Kindle’s Immersion Reading

By Deane Barker on February 5, 2013

The other day, I complained about this:

If you buy a book, shouldn’t you get the audiobook for free? Buy paper book, get ebook? What are we buying: the content, or the medium?

I was taking a drive, and I had scads of books on my Kindle, but no audiobooks.  I briefly considered buying the audiobook of an ebook I already had, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I made the bitchy tweet instead.

(I know, I know – Kindle has text-to-speech.  Never used it, and I can’t image the robot voice would be that good.)

But the point is valid: when does the content of something transcend the medium? When are we buying the content of something, rather than the medium of it?  When I buy a book, I feel like I’m buying the knowledge in the book – it just happens to be in a book.  I feel like I should get this content in every possible medium.

Of course, this isn’t going to work because there’s a creation cost for different mediums.  It costs something to have someone read the book to me, just as it would cost something to fly the author to me to have him give me a personalized seminar on it.

Despite this, however, Amazon is making headway down this road.  I just saw this on my Kindle Fire HD the other day: Immersion Reading.

The idea is that you buy the audio with the text, and it reads along – you can watch the text highlight as the voice reads.  Here’s the video:

The video isn’t great in the sense that it makes the voice seem terrible, but they keep saying “professionally narrated,” so I assume it doesn’t sound like HAL from 2001.

I kept asking myself, “If you’re looking at the Kindle, what help is it to have someone read along?”  But when I got to thinking that it might be helpful.  This is the “immersion” they’re going for in the title of the feature, I suppose.  Would it draw you deeper into the text?  Yeah, I’m guessing it would.

Additionally, it gives you some flexibility in terms of medium.  Sometimes maybe you want to read, sometimes you want to listen, and maybe sometimes you do both.

The question comes down to cost.  That book was $10, and adding the audio was another $10, so the benefit there is questionable.  But, if Amazon can bring the price down so that you could effectively buy a “bundle” of mediums cheaper than buy them all separately, then they might really have something.



  1. Fascinating. I consume a lot of audiobooks; a few thoughts: – the quality of the reading is make-or-break “professional” reading notwithstanding – I can read (silently) much faster than someone can read to me. The idea of slowing down my reading for the sake of the audio seems weird – the overall value proposition for audiobooks (for me at least) is that it’s eyes-free: I can listen in the car, falling asleep in bed, or while digging a ditch. Not much room for visual text in any of those scenarios.

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, tweet @gadgetopia.