All-Edition Books One Step Closer?

Ever since I’ve had my Kindle—or perhaps more precisely, since they introduced the kind-of-crappy and disproportionately controversial text to speech feature— I’ve been longing for a day when I could be reading my book in the house and then get in the car and listen to the audio version, which would, like my Kindle, pick up from where I left off.

And now, Jeff Bezos has apparently been peeking inside my head again, because lo! What did I find on the Kindle edition page for “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin, but this little tidbit?

VersaText from Amazon and Audible

OMG!

My Reading Nirvana

When Audible came along and offered audio books at an accessible price in digital format I jumped, LEAPED, on that bandwagon. (Seriously, the Audible booth at the New York Book Fair in 1999 was down the same neglected side alley as that of my then-company Xlibris. Two guys huddled in the Audible booth looking lonely, and I dashed up to them to tell them I was a fan and a subscriber and to thank them for the service. They looked a little non-plussed, but I was happy!). The only flaw I ever saw with audio books (beyond the cost, which had made them a library-only possibility for me until this point) was that sometimes I didn’t want to listen, I wanted to read. But at least picking up a $6 paperback duplicate was a realistic options, so hey.

Long before ebooks were a reality I was frustrated with paper books’ inability to remind me where I left off or help me find the first instance of when “Piotr” turned up in a book I hadn’t picked up for a while and how he fitted into the story. Then along came the PDF and the Palm Pilot and the Jornada with their proto-ebooks, complete with search function.

Then came my long-term love, the Kindle, to make ebooks (and the process of buying them) work properly.  Much as I fell deeply, passionately in love with my precious Kindle, I almost immediately hated it for making me want to read ALL THE TIME. I started to fantasize about the day when I’d be able to put down my Kindle and hop into the car, or stand at the sink washing dishes, or fold laundry, and have my story read to me while I couldn’t be staring at the page. The crude Text-To-Speech function hinted at a better world, but scared the pants off the people who look after authors’ rights (since selling the audio book rights to your work is such a lucrative side deal for authors and publishers, and deservedly so. There’s a lot of work in a good audio edition).

I always suspected Amazon would come up with a better (and fairer) solution. I even said the fateful words, “I’d be willing to pay a bit more for access to all the different editions. Seems reasonable.”

The Price Of Wishful Thinking

In this case, the price is, well, double the price of the Kindle edition of the ebook. But that’s bound to change as the idea catches on. I think a ‘bundled edition’ price, closer to the traditional trade-paperback price might be where titles from big publishers settle. But even now, the Kindle and Audible editions together (which, by the way, sync up with each other, so you can keep going from where you left off in either device, just like I wanted!!!!!) is slightly less than the list price for the hardback.

I’m bouncing in my chair a little.

I’m such a fangirl of Amazon. I know the Author’s Guild is deeply wary of them, publishers barely tolerate them and other booksellers see them as evil incarnate, and I understand all these things. But as a reader and a lover of books and someone who is interested in the progress of literature over tradition, and yes even as a writer, I am THRILLED that Amazon keeps coming up with ideas that are designed to delight the reader. It’s not a common concern within the book industry as a whole. I’m sad to say that, but I’ve been inside and I’ve never seen anything that has lead me to believe I’m wrong in saying it. Apart from Amazon.

So thank you, Mr Bezos. We are obviously book-brain-twins and I’m glad you’re in business.