Readers' Favorite

March 19, 2024

Have you used your Alexa Kindle Assistive Reader to listen to ebooks?

by Donna Huber

I love reading and my TBR pile is several miles high. So I'm always looking for ways to fit in more reading time. Usually, I play audiobooks while gardening or cleaning the house. Recently someone in my Kindle Challenge group mentioned that Alexa could read ebooks. I had to check it out.

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I have an Echo Dot, but I don't really use it much. I mostly check the weather and this winter I started to set a reminder to cover my plants (I thought of that AFTER I forgot to cover them and they froze - thankfully they are making a come back). I have occasionally used it to listen to audiobooks by connecting my phone via Bluetooth (usually when my phone needs to be charged so it can be plugged in but I can still work around the house). So when someone mentioned the Kindle Assistive Reader function, I decided to try it out.

Why wouldn't I just listen to the audiobook? For a few reasons. Sometimes there isn't an audiobook available. But more often it is because I have a limited budget and it is becoming harder to get audiobooks through the library. If you follow us on Facebook, you might have seen the story I posted last week about the cost of digital material (mostly ebooks and digital audiobooks) for libraries. In some cases the digital version can cost 3 times more than the print version and they aren't even buying the digital but leasing it. This results in long wait lists or just not being available at all. My library system recently subscribed to Hoopla and I had 35 audiobooks on my favorites list (mostly older titles that I just haven't had the time to read) and then one day the all disappeared. The cost became too high.

I listen to 5 - 8 audiobooks a month, so something like Audible is cost prohibitive - plus I don't really care to own the book. I've looked into some of streaming digital services but they have limits too. 

So that brings me to trying the Alexa Kindle Assistive Reader. I have a Prime ebook on my Kindle that has been there for years. You can't even borrow the title through Prime Reading anymore - I have a few ebooks like that. Since it won't read the egalleys that I've uploaded to my Kindle, I pulled up The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey (if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free). 

It was pretty easy to turn on the Alexa Kindle Assistive Reader. I couldn't get Alexa to turn it on by asking, but instead I had to open the app on my phone. Though the help on Amazon says I can just tell Alexa to read an ebook, I found it easy to just open the app and go to More > Settings > Accessibility.

Once I had it turned on, I just had to say "Alexa, read the Beantown Girls". It started immediately by telling me that it was being read my Kindle Assistive Reader and how much time is remaining until the end of the book when being read at 90% speed.

It is not like listening to an audiobook. Alexa reads the book in her own voice and there are no changes for dialogue. That took a little time to get use to, particularly for long dialogue passages where the character's name isn't always tagged to the dialogue or is at the end of the sentence. Once I got used to it, it wasn't so bad. Is it as enjoyable as listening to an audiobook? No, but it isn't bad either.

It can be super helpful for people who struggle to read either due to declining eyesight or learning disabilities. Or are like me and want to squeeze more reading time in. I listened to The Beantown Girl while putting laundry away, formatting blog posts, and while eating something very messy.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey
February 2019; Lake Union Publishing; 978-1542044523
audio, ebook, print (365 pages); historical fiction

If you like historical fiction, The Beantown Girls has been interesting. It would be great to read for Women's History Month as it is about the Red Cross Clubmobile services with the Donut Dollies. Women would drive food trucks around to various military encampments in Europe serving coffee and doughnuts. They also offered gum, cigarettes, and other sundries as well as some entertainment. They usually had record player but some of the girls could also sing or play an instrument. Though I read a ton of WWII fiction, I have never encountered the Clubmobiles. You can also check out Susan's review.

When I finish The Beantown Girls, I'm going to try using Kindle Assistive Reader for a digital library ebook. I'm hoping it will work since when I borrow ebooks through my digital library (Libby), I'm sent to Amazon to borrow it. 

I won't be giving up on audiobooks, but when I'm in between audiobooks (because of a long waitlist at the library) it will be a convenient means of fitting in more books.

Have you tried the Kindle Assistive Reader? What did you think?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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