Details regarding this latest Amazon service initially came out on January 9, in an article posted by AFTVnews. Now, this addition to Alexa’s long list of skills and talents became official, as it was featured in Amazon’s most recent newsletter, and has also been presented in the online Help & Customer Service section pertaining to Amazon Echo.
Apparently, the text-to-speech feature can be used solely for books that have been bought from Amazon Kindle’s Store, that have been accessed via a Kindle Unlimited subscription, or that have been borrowed through the Kindle Owner’s Leading Library.
Kindle Books by Alexa also works for content that has been shared within an Amazon Household, as part of the Family Library.
In order to be provided with a full list of the volumes that can be read by Amazon’s digital assistant, one must open the Alexa app, and then choose Kindle Books, in the navigation panel appearing at the left-side of the main screen.
Afterwards, the subcategory listed as “Books Alexa can read” must be opened, and all the eligible material will be displayed.
In order to get started, one must either say “Read my Kindle book”, or issue one of several commands (“Read my book”, “Read” or “Play the Kindle book”), followed by the actual title of the book.
So as to halt Alexa in her tracks, one must either say “stop” or “pause”, and in order to keep hearing the voice behind Amazon’s Echo once again, one must issue a similarly self-explanatory command ( “resume” or “play”).
There is even the possibility to make Alexa turn to the following paragraph (by uttering “skip ahead”, “next” or “go forward”), or recite the prior paragraph once more (by ordering “skip back”, “previous” or “go back”).
Even when the user switches between devices, Alexa can still tell when the reading was interrupted, and start delivering the rest of the text from that point onward.
Also, it is possible to move from one chapter to the following one, skipping whatever you want, simply by tapping the “Now playing” bar, and then choosing the “Queue” option.
While Kindle Books by Alexa appears like a welcome update for Amazon Echo, there is still a downside: the fact that the technology, allowing the digital to convert written words into spoken ones, is identical to the one employed when reading Wikipedia posts, news articles or calendar reminders.
Therefore, users expecting an engaging, theatrical performance like the one used in audiobooks are in for a disappointment, as Alexa will keep its tone neutral, professional and unmistakably robotic, regardless of how dramatic, humorous or inappropriate the text may be.
Still, given that the feature is completely free of charge, some might still be willing to give it a try, as a welcome alternative to obtaining an audiobook from Amazon’s Audible subsidiary, which charges monthly fees amounting to $14.95 following a 30-day free trial.
In order to attract as many users as possible and provide a persuasive demo for its brand-new Kindle Books by Alexa, Amazon is now providing a complimentary Star Wars 2015 Sampler, featuring passages from 6 newly released novels from the sci-fi saga.
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