The sharper amongst you will have noted I like to quote books. By measuring books quoted per blog, you may have picked up on just how voracious a reader I am, and how important the written word is to the flavour of my writing. In fact, you may even have considered me a “well read man”, given the amount of material that transfers from the page to this blog. And just to throw in a relevant quote:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Well, I say the page… in fact all those great insights and personal perspectives I draw from authors don’t actually come from the page at all. They come from one of my favourite inventions of all time – the audio book!

Here’s why I think audio books are winners (other than they mean I don’t have to read in bed anymore).  An average audio book is somewhere between eight to ten hours long. An average commute might be around forty minutes. So, in an average week’s commute, just by turning off the radio and turning on an audio book you can get pretty close to knocking off a book a week.

So, yes. That’s pretty cool. But not the cool thing I want to tell you about. At the risk of going a little nerd on you… there’s also a great trick to GUARANTEE you get through a book a week.

The average person reads at 300wpm BUT speaks at only 150wpm. It therefore follows we are able to digest a book faster than a narrator can speak. Which is precisely why most audio books have an utterly genius feature, letting you speed up the narrator. At 125% you don’t notice a lot of difference in terms of voice and emotion but nail the book 25% faster At 150% you notice the difference and lose some of the emotion in the pitch, but it is still doable. As a side note, I’ve also noticed digesting the book at around this speed somehow keeps you more engaged. At 200% yes, you can still manage to digest the text – but it helps if you’re really into Alvin and Chipmunks.

So, that’s REALLY cool. But, it’s still not the cool thing I wanted to tell you about. 

What is really cool, is Whispersync, syncing an ebook to audiobook so you can pick one up and be in exactly the same place as you were on the other.

One of the frustrations of audio books is the inability to make notes in the margins, or highlight key passages. So, many readers access content through multiple formats, adding a text or ebook copy to an audio book (some publishers even sell specific bundles to encourage this).

Amazon already knew this was a trend before they launched the Kindle – their analysis of buying data told them so. It still took them a while to get publishers to agree to Whispersync. In a classic catch 22 for publishers, agreeing to let Amazon synch ebook and audio files would accelerate a shift to ebooks (giving Amazon more power), and place pressure on authors to sign audio book rights away to Audible – the audio producer compatible with Whispersync, and just coincidentally… an Amazon company. But by 2012 the product was live and launched, which of course, makes me cottoning onto it now extremely late to the party.

But still, it’s a pretty cool feature. And making it even cooler is http://kindle.amazon.com/your_highlights, where you can store all your notes and highlights against the text.

Of course, in the light of last week’s post, this service lets Amazon  know exactly what you are reading. But it’s precisely this level of knowledge of content consumption that is now powering Amazon’s editorial choices for Amazon Prime publishing and original video content. It’s even powering new commercial models, whereby Amazon is proposing to pay authors… by the page read!

So here’s your homework for the week. Switch off the radio, find a book you’ve been dying to read but don’t have the time – and really get into your commute.

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