Amazon’s WhisperSync and Immersion Reading – The Good and the Bad

Have you heard of Amazon’s immersion reading feature?  Well I have — and trust me this was a rather involved production with my wife and kids to get it to work.  I thought I would post my experience here for others.

Overall Impression

Great little feature if you already have Kindle.  However it’s expensive.  A good aid for kids learning to read – but not a replacement for physical books.

Amazon Immersion Reading and WhisperSync

The immersion reading feature highlighting the text in an e-book as it is being played as an audio book.

Using the Feature

We heard about this feature from a friend who had used it.  Their kids were 10 / 12, etc.  For that age group it is a great tool.

It took for ever to find the feature because they shared it as an Audible feature.  Which it is… but Audible doesn’t seem to advertise it.  You can find it by searchign for it if you happened to know the name “Immersion Reading”.  The feature is really owned and controlled by Amazon.  Amazon owns Audible.  Thus it’s an Amazon feature that uses Audible as its engine… (what??).

Terminology: Amazon WhisperSync is what keeps track of your progress between a supported Kindle e-book and a supported Amazon (powered by Audible) audiobook.  Immersion Reading is what highlights the text in the Kindle e-book as the Audible audiobook is being played.  (try explaining that on a first date and see where that gets you).

Once I found where the feature was I started to use it.  My first test was on an iPad which to get it to work requires the Kindle Reading App.  That was mistake – simply because the feature does not work on iPad.  It currently only works on Kindle devices and Android Devices.   Well that’s incredibly annoying – we bought iPads for our kids because iPad has the better user experience, better child controls and better child apps.

On our kindle device, I started looking around to purchase my first immersion reading book.  I found that I had to first purchase the Kindle edition of the book.  Once purchased and installed I could then access and read the book on my kindle as an e-reader.  Now if I wanted audio I had to purchase the book upgrade to add the audio file to it.  Once that was done I downloaded the audiobook to my kindle. (see my comments below on the price).

Now that I had both the e-book version and audiobook version I was now ready to experience the immersion reading feature.  To do this I accessed my audiobook list on my kindle, selected my book and it started playing.  Then in the menu I could select the option to “Switch to the Immersion Reading”.  Once selected, the e-book loaded and as the audiobook played, a highlighter showed the current text on the page being read.

Well I know got it work.  Can you imagine sitting down with your 6 year old and explaining to them that they need to have both books purchased and then switch to immersion reading to get it to work?  It took us a bit but I think my kids understand it now.

Benefits of Amazon’s Immersion Reading

As a parent, I must admit that there are several benefits of this tool.  For our young kids who are starting to read, they can access a book and follow along.  They get to see and hear difficult words as it is being read to them.  I do not believe that this should be taken as a replacement for being red bedtime stories, etc… but it is a great aid to help in their quest for great reading.

Drawbacks of Amazon’s Immersion Reading

Sad to say there are a lot of draw backs.

Forced One Click Buy

This really, really (I mean really) frustrates me.  There is no way to turn off the forced 1-Click buy within the kindle app store for books and audio books.  That is frankly ridiculous.  I have already had close to $200 of mistaken purchases being made that I had to submit into amazon for refunds.  We had no problems getting the refunds — but the issue is that I had to do it at all.  What if I missed the e-mail notifs sharing that $50 e-book collection was purchased through my kids kindle?

Very expensive

The price point is annoying.  Most children’s books are bought in bulk, bought used, etc.  That’s how we have bought most of our books.  However to get immersion reading for a book, you have to buy the full price book as an e-book then add on the audiobook upgrade.  This basically means that we won’t be able to buy a lot of books like this.  We have become very selective and only buy the books that will provide our kids with a lot of value.


In this example, you first buy the Kindle Book for $9.99 and then you buy the audio upgrade for $9.95.  Which means you have basically purchased the book twice.

Thanks Amazon for your friendly approach to cost structures on digital media.

Amazon on Making Money

No iPad/iPhone support

This one I don’t get?  Why would their IOS apps not support this?  Even as a developer I can’t think of what the restriction is.  Their Android apps support it so I don’t think that it is a ploy to get more users onto a kindle.  There must be some sort of tech limitation that they ran into.

My personal conclusion

Well – despite it being a pain to setup, no support on IOS and being expensive, I will still use it in a limited fashion with our kids.  I’ll only buy a few books, maybe only a couple each year.  But I think it is a great tool to help kids as they are learning to read and possibly even struggling with their reading.

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