Post updated 11/1/18 – One of my favorite, daily uses for the Echo is listening to audiobooks. I posted about Audible integration with Echo last June, when the feature first became available, but lately I’m seeing comments from Alexa device owners reporting synchronization problems with their Audible books.
Syncing Across Devices
Thanks to the Audible mobile app, you can enjoy your Audible books on your phone, tablet, or Alexa device, and have the option of switching among them: start listening on one device, then pick up where you left off on another. Here’s how it’s supposed to work…
Your current location, or “bookmark” in the Audible book, is periodically sent to Amazon’s servers anytime the device you’re using has an active WiFi or cell connection. Each time the current bookmark is sent, it overwrites the last one so there’s only ever one marker for your progress through the book.
Important Fact Most People Don’t Realize: If you should skip back to an earlier chapter for some reason, the ‘current location’ bookmark will be re-set to that earlier position in the book as if you’d never listened beyond that point.
When you request the same audiobook from a different device, the most recently saved bookmark is fetched from Amazon and “tells” the new device where to pick up reading in the book—but again, only if there’s an active WiFi or cell connection.
Here are some reasons why it may not work.
1. Bookmark Isn’t Sent To Amazon
On devices other than the Echo, Dot and Tap, you typically have to download the Audible book before listening to it. That means it’s possible to be listening to the book without an active WiFi or cell connection, and in that case no updated bookmark information can be sent to Amazon. Since you can continue listening to the book without an active connection, you may not even notice that you don’t have one at the point where you stop listening.
2. Bookmark Isn’t Fetched From Amazon
Let’s say you want to alternate between listening to the book at home on your Echo, and away from home on a tablet. You download the audiobook to the tablet and put the tablet in your car for later. You start listening to the book on the Echo, then stop it and head out the door, confident the book is ready and waiting for you on your tablet. But you forgot something: unless the tablet had an active WiFi or cell connection at the moment you stopped listening to the book on the Echo, it will not automatically receive updated bookmark information.
3. Spotty WiFi or Data Connection Makes Bookmark Updates Inconsistent
The Audible app isn’t constantly updating Amazon’s servers with details of where you are in the book, and the interval for how often your current bookmark location is sent to Amazon can vary by device and the version of the Audible app you’re using. Remember: no WiFi/cell connection means no bookmarks are going to or from Amazon’s servers, so if your WiFi or cell connection drops out and you continue listening, your bookmark is not being automatically updated.
4. You Opened The Book On A Second Device Before The First Device’s Bookmark Was Synced
In this scenario, you’re listening to the book on a phone or tablet, and happen to stop listening at a moment when you don’t have an active WiFi or cell connection. No worries, you figure: as soon as you get inside your home your device will connect to the WiFi there and your bookmark data will be updated. But let’s say you’re really riveted by this book and can’t wait to continue listening, so you ask your Echo to “read my book” pretty much the second you come through the door: before your other device has had time to connect to your WiFi and send the most recent bookmark to Amazon.
You immediately realize your mistake, but it’s too late. Now the bookmark for where you last left off in the book is set to the beginning of the book, because that’s where it started playing on the Echo and that’s the most recent information Amazon’s servers have about where you left off in the book. Now, when your mobile device finally connects to your WiFi and attempts to send its own bookmark, it will find there’s another one, with a more recent time stamp, already stored to Amazon’s servers.
Depending on the specific device and version of the Audible mobile app, when you return to the mobile device you may get a brief warning telling you the current bookmark is in a different location than expected, prompting you to choose either the older, original bookmark or the newer one. But even when the warning comes up, many users tap right past it by mistake without realizing what it is. By default, Amazon/Audible will always assume the bookmark with the most recent time stamp is the correct one.
Always Sync Mobile Devices Manually to Keep Bookmarks Updated
Since so much can go wrong with the automatic system for updating bookmarks on mobile devices, if you intend to switch between devices when listening to your audiobooks it’s safest to manually sync the device you’re using at the beginning and end of each listening session—BEFORE you open the same book on any other device. In the Audible app, go to Settings > Sync or Settings > Sync & Check For New Content (depending on your device and the version of the Audible app you’re using) to sync your bookmark manually.
Depending on your version of the Audible app, you may have to go to the Apps menu on your phone or tablet, select the Audible app from the list of installed apps, and sync from there.
There isn’t any way to manually sync an Alexa device, because it’s only ever supposed to be streaming your audiobook “live” from Amazon’s servers and is assumed to always be accessing the most recent bookmark information. Just remember to avoid that situation where you start listening to an audiobook on your Alexa device before your mobile device has had time to sync.
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You can try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks (Amazon UK customers click here) with a free, 30-day trial to see if you’ll want to make audiobooks a regular part of your life. If you’re not sold, just be sure to cancel your Audible membership before the trial ends. Set a reminder on your calendar if you want to be sure not to miss the free trial expiration date, and if you still miss it by just a day or two, you can always contact Amazon Customer Support (Amazon owns Audible) to cancel, and reverse any charges that may have been incurred once the free trial ended.
If you’ve never tried Audible, I recommend American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition – A Full Cast Production (Amazon UK customers click here) as one of your trial picks – you can start a free Audible trial right from the linked page. The premise of this novel is that the old gods of the ancient world are real, and still scraping by on what little belief and tradition immigrants bring with them to America. The “gods” of the new age, like money, technology and celebrity, would like to see the old gods wiped off the face of the planet for good, and force a winner-take-all battle to the death. Equal parts fantasy, folklore, thriller and social commentary.
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