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UPDATE: Whyspersync for Voice is now enabled on the Windows Phone 8.  The Windows client is now second to none and provides a great experience. Great job Audible!

Updated (again): Paperwhite Version 2 is an incremental update whose software features are now available in the Version 1 Paperwhite. Some thoughts on V2 are discussed at the end or the article 

Updated (final?): Voyage is the latest iteration of the Kindle. See here for a review.

Note (clearly not final): Paperwhite Version 3 is a substantial update with a resolution upgrade that matches the Voyage. See more here.

If you’re a dedicated Kindle fan, you probably know that Amazon has enabled a new feature: Whispersync for Voice. Essentially, it allows you to synch your reading of a Kindle book and listening to the audio version of it from Audible. This was a beautifully executed plan by M. Bezzos and Co. that began with Amazon’s acquisition Audible in the summer of 2008. Now when I get in the car for my brief morning commute (thanks Raleigh), I can continue listening to Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder from the same place I left off on my Kindle. Wicked cool; of course the device on which you listen to Audible books will need to be connected to the internet and the book needs to be Whispersync enabled. Now your voracious appetite for reading can be systematically cranked up, through listening then reading as you’re able.

UPDATE 12.17.13: Based on a comment (thanks Dave for the heads up) some at Audible may be miscommunicating or confused. Whispersync for voice works between Kindle Paperwhite (1 & 2) and an Audible device such my Nokia Lumia 920 (Windows Phone 8). Of course, we’re not saying synching between two audio sources since the Paperwhite doesn’t have audio capabilities (such as the Kindle Touch does). Rather, it’s synching between audio and text. Here’s what it looks like when you are on the Paperwhite and you last listened on Audible: (The example here is Between Two Thorns written by the talented Emma Newman and narrated with her dulcet-toned voice)

Whispersynch Audible

Whispersynch Audible to Paperwhite

While this is what you see on your Audible player (at least for Windows Phone 8) when synching from the Kindle Paperwhite:

Whispersynch Kindle Paperwhite Audible

Whispersynch from Paperwhite to Audible Player (WP8)

There’s also the option to read and listen to a book or bimodal reading. There’s lots of research which suggests that this method of reading allows the reader to comprehend and retain the material better. My own personal experience with this was with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, read by the incomparable Rob Inglis (who also narrates The Lord of the Rings). I’ve read The Hobbit before, but it’s been years. Two things happened for me using the bimodal method: a) it forced me to slow down my reading since I read faster than he narrates and b) I have total focus on the book. My overall experience with The Hobbit was to read without listening, listen without reading and both simultaneously, I really loved picking up my Kindle exactly where I last listened (and visa versa). I also loved doing both; when in that mode, I never had to reread/relisten to some part where my attention waned. This was not crucial with The Hobbit since it wasn’t new to me; it was more helpful with Pathfinder, especially in the dialogs between Ram Odin and the Expendables on dealing with a space/time weirdness. I did this using Kindle Paperwhite and the Audible Android app (on my Samsung Galaxy S Epic). Update: I’ve since upgraded my phone to a Nokia Lumia 920 using the Windows Phone 8 app.


So, in short, my experience with Whispersync for Voice is fabulous; of course, it doesn’t hurt Amazon’s bottom line when you buy both versions of a book. If you want to try it out, Amazon has made a number of classics where the Kindle version is free and the Audible version is available for .99 (and the readers are first rate): Amazon .99 Whispersync Classics. Is the experience always fabulous? Pretty much, but all technology has its limitations, some of them are:
  • You need to be connected for this to work. If you have Wi-Fi turned off, your Kindle can’t tell the black magic servers where you last finished or pick up where you last listened.
  • If you fall asleep listening to a book, not that his has ever happened to me, you have to manually get to the right page to bring equilibrium to your reading world since it tries to pick up at the last place you listened, that is, long after you were napping.
  • Sometimes it can be half a minute or more for the sync to happen; that happy dialog that tells you your Kindle self has read beyond your Audible self.

Now, there’s yet another level of bimodal reading: highlighting words while you read. Amazon calls this immersive reading. This is available on the Kindle Fire models. Clearly e-ink technology is not disposed to enable this process. I have a Paperwhite, not a Fire, so I don’t have any personal experience with this, even if it does sound a bit distracting. As many have said before me, e-ink readers are much better for reading; Fires are multimedia devices, much more flexible at many tasks. The best option would be to have both (and you can have both for less than an iPad), but for serious reading, I absolutely love my Kindle Paperwhite; more about that in a separate post. Happy reading and listening.

Some thoughts on Paperwhite Version 2: First, kudos to Amazon to refresh the Paperwhite line. Whilst the competition pushed them (thanks Kobo Aura HD & Nook Glowlight),  Amazon answered. My guess is that the Kobo Aura HD was the best ereading hardware on the planet, but not only does Amazon’s ecosystem give the Voyage and the Paperwhite the edge, they’re better hardware now with Paperwhite’s Version 3). There are some slight hardware bump ups (slightly faster processor, more sensitive screen), but they’re not all that noticeable. The main physical improvement is the cleaner lighting of the screen that makes it appear to have a less bluish tint. However, going back to v1 after using v2 for awhile did make me notice the faster response, especially page turns. The software side, however, is more of an improvement and is now (since March 2014) available on Kindle Paperwhite V1.

Some more thoughts – on Paperwhite Version 3: Wow, Amazon has really upped it’s game with the Kindle Paperwhite 3 with a 300 dpi (super sharp) screen. It’s the second best e-reader in the world (next to the Voyage) and, indisputably, the best value.

Paperwhite Version 2 screen (available to V1 as an update)

Paperwhite Version 2 screen (available to V1 as an update)

The main benefits so far are Goodreads integration (clearly coming after the acquisition) and collection syncing. I have 3 Kindles at home (1 Kindle, 1 Kindle touch, 1 Kindle Paperwhite V1 and 1 Kindle Paperwhite V2 I use at work which currently syncs with my personal account). Everything shows in your collections, but everything not downloaded is a light grey. Tap the grey cover and voilà, it downloads. So, the updates are welcome; it’s particularly convenient to buy a book and put it on the currently reading list on Goodreads as well as to review what friends are reviewing and buy (clearly this is convenient for Amazon to take some more money) So, kudos to Amazon; a nice update, taking care of their current customers and good use of their platform extending it to Goodreads.
Kindle Paperwhite @ Amazon: