Do you switch back and forth between audiobook and ebook? If so - how do you keep your place?
December 26, 2011 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Do you switch back and forth between audiobook and ebook? If so - how do you keep your place?

When I'm reading a book, I'd like to be able to pick up where I left off in the written version (when sitting and reading) then switch to the audiobook (when, say, doing housecleaning), then back to the written version. (In my case right now, the "written version" happens to be an ebook...)

This is something I do now with some books. It's a drag. Moving from audiobook to ebook is a bit of a hassle: I have to make a note of a recent phrase whenever I "close" the audiobook, and then search for that phrase when I return to the ebook. Moving from the ebook back to the audiobook is a much bigger hassle: I have to randomly skip around in the audiobook to try and get to where I last left off, which takes a while.

Does anyone else do this? Have any tips for doing this with minimal hassle and headache?

(As a long term solution - I dream of software that does this automatically, using ebooks and audiobooks that are linked by some sort of timecode. In the nearer term: I wonder if there's some sort of easy way for me, or better, an app of some sort, to use a few data points to to guess at equivalent positions between the ebook and audiobook, based on the reading speed of the narrator, number of words, etc...)
posted by ManInSuit to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've only done it once, and I did it by using the chapter breaks as my switching point.
posted by Lucinda at 8:24 AM on December 26, 2011

Continuous speech recognition could provide a solution, but the technology probably isn't there yet. In the interim I'd guess that chapter breaks are the only efficient method.
posted by cbrody at 8:51 AM on December 26, 2011

If your audiobook is chapterized AND it shows your progress within that chapter then you can gauge your progress through a chapter - "60% through chapter 6" which will get you an estimate of what page you left off on and the same with going the other direction.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:35 PM on December 26, 2011

The audiobook I am currently reading is not characterized....

I feel like there's got to be some not-insanely-inconvenient way to convert a location in the book into a reasonably well estimated location in the audiobook by using information as I track it, and guessing from there...
posted by ManInSuit at 1:34 PM on December 26, 2011

characterized = chapterized. Dammit.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:34 PM on December 26, 2011

Sounds like you want a Kindle Keyboard. Granted, the text to speech feature is not as nice as a polished, professional audiobook but it does exactly what you are saying: lets you read the ebook, then turn on the voice when you want it read to you, then when yoi are done being read to, turn off the voice and resume reading.
posted by JoannaC at 1:47 PM on December 26, 2011

JoannaC - Yeah, I can see that working. But I'd much rather listen to an actual audiobook than computer-generated text-to-speech.
posted by ManInSuit at 2:11 PM on December 26, 2011

In the past when I have wanted to do this, what I have done is use a search phrase to sync the two.
So, when you want to switch to the ebook - play your audiobook from where it left off for a few seconds and memorise/jot down a distinctive phrase - then search for that phrase or few words in the ebook and jump to that location. Not the most elegant solution but far better than a paper book would offer. I have done this a few times in the past and not thought of a better way to do it yet. It should get you to the right location with only a little fuss.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:05 PM on December 26, 2011

Another Fine Product: Yes. That solution is good enough for when I switch from the audiobook to the ebook. But what do you do when switching from the ebook to the audiobook? You can't search for a phrase in the audiobook.
posted by ManInSuit at 3:11 PM on December 26, 2011

I don't have a good solution for that way around, beyond cutting the audiobook up into lots of small files 5-10 min long and skipping to the approximate place (which I do anyway because I hate accidentally hitting back and then having to hold down "FWD" on my ipod for like 5 mins when running) - I would say that as someone very experienced in jumping down similar holes - this sounds like a problem where anything more complex and the time you waste worrying and searching to develop a better solution would exceed the benefit you gain from it.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:41 PM on December 26, 2011

What I ended up doing: Building a little "bookmarks" spreadsheet where I can enter the places where I stop reading, and where I switch between audiobook and ebook. That little spreadsheet can calculate the average reading speed of the ebook. So when I switch from the ebook back to the audiobook, I can put in the new page number, and the spreadsheet can estimate where I need to pick up in the audiobook. The estimate isn't perfect, but it seems to get it pretty close, and from there it's easier to zero in on the right location.

As Another Fine Product suggests, putting together this spreadsheet may not have been the most productive use of my time.

posted by ManInSuit at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2011

I thought I was the only one! You can somewhat easily convert the percentage of total pages read to the percentage of total time of the audiobook (and vice-versa). This works remarkably well, and can be further refined by using your last match as the starting point for the next switch. I also made a spreadsheet to do this.
posted by jmfitch at 4:10 PM on January 2, 2012

jmfitch, yay!

I only use the spreadsheet method for moving from ebookto audiobook. For moving from audiobook to ebook, I search for a recent phrase, as Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory suggests.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:34 PM on January 3, 2012

After a bit more playing: I don't really use the spreadsheet anymore (the spreadsheet I made was maybe over-complicated). What I do is:

1) Use a quick initial check or two to calculate the average speed, seconds-per-page, of the audiobook. That seems to remain pretty constant through the book, so I only need to do it once for a given book.

2) When I switch from audiobook to ebook, I do so by using the "search" method as suggested by "Another Fine Product". I also make note of the page number in the ebook.

3) When I switch back from the ebook to the audiobook, I check the ebook to see how many pages I've read. Then I multiply that by the time-per-page, and skip ahead that long from wherever I left off in the audiobook. (ie: If I've read 50 pages, and the audiobook is 40 seconds per page, I skip ahead 2000 seconds, or 33.5 minutes...). This usually gets me very close to a matching place. From there I just shuffle around a bit, and I'm good.
posted by ManInSuit at 7:38 AM on January 8, 2012

Final update from the OP:
My question dreamed that someday there might be an automatic way to sync between audiobooks and ebooks (and asked for workarounds given that no such thing existed).

It turns out that the thing I dreamed of at the time now exists!! I thought people who search and find the thread might want to know. The thing is Amazon whispersync for voice.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:29 AM on July 27, 2013

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