How to switch between reading and listening in Kindle apps

Amazon's newly updated apps for Android and iOS support instant switching between text and narration. Here's how to make that switch.

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Whispersync for Voice is now available in Kindle for Android and iOS. Amazon

Kindle owners have long enjoyed the option of toggling between text and audio versions of their books, a feature made possible by Amazon's Whispersync for Voice technology.

As of today, that capability comes to Amazon's Kindle apps for Android and iOS. The newly updated apps let you switch between reading and listening with the tap of an icon.

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Some of the books you already own can be upgraded with narration. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

That's pretty cool. You can be listening to a book in the car, then switch to the text when you get home and want to keep reading. However, the process of doing so isn't immediately clear, so let's take a look at how Whispersync for Voice works in Kindle apps. Note that my testing was performed on an iPhone, but the process is virtually identical in Android.

Step 1: Make sure you have not only the Kindle app installed on your mobile device, but also the Audible app. It's the latter that will handle the heavy lifting, audio-wise. Update: According to Audible, the Kindle app has the necessary audio tech built in, and therefore the app itself is not required.

Step 2: The best way to see this in action is with a book that supports Whispersync for Voice. You can use Amazon's Matchmaker service to see which Kindle books you already own are able to be upgraded with audio, but you can also start with a freebie: Amazon is currently offering the classic "Black Beauty" for Kindle at no charge, with accompanying professional narration also at no charge. (After you "buy" the book, you'll see a button allowing you to "buy" the narration as well.)

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Load the Kindle app and open "Black Beauty." Tap anywhere on the screen to bring up the options menu, then look in the lower-left corner. You should see a headphone icon. Tap it, then tap the blue download arrow on the subsequent screen. This will start the download of the book's audio companion file.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 4: When the download is done, you'll see a familiar-looking set of play controls. Tap the big blue triangle to play/pause, or either of the quick-skip buttons to go forward or back in 30-second increments.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 5: To return to the text version, tap the little book icon in the lower-left corner of the screen. Because the book and audio editions stay in sync, you'll always be at the right location as you jump back and forth. Like I said: pretty cool.

By the way, don't let the headphone icon fool you. Although it would seem to indicate headphones are required (and Amazon's own promo page directs you to "pop in your headphones"), you can play the audio through your device's own speaker or an AirPlay/Bluetooth speaker.

 

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