if you want to purchase the matching Audible audiobook at a reduced cost and passed through to Audible.   Conversely, if you’ve bought the Audible book first, clicking on the Buy Matching Kindle Book link will take you to Amazon where you can buy the book at a reduced price.  For example, for Kushiel’s Dart I would be offered the Kindle book at $5.99 instead of the $10.25 it would normally cost.

If you have a Kindle Fire, it’s even easier.  When buying a Kindle book you will be prompted to Add Professional Narration for between $3.99 USD and $12.99 USD.  You can then access Immersion Reading where you can follow along on the Kindle and the text will be highlighted as the audio narration progresses.

For those of us not in the US, it is a little trickier.  Whispersync for Voice isn’t advertised nearly as well as for our US cousins.  For example in the Canadian store, the one I use, the Whispersync for Voice: Ready is not highlighted in the description.  Searching for Whispersync for Voice doesn’t bring any results unlike in the US Store.  However, it does work;  you just need to be a little more creative.

Here’s how I’ve found it working for me.  I go to Audible first and search for the book in which I’m interested.  Let’s take Knife of Dreams as an example.

Kod

You see that Whispersync for Voice-ready is highlighted in red, so this book is enabled for the service.  You will see that it is showing the normal member price of $39.15.  Don’t buy the Audible book yet!  Next, I go to the Canadian Kindle store and search for the book

KoD2

Whispersync for Voice is not mentioned anywhere, so you need to take the chance and hope it’s the right version.  Once you’ve bought the Kindle book, head on back to Audible where you’ll see something like this (using The Cuckoo’s Calling  as an example here):

Cuckoo

You will see that you are now being offered the Audible book at a reduced price – $12.99 USD instead of $17.18 USD – because you own the Kindle ebook.  Buy it and you’re all set up for Whispersync for Voice.  Enjoy! I understand Audible hopes to integrate more fully for those of us in Canada at some point, but not quite yet.  I look forward to it.

If you’re interested in trying it out, check out Audible’s Whispersync for Voice information page. It will help you get setup with a classic novel to help you try it out.  I can thoroughly recommend it.

If you have any questions on Audible or about Whispersync for Voice please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help out.

Reading Roundup – 21st June 2013

This week could more easily have been described as “listening roundup” as I’ve been listening more than reading – or rather I have been listening and reading along on my brand spanking new Kindle Fire.

Here is what I have been reading and listening to this past week. 

I recently finished Siege and Storm in both Kindle and Audible by Leigh Bardugo, the followup to Shadow and Bone.  To be honest I was rather disappointed in this book.  I loved the Russian-style setting of the first book, and my enjoyment of this continued into the second book.  However, I found the pacing of this second book rather slow.  After a promising start, the story slows down to a crawl.  It also annoys me when young protagonists suddenly find themselves in a leadership position with no training or experience, just because they have some unrelated power.  

On a positive side some new and very interesting characters were introduced, especially Sturmhond.  Also the ending picked up again dramatically and I will certainly read the final book in the Grisha trilogy to see how it all ends.

I listened to Graceling by Kristin Cashore from Audible which was marked as a full cast production.  I have to say it really irritated me. Clearly the cast wasn’t in the room at the same time, so there was a pause waiting on the next person speaking.  That really threw me out of the story.

This week I was also directed to the Gem trilogy by German author Kerstin Gier.  Originally written in German, it is set in London and tells the story of Gwyneth, a young girl whose family carries a time travelling gene.  Thanks @katytastic for the recommendation.  I LOVED this book.  Gwyneth is a fun character, and for the audiobook Marisa Calin’s narration really brings it to life.  I particularly appreciated that, unlike her cousin, Gwyneth hasn’t been inducted into the family’s secrets, so we learn at the same time she does, often by her mistakes.

I have finished the audiobook for the sequel, Sapphire Blue, and also started the German ebook of Smaragdgrun (Emerald Green).  The English translation of the book doesn’t come out til October and I don’t want to wait that long!  My husband must be irritated that I have my headphones on the whole time listening to it.

I have also started to read/listen to Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist.  It’s early days yet, but so far so good.

Added to my Library this week

  • Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier – both Kindle and Audible formats
  • Smaragdgruen by Kerstin Gier – Kindle format (Amazon Germany)
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore – both Kindle and Audible formats
  • Infinity Blade by Brandon Sanderson – Kindle format
  • Blood Skies by Stephen Montano – Kindle format

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