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Amazon Echo adds support for reading audiobooks

Amazon’s invasion of your home continues apace: The firm’s speaker-cum-digital-assistant device Amazon Echo can now read out your audiobooks, according to a tweet from the company. The new functionality ties into the network of books on Audible — also an Amazon company — so you’ll need to have an account on the platform to take advantage and start listening to your library.

Just say “Alexa, read my book” to get started (replacing “Alexa” for your configured wake word). Other commands you can try include “Alexa, read [book title]” and “Alexa, go back/forward” to move around inside an audiobook. As you might expect, Echo supports Whispersync so you can switch to and from your Kindle seamlessly without losing your place. See the help page for a full list of commands.

Right now, you still need an invitation to buy an Echo, but Amazon is obviously ramping up development of the device ready for a more widespread launch in the not-too-distant future. Recently introduced features include support for Pandora, live traffic and gig information, and smart home integration. The speaker retails for $199 with Prime members getting $50 off.

In many ways the Echo is the hardware equivalent of the smart digital assistant software offered by Apple, Google and Microsoft on their mobile phones. With very few consumers deciding to pick up a Fire Phone, this is another way of Amazon to get its intelligent software out to the masses.

In the official Digital Trends review, Amazon Echo picked up a very respectable four stars out of five. Other reviews have been similarly positive, and when Amazon does decide to open sales up to everyone, it would seem this difficult-to-define bit of kit could be Amazon’s way back into the hardware market.