Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kindle Books + Audible Books + Fire HD = Immersion Reading:
Even Better Than Tinkerbell!

Remember read-along storybooks?  The ones when you "See the Pictures -- Hear the Record -- Read the Book," and a sound alerts you to Turn the Page?  Back before apps, before CDs, even before cassette tapes, many of the original read-alongs were adaptations of Disney cartoons, released on 45 rpm vinyl records.  In the Disney ones, Tinkerbell's ringing bell signaled that it was time to turn the page to continue with the printed text.  Look Mom, I'm "reading!"

A certain fine young man I know, VB, doesn't much like to read. He enjoys the stories, but reading is hard, and slow, and tires him out.  Kind of like running. Ugh.  Who can really blame a guy for choosing other leisure activities?
Once. U-pon. A. Time . . .

For school, though, reading isn't optional.  There are a number of assistive technologies available, like text-to-speech software, and Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic materials, that let VB listen to the spoken text and read along with it, but they're inelegant. The "Robbie the Robot" voices do they best they can, but often words are pronounced oddly, or without the inflections of meaning that are obvious to a fluent human reader.

None of these options has trumped Tinkerbell, until (which offered a text-to-speech Kindle option that VB liked ok)  figured out how to synchronize audiobooks with Kindle ebooks on the Kindle Fire HD tablet, using their Whispersync technology. They call it Immersion Reading, and  It's Awesome! 

Immersion Reading plays the professionally recorded audiobook synchronized to the corresponding text on the screen, with real-time highlighting of each word as it's read.  And poor Tinkerbell is out of a job -- the Fire HD turns the page automatically along with the narration.

On the slight down-side, it does mean buying the book twice, once from Audible and once from Kindle (both are owned by, and not all books have compatible audiobooks.  It doesn't work on a regular Kindle, though they say it will work on Android devices other than the Fire HD.

On the upside, though, since both are owned by, there is often a significant discount on the Audible book once you've purchased the Kindle book (The Martian  by Andy Weir was $5.99 for the Kindle book, and the Audible add-on was only $2.99.  Not all pairs are that good a deal, though).

The proof of awesomeness?  VB has asked for all his school lit books on the Fire HD, and even started reading one 3 weeks ahead of time.  He has also asked for leisure reading books (yay!  "Reader's Advisory" is fun!), and upon finishing one, he asks for another.  He says he understands what's going on much better with a human reading the story, and his work in lit class shows it.  "Reading on the Kindle Fire" even merited its own bullet-point in his recent presentation on his best learning strategies.  Wow.

After all, it's immersion in language and stories that matters, not the container.  Sorry Tinkerbell, this time I think you're out of a job for good.

Have you tried the Fire HD with Immersion Reading?  Or another assistive technology for reading?  Share your experiences in the comments.

VB's Top Immersion Reading Experiences So Far

Long Way Gone  by Ishmael Beah (for school)
Divided We Fall  by Trent Reedy
     (leisure reading; #1 favorite! VB is impatiently waiting for the audio version of the sequel)
The Martian  by Andy Weir (reading now)
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency  by Alexander McCall Smith
      (for school. Better than he thought it would be -- thanks to Immersion Reading!)