I've been trying to workout a convenient way to consume audiobooks. Far too many times now, I've started an audiobook and lost interest after failing to recollect characters and plots. Age!

Perhaps I take parsing stories too seriously; am a bit OCD about letting things drift before catching up on the story later. Apparently, keeping track of progress is a common issue for audiobook readers, while with physical books you could just resume a few pages before your bookmark. You could rewind (or have an app auto-rewind to 'x' seconds ago), but what you need is a context-aware rewind.

High on my wishlist is an audiobook companion, a text based helper, that jots down the major plot progress and profiles of characters revealed as you go through the book, leaving less cognitive overhead for you to resume reading. Some fandom wiki's, such as the one for The Dresden Files and The Gentleman Bastard, do a fantastic job with character profiles, but they also contain spoilers and future plot descriptions. Still massively helpful though.

Until a few months ago, my problem was deciding and sticking to a device and app I'd be using. Usually, if I'm awake, both my laptop and phone are active. I prefer doing most things on my laptop. In addition to that, I can't really just be plugged into my phone; many work-related alerts and events happen on my laptop, while the phone only gets the most critical subset of them. So, I mainly consumed audiobook using the Cozy desktop app.

But then my timezone and waking hours changed, and I wanted to listen to audiobooks a couple of hours before falling asleep every night, which meant going back to using the excellent android app - Voice. Voice does a lot of things really well. But it's a phone-only app and doesn't record your progress and data in any cloud-based service, which for privacy reasons, can be a great thing. I'm considering adding a simple Google Drive based progress sync in my fork of the app, just for me.

That's the status now. Voice is my primary audiobook app. However, if I'm at the laptop, I route the audio to play through my laptop via Bluetooth. After the pulseaudio setup below, that's a two-click thing.

How to Stream Audio from Your Phone to Your Laptop
This guide describes how to stream audio from your smartphone to your computer over Bluetooth.

This got me thinking about a lot of things in this space.

First, as mentioned above, is a smart audiobook companion that helps you recollect progress when you resume, maybe even with spolier-free user contributed comments on their take. EDIT: I just remembered the Amazon Kindle app has an XRAY feature that lists all characters on the current page.

Second is a direction services like Google Books have already taken but are yet to see traction. With text-to-speech services like those from Google, IBM Watson, AWS Polly getting incredibly good and human-like, we may see a case for AI-read-aloud books. I've left quite a few audiobooks on the "shelf" because the narrator wasn't to my liking. Or because the narrator's energy wasn't consistent throughout the story. Or because the recording quality wasn't great.

I do see a future where audiobooks are either pre-recorded with a range of narrators you can later choose from, or a client-side AI voice - you configure to your liking - that can read for you...complete with preferences on whether to utter or skip swear words, or sensitive or violent content, when to pause and how much, moods, tones....the works!

Some apps that do a basic read already exist, and they do a decent job. Some others seem to abuse the Google Translate voice API and get away with it. You could always create a PDF and upload it to Google Books and later have to read aloud on your device by the TTS engine.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is a space human narrators will quickly lose to machines. I would also love to be able to interact with the narrator and ask them questions about the characters or story.