Audible/Kindle Book Processing

I'm beginning Spring Break this weekend. Where I live, this means "spring is not far off -- finally!" I'm not going anywhere sunny, but I AM taking advantage of the mostly above-freezing temperatures to get back out on the road and walk five miles or so daily. This means I'm building an hour into my schedule to listen to audiobooks. I have several queued up and ready to go.

The first one, which I've been listening to for a few weeks, is Naseem Nicholas Taleb's Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. I found it very useful, and the tone quite funny, after I decided to laugh about the author's outsized ego and his opinions about the academy and the people he calls "fragilistas" who nearly destroyed the economy a decade ago and don't seem to have learned anything from that.

I'll have more to say about the ideas Taleb covers in a book review soon. I'm just beginning to go through it a second time, which is the stage where I begin interacting with the text. That's not entirely true: I stopped during my walks and made a couple of audio notes. In the Audible app you can use the included tools, like this:

Once I've listened to the text all the way through, I have some options. I can just return to the clips that I took and make notes from them. Or, if I think the text is worthy of more time, I often listen to it again (usually at an even higher rate of acceleration) along with the kindle or the paper text if I have that. This gives me an opportunity to highlight and comment on the passages that interest me. Later, once I've done this with a text (or in this case, I think, with a major section which Taleb calls "books"), I'll return to these highlights and notes and paraphrase (very occasionally quote) them into my "Reading Notes". I'll make a page for this book in Obsidian and put my thoughts about Taleb's ideas in there. This will hopefully lead me to doing my own work with these ideas and incorporating them into Permanent Notes. I suspect this will be the case with this particular book, because I've already referred to it and gone on a bit of a tangential riff about both Black Swans and antifragility in my class discussions last week. So it will be helpful for me to understand exactly what I think about these ideas, where they are applicable, and any flaws in the arguments or limits to their applicability.

I had hoped to use the Whispersync feature of the Amazon ecosystem to do this. This is something I've seen highly touted, as a way to be not only platform agnostic in consuming content, but actually media agnostic. The gist of the idea is that if you have the Audible and the Kindle version of a book, you should be able to listen as you read or listen sometimes and read other times, and they should sync up. This is convenient when it works. But it doesn't always work. I found out the hard way.

I was unable to get my Audible version of the Taleb book to sync with the Kindle version. After a few minutes on a chat with an Amazon support person, I discovered that Whispersync is only available for a SUBSET of the titles that are available as both audiobooks and Kindles. I'm not sure if that subset corresponds with the Ones where you are offered a cheap Audible add-on when you're buying the Kindle -- hopefully that's the case and I'll pay closer attention next time I do that.

For the others, where I have both the Audible and the Kindle and they don't sync, I've been able to run the audio and the ebook side by side on my iPad. This allows me to listen to the text very quickly and make the notes I want to make. The controls are a little less convenient, and I occasionally have to page around or search to find the thing I want to highlight or comment, if I'm not sitting staring at the screen reading along -- like if I'm doing my spring cleaning in the office here and listening to the text again. But if I'm concentrating on the text, it's not a problem.

I know it's a bit redundant to buy books in a variety of formats. Some people may consider it a waste. My excuse is that I'm not doing it for every book; just the books I think are going to really contribute to my work. And luckily, the prices of Kindle and Audible versions of texts are coming down. Especially when they really are offered together, with the Whispersync feature intact. I'm willing to pay the price of a premium coffee at Starbucks to be able to add this flexibility to my "reading". I think I probably go through significantly more content by doing it this way.

I'll do a video with my thoughts on the Taleb book soon, when I've finished processing it.