Amazon has added audiobook reading to its Echo personal assistant, allowing the pillar-like speaker to regale owners with Audible ebooks. The update is the latest in a series of improvements to Echo which Amazon has pushed out, and follows Google Calendar integration which was installed late last month. Echo will also synchronize its place in each audiobook with Amazon’s apps on other platforms, to make the listening experience effectively seamless.
For the moment, only audiobooks purchased through Audible – the store Amazon itself owns – will be available to play.
Accessing the catalog is all done by voice command. Asking “Alex, read [book title]” summons a specific audiobook itself, while the command “Alexa, read my book” resumes the latest book you’ve been listening to.
Navigating through is done with the instructions “Alexa, go back” or “Alexa, go forward” meanwhile.
Thanks to Whispersync, if you’ve been listening to a book through the apps Audible offers for Kindle, tablet, or smartphone, then the point you’ve reached there will be the point Echo begins reading from. Similarly, if you’ve listened through Echo, then pick up on another device, playback will begin from there.
The functionality – like the shopping-by-voice support Amazon introduced in May – is an obvious addition to Echo, which is already able to play and purchase music through Amazon’s store. Until now, asking the speaker to read a story has resulted in a prompt in the companion app to look at the Audible store instead.
The new update will be pushed out to Echo units in the wild automatically; while there’s no way to manually trigger it, leaving the speaker idle for around 20 minutes should be sufficient to prompt the download.