While Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo may have caught consumers off-guard when it was first released last year, the retailer has been hard at work adding features to the device to make it more appealing to the least tech-savvy Prime members out there.
According to ZDNet, Amazon just took a big leap forward with bibliophiles interested in buying an Echo. “Kindle Books by Alexa” is a program by which users’ Kindle libraries can be instantly streamed to and read aloud by their Echo devices. While not every title is supported by Amazon’s cross-platform narration service powered by the acquisition of audiobook company Audible, most mainstream books can be enjoyed with nothing more than an Echo and a pair of ears.
While Amazon prides itself on the intuitiveness and ease of voice commands with the Echo, navigating through audiobooks streamed through the device can be a bit tricky. Unless users use the official Alexa app on their smartphones to skip forward or backward in 30-second increments, voice commands are limited, at the moment, to choosing chapters and play/pause functionality. However, this smacks of something to be cleared up in later updates.
Certain consumers used to more groundbreaking news from a company like Amazon might be underwhelmed by the addition of audiobook functionality to the Echo, but Wired explained that it’s better to understand the move as one of dozens that could make the device the single most important gadget in shoppers’ homes of the future. As more and more IoT-enabled devices start to pile up in residential spaces, Amazon may be pivoting itself and the Echo as the preferred hub for interacting with all of these different nodes, and if it can perfect both incoming and outgoing voice controls and listening skills, that only increases the user experience on the other end.