Reading an amazing book? Here's how to seamlessly sync between the audiobook and ebook

·6 min read
There are several ways to sync the book you're reading so you can switch back and forth between the audiobook and ebook format.
There are several ways to sync the book you're reading so you can switch back and forth between the audiobook and ebook format.

There’s nothing quite like getting totally lost in a great book. You know the feeling: one of those page-turners you can’t put down. You think, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter,’ and all of a sudden it’s 2 a.m. Or you’re on vacation, sitting outside somewhere stunning while reading the hottest book of summer on your Kindle, tablet, or smartphone, only to forget about the reservation you made months ago to tour some attraction.

But there's one hitch: You are working your way through said book both in audio form in the car and your iPad at home. And you have to spend the first 10 minutes of your reading time fast-forwarding and rewinding, trying to figure out where you left off.

Wouldn’t it be great to just switch seamlessly between reading and listening – and automatically pick up right where you left off?

Well, there are actually several ways to do it.

Amazon's Whispersync

It’s almost like Amazon heard this conversation and designed a feature called Whispersync to solve this problem. The one caveat is that it isn’t cheap.

You have to buy two copies of the book you want to read and listen to from Amazon: the Kindle version and the Audible version. This isn’t as expensive as it sounds, though, because a lot of publishers make the Kindle book super cheap (like $2) and many of the books included in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription ($10) have both the Audible version and the Kindle version. Even better: if you are a Prime member, you have access to over a thousand eBooks that you can borrow, at no extra cost and you can also borrow the Audible version of many of them, too.

Using the Kindle and Audible apps on an iPhone.
Using the Kindle and Audible apps on an iPhone.

Once you own them both, toggling back and forth between the ebook and audiobook is a piece of cake. Here’s how to do it:

Kindle: When you’re reading a book, tap the screen and look for “Audible Narration” toward the bottom. Tap there and your Kindle downloads the audio version, and all you have to do is put on some headphones and listen. It keeps track of where you are in the book, whether you listen or read and syncs to the exact spot you left off. You can even listen and read at the same time to bump up your comprehension.

Smartphone or tablet: Open the Kindle app on your smartphone or tablet – for either an iPhone or Android. When you want to switch from reading to listening, open the same book in the Audible app. It will know where you stopped reading and start the audiobook at that same spot.

When your car ride’s over, you can curl up with the digital book in the Kindle app and it queues up to the page you left off on.

Ask Alexa to read to you

Just say, “Alexa, read (name of book title). Alexa will then locate the book in your library and starts reading aloud.
Just say, “Alexa, read (name of book title). Alexa will then locate the book in your library and starts reading aloud.

If you have an Amazon Echo on your bedside table or an Echo Auto in the car, Alexa will read any book in your Amazon library – even if you don't own the Audible version – aloud for you.

Just say, “Alexa, read (name of book title). Alexa will then locate the book in your library and starts reading aloud. You don’t have to own the Audible version of the book for this – but if you do, she automatically cues that up and plays it right from where you left off in the ebook version.

There doesn’t even have to be an audio version of the book you want her to read. She converts from text to speech and is pretty good at it. If you don’t have a particular book in mind and just want her to read something from your library, browse your options in the Alexa app. Open the app and tap Play from the option along the bottom of the screen. She shows you everything available in your library.

Get your iPhone to read aloud

Open a book using the Books app. Then summon Siri and say, “Speak Screen.” Siri will read the book aloud.
Open a book using the Books app. Then summon Siri and say, “Speak Screen.” Siri will read the book aloud.

If you don't have a Kindle (but do have an iPhone) or want a cheaper way to do this, get Siri to read aloud. All Siri needs is a digital copy of the book, downloaded to your phone, to read from.

Open a book using the Books app. Then summon Siri and say, “Speak Screen.” Siri will read the book aloud. Siri does a good job, too, for the most part. But Siri's a virtual assistant and sometimes mispronounces things, or sounds like a robot reading through sentences without the right emotion or inflection. This is fine because Siri is a robot.

The other way to do this with an iPhone is through the Accessibility settings. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content and then toggle the Speak Selection and Speak Screen sections to “on.” There’s one more satisfying step here, too. Turn the Speech Controller on, and tap the arrow to Show Controller. When you turn that on, it adds a little gray button to your screen that lets you press play to read out loud to you.

Get your Android phone to read aloud

Using Talkback on an Android.
Using Talkback on an Android.

If you have the book you want to read on an Android phone, you can turn on TalkBack to have your phone read it – or anything on your screen – aloud. Like with the iPhone, you have to listen to a computer voice do the reading and, since it’s designed for accessibility, it changes the way you interact with the screen. But it’s simple enough to turn on and off.

Find the book you want in, say, Google Play. Buy it – or get the free sample – and open the book in the Google Play app.

Turn on TalkBack by pressing both volume keys on the side of your phone at the same time for three seconds. With the book open on your screen, tap the screen > double-tap to enter skim mode. You should see a three-dot menu on the top of the screen. Select it, then choose Read Aloud. Your phone should start reading out loud. Use the menu to stop reading aloud or press both volume buttons at the same time to turn off TalkBack.

Use the slick Speechify app

The Speechify app for iPhone or Android (and Chrome extension) will read anything aloud: news, articles, books, boring documents your coworkers insist you weigh in on, PDFs, reports, whatever.
The Speechify app for iPhone or Android (and Chrome extension) will read anything aloud: news, articles, books, boring documents your coworkers insist you weigh in on, PDFs, reports, whatever.

If you’re starting to see your life change before your eyes over the possibility of having a built-in narrator willing to read books aloud to you, you might want to invest in Speechify. This app for iPhone or Android (and Chrome extension) will read anything aloud: news, articles, books, boring documents your co-workers insist you weigh in on: PDFs, reports, whatever. You could lie on the floor in a yoga pose and still be working because a charming English-accented woman is reading every word of today’s status reports.

The catch? The cheapest subscription plan is $140 a year. (After a three-day trial.)

But it is very cool. It will read aloud anything that you put in your Speechify library on your phone or computer. You can choose the narrator’s voice – or language – and there are over 300 voices and languages to choose from. You can also change the reading speed with a tap so you can go slow for your morning dose of pre-coffee poetry and speed things up when it’s time to read that dull report.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Audiobooks and ereaders: How to sync your book between 2 devices

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