Amazon has owned Audible for a while, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the service. That’s all about to change though, as Amazon just announced Whispersync for Voice. The idea is that you can mix and match reading the ebook version and listening to the Audible version, and have the position be synced between formats. There’s also a new immersive reading system that allows Kindle Fire devices to use ebooks at the same time as Audible books, and have the text be highlighted as the audiobook narrates that part.

This obviously requires a bit of work to make titles compatible, so not all books are supported. 15,000 books are available from the start, some of which are free to allow people to try the system. I’m having difficulties trying to find out exactly how much one has to pay extra for the audio book, but it seems as though a separate “add narration” option will be available when buying the book, allowing you to buy the audio for a discounted price. The press release mentions $5-$13 for the narration, though that’s a “special limited time discount.” With that in mind, we might very well be looking at a $30+ price for the book and narration when that period is over, which certainly isn’t cheap.

This seems like an awesome system in theory, but it all depends on price and availability. It’s more than a little bit ironic that Audible’s mobile app is terrible to begin with, lacking a way to sync the playback position across Audible-enabled devices without hacks. I still don’t see a mention of a Audible-Audible sync system here, but I have to believe that’s a side effect of the WfV system.

As an Audible member of many years, I have to say that Audible is garbage. It has lots of great content bundled with a technical back-end so poor that it takes away from the entire experience, leaving you not wanting to use it. That’s not exactly the kind of service you’d associate with Amazon as of late, so trying to merge the two without first doing something about Audible might end up coming back to bite Amazon. WfV is a great idea in theory, I’ve just gotten so fed up by the catastrophe that is the Audible infrastructure, that I get the distinct feeling that Amazon just launched a space program based around the Wright brothers’ first plane.

Amazon also announced Whispersync for Games, which is essentially a save game sync system. Developers can add support for it in their games, and then use the WfG system to sync game files across devices.

[Audible via Engadget]