#Weekly experiments / Results / Wise

Audiobook basics: apps, buying books for reasonable price, taking notes

I used both Kindle and Audible apps as part of my experiment in Week 7 when I was trying to listen to audio books everywhere (read How to read 3 good books in one week without much effort). Of course there are other options, but if you’re looking for the largest offering, you will end up at these two.

Both of them are products by Amazon, and both of them are imperfect for audio format, and still lack some functionality. Which is a bit surprising. Kindle is a brainchild of Amazon, and Audible is part of Amazon since 2008. Both of them started roughly 10 years ago, yet there is too little integration.

Buying audio books

  • Where to buy audiobooks
    If you are going to test both, make sure that your Audible account is the same as your Kindle account (for practical reasons, but also for significant cost savings mentioned below).

    download narration in kindle

    If you purchased audio narration through Audible, you can also download it to your Kindle app.

    You can search for the book directly in Audible app. When you buy, it gets charged through your Amazon account.
    Other option is to add narration to your Kindle book purchase. Use Kindle store, search for the book, and buy audio format.
    For some reason it doesn’t work the other way – you can’t add Kindle e-book to Audible purchase. But if you happen to buy Audible audio book, and you have the Kindle e-book already, you will find the narration in your Kindle library.
    And yes if you want to listen in both apps, you will have to download the audiobook twice.
    There’s also option to import books from iTunes.

  • Price
    Some of the audiobooks are pretty pricey.
    But if you already own Kindle e-book, buying narration is not a big issue. The most expensive audiobook I bought was Dale Carnegie – 12.99 USD, but the rest was between 3 and 7 USD. There seems to be no difference in price between Kindle and Audible. Also, it looks like Amazon really wants you to have both formats.

    Example: Standalone audio Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson is 53.95 USD, which is a lot even for almost 43 hour of great quality stuff. But if you already have the e-book on Kindle, adding narration is just 7.99 USD. Cryptonomicon e-book is now 7.01 USD.
    Yes. You can either pay 53.95 for audio only, or 15 USD for both audio and e-book. Hmm. I wonder what Dan Ariely would say about this. Lessons learned – check before buying

  • Subscription service, free for first month
    If you plan to read/listen a lot of books, this might be worth considering. But you still need to do the math.

    • Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription is 9.99 USD (other options are available). As the name suggests you can read unlimited number of books from their library (up to 10 at the same time), and it covers narrations as well for those books that have them available. But you should be aware that the Unlimited subscription covers less than half of the books available on Kindle, and of course it will be those books on cheaper end of the spectrum. Before you buy subscription check if they have books you are interested in. Note that this allows you to borrow books. Once you cancel your subscription, all the books are gone. You at least get to keep your notes and highlights.
      The “Unlimited” has some limits – you should test it first before buying. Amazon offers 1 month free trial.
    • Audible offers subscription fee as well, with a few options based on number of books you would read. The cheapest plan starts at 14.95$ and you get 1 book + 30% off for any other purchase. This seems to cover the complete Audible library, and you get to keep the books even after you cancel subscription. As with Kindle Unlimited, you can also test their subscription service for 30 days for free.
    • Note: I will not use subscription. Books I read are mostly not covered by Kindle Unlimited, and I will be buying text+audio combo so I’ll save that way. But for those who want to switch to audio this may be a good option.

How to “read” audiobooks

  • Devices
    Audible: you can download apps for Android, iOS or Windows Phone; as well as Windows PC and Mac OS.
    Kindle: The same options as above, plus those Kindle devices that have audio output (mine doesn’t).
    Of course, if you are on the move phone is your best option.

    3 important buttons audible

    Three most important buttons in Audible: Speed, Clip and Rewind 30 seconds

  • Basic controls
    You will find all the usual things you know from any music player. Play, rewind, forward, and buttons for 30 sec jumps. If you have earphones with controls, they will work too.Three most important buttons in Audible: Speed, Clip and Rewind 30 seconds
  • Speed control
    My favorite feature. Fantastic way to save time – you can easily start listening at 1.25-1.5x speed, and go faster as you adjust. It’s available with both Kindle and Audible.
    This is so good that I will swap my podcast player for any other that offers this feature.
  • Sleep timer
    Really helpful if you’re listening before sleeping, or you want to stop and ponder the content at the end of the chapter. Also available with both apps.
  • Text & audio
    if you have both formats, you can jump between listening to the book and reading. Your progress is synced through WhisperSync and it works from both apps.
  • Notes / Clips & bookmarks
    This is the only problematic area for me. I love how easy is to highlight a text in e-book (pick any of the 4 colors), make bookmarks or notes, and find all of them. There’s no such solution for audiobooks so far.

    clips audible

    Audible Clips are not exactly user friendly. Even name of the chapter is not displayed.

    In Audible, you can mark certain part of audio as your “clip”. Clip saves last 30 secs of narration before you pushed the button, but you can adjust starting and finishing point manually (up to 45 seconds). You can write a note for the clip, you can share the clip. But there are some issues

    1. You can adjust/edit clip only if you are connected to internet.
      Very disappointing during flights or my long car journeys in India. If you can’t control where the clip starts, it makes any note-making very messy.
    2. Unless you make a note to the clip, it’s not clear what might be the content. Even name of the book chapter is not displayed, which makes it difficult to search for something.
    3. You can only listen to clips separately. To me it would make sense to be able to listen to all the clips together (“playlist” of favorite snippets of the book), for example when you finally have time to take notes. There is no such option, you have to click on clips one by one.

      clips to notes

      Audible Clips displayed in Kindle. The first one is obviously done in offline mode and therefore start is not adjusted to what I wanted to note down. A.k.a. mess.

    4. Integration with Kindle could be much smoother.Even if you bought both Kindle book and Audible narration, you will not see your Audible clips as highlights in your e-book. But you can go to “Notebook” in your Kindle and there you will see both Kindle highlights and Audible clips. But if you made clips while being offline (see above) the beginning of the clip will be probably a random word/sentence, so they will look like a mess.
      You could switch between Audible and Kindle to make highlights, but that’s not something you can do while e.g. walking.
  • Flashcards
    This one was new for me. Kindle offers you to create Flashcards, which you can then use “to test your memory of key terms and concepts”. It seems that you can turn your clips and highlights to flashcards. Text from clip/highlight becomes the front side of flashcard. You can write something on the back side of the card. Then you can use them as normal flashcards – look at front, think about answer, check on the back side. But because I made most of my clips in offline mode and could not control text that was included into each clip, this functionality is useless for me. I might try it with highlights in e-books though.

Kindle or Audible? Who is the winner?

I don’t really understand why these two are even separate. Probably some business related magician decided that it will be better for Amazon to keep both. Maybe it’s true, and I don’t really care.

For now I am using Audible for audio, and Kindle for text. Unfortunately neither of them is very user-friendly when it comes to note taking with audiobooks, but Kindle is a bit better for us visual learners. If you have a good note taking system, please share it in comments.

Complicated note-taking is pretty much the only complaint I have, otherwise I embrace audiobook world with my whole heart.

One thought on “Audiobook basics: apps, buying books for reasonable price, taking notes

  1. Pingback: Week 7: How to read 3 good books in one week without much effort | Titan Experiment

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