Alexa Smart Speaker (Beta early 2021)

Welcome to the Bookshare Reader for Amazon Alexa beta!

Note that the Bookshare Reader skill is not yet generally available in the Apple or Google Play stores. If you have an Alexa-enabled device and a Bookshare account, and would like to help us improve this skill before it is released, please click this link to request an invitation.

We ask that you make note of your experience: what worked well and what didn't, what you enjoyed and what we could improve. You will receive a regular survey soliciting feedback throughout the beta period. Thank you in advance for your participation!

  1. Set up the Bookshare skill
  2. Prepare the book on Bookshare.org
  3. Read with Alexa

1. Setting up the Beta Bookshare Skill

Installing the Beta skill on the Alexa app

1. When you receive an invitation email from Benetech <no-reply@amazon.com>, click the link called Enable Alexa skill "Bookshare" from the device you typically use to install new skills. This is usually your smartphone, tablet, or Echo Show.

2. The link will take you to the Amazon Skill Store where you will click the "Open Alexa" button (or download the Alexa app if you haven't installed it already.)

3. The Open Alexa button will take you directly to the Bookshare skill beta page. Click the button "Enable to Use".

Screenshots showing opening the beta skill in the Alexa app, the enable page and the settings page.

Linking the skill to your Bookshare account

1. Once the skill is enabled, click the Settings button, then Link Account to link the skill to your Bookshare account.

2. On the Bookshare.org page, enter your email address and password associated with your Bookshare account, then click the Sign In button.

3. When your credentials are verified, you will be directed to a confirmation page announcing that your account has been successfully linked. Click the Close button. This will return you to the Bookshare skill in the Alexa app.

4. Now you're ready to invoke the Bookshare skill on your smart speaker! Try saying, "Alexa, open Bookshare"

Screenshot of Bookshare login page

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2. Preparing Audiobooks for Alexa to Read

The Bookshare Reader skill creates and uses a Reading List called "Amazon Alexa". By adding books to this reading list, you make them available for the Bookshare skill to find. At this time, the Bookshare Reader for Alexa can only read in audio format. When you find a book you want to add to this reading list, you can simply click the link and let the skill convert it to audio format for you, or you can download the book in audio format and then add it to the reading list. Be aware that converting a book to audio format may take some time, from a few minutes to an hour or more.

Adding previously downloaded audiobooks to your Amazon Alexa Reading List

1. Login to your Bookshare account at www.bookshare.org.

2. Go to your My History page by clicking the link My History in the My Bookshare section.

3. Find any books in the table that show "DAISY Audio" or "MP3 Files" in the Format column. These books are already downloaded in audio format. (Note: if the book has not been accessed within the last 30 days, it will need to be reconverted to audio format.) In the status column for that book, click the link Add to Reading List. Select Amazon Alexa from the dropdown list if it's not already selected, then click the Add button.

4. This book is now immediately available for the Bookshare skill to read. Just say "Alexa open Bookshare", then "Read [book title]".

My History page showing how to add an audio file to a Reading List

Downloading books in audio format

1. Login to your Bookshare account at www.bookshare.org.

2a. To choose a new title, use the search bar or the Browse button in the header region to find a book you want to read.

2b. To read a book you've already downloaded in a different format, go to your My Bookshare page and select a book from your REcent Books list displayed on that page.

3. In the Action column for the book you selected, choose Audio from the format dropdown menu, then click the Download button. Note that this action will take you to the My History page where the book you selected will be displayed in the first row of the book table. The Status column will say "Downloaded" when the book is ready.

4. In the Status column, click the Add to Reading List link and choose the Amazon Alexa Reading List. This book will be available to read with Alexa as soon as the audio conversion is complete.

Screenshot of book list with audio selected in Download Format dropdown

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3. Using the Bookshare skill with Alexa

Opening a book

1. Ask Alexa to launch the Bookshare skill by saying

  • "Alexa, launch Bookshare", or
  • "Alexa, open Bookshare"

Alexa will respond with "Welcome to the Bookshare Reader skill for smart speakers. If she doesn't find any books on your Amazon Alexa Reading List, she will tell you to go download them at Bookshare.org. See Step 2 for instructions.

Note: Alexa doesn't always recognize "Bookshare" immediately as a skill. If she directs you to Audible, try invoking the skill again, perhaps speaking more slowly, or use the term "launch" instead of "open". Also, you may want to make sure the language on the device is set to "US-English". Once she recognizes the skill, this should no longer be an issue. Please note your experience in the feedback survey so we can characterize it.

2. You can ask Alexa to read a book or list your books with the following commands. When she asks what you want to do, say:

  • "Read a book"
  • "Read [book title]"
  • "List my books"

Enjoy listening to your book!

Cartoon showing Alexa user saying "Hey Alexa, open Bookshare" to the smart speaker.

Navigating a book

There are only a handful of commands to remember for navigating a book.

  • "Alexa pause" - stop reading
  • "Alexa resume" - continue reading where you left off
  • "Alexa skip" or "Alexa next" - skip to the next section
  • "Alexa back" or "Alexa previous" - go back to the previous section
  • "Alexa stop" - exit the Bookshare skill. To reinvoke the skill, you will need to say "Alexa open Bookshare"

Note: a "section" is currently defined by the html formatting of the book. It might be a chapter or subchapter and could be different depending on the book.

Forgot a command? No problem - just ask Alexa!

  • "Alexa help" - Alexa will offer you a tutorial or shortcuts
  • "Alexa tutorial" - how to use the Bookshare skill
  • "Alexa shortcuts" - list the reading commands
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We hope you enjoy your Bookshare skill experience!

Please remember to fill out the surveys we will send you periodically. If you have any questions or experience more urgent issues, please email us at: smartspeaker@benetech.org.