Five Ways Authors Can Use Alexa

Five Ways Authors Can Use Alexa Self-Pub

Amazon has been shipping the Echo smart speakers for several years now, but the tech is still new to some of us. For example, I just got my first Echo, an Echo Dot. I'm still finding out what it can and can't do (it can't actually read my Kindle ebooks to me, but it is great at being aggravating).

While I have been putting the Dot through its paces, I also took some time to find ways that writers could use Alexa as the virtual replacement for the office assistant that many of us want but few can afford.

I couldn't actually find very many current features, but I did find five. For starters, Alexa can keep your calendar for you.

CalendarFive Ways Authors Can Use Alexa Self-Pub

Alexa can keep track of your Google, iCloud, Outlook, or Exchange calendar for you. You'll need to first integrate your calendar with Alexa by going to alexa.amazon.com, but once you do you will be able to ask Alexa to schedule an event, read back what's on your calendar, etc.

Here are a few of the commands that Alexa support:

  • Alexa, create event ...
  • Alexa, what's on my calendar?
  • Alexa, what's happening next week?

To Do List

Alexa can also keep track of your to do list. Again, you'll need to integrate Alexa with your Any.do, Todoist, or Any List account, but once you do you can tell Alexa to add tasks to the list or read the list back to you.

Here are a few commands to try:

  • Alexa, add "kill my main character" to my todo list
  • Alexa, add "finish book" to my todo list

Spelling

Got a word that you can say but can't spell? Alexa can help! Simply say "Alexa, spell X", and in just a few seconds it will be spelled back to you.

This is a useful trick, but Amazon doesn't quite have it perfect. I just tested Alexa, and while it got "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "antidisestablishmentarianism" right, it couldn't spell simpler words like "jalapeño". It mangled the enye character, instead spelling it as "entildao". (Apparently Alexa needs more training on compound characters.)

Definitions

Five Ways Authors Can Use Alexa Self-Pub

Alexa might struggle with unexpected characters, but it has better luck with definitions. If you want to make sure you are using a word correctly, just say "Alexa, define X" and it will read the definition back to you. You can also ask whether a word is a noun, verb, or other part of speech.

Writing Sprints

Alexa has a timer feature that authors can use as, well, a timer. This is a good way to engage in writing sprints whenever you just want to get words down on a page.

Simply say "Alexa, set a time for 15/20/60 minutes", and it will start tracking the time, and then beep when the time period ends. Alexa is limited to only setting a timer for the next 24 hours or less, but it can handle seconds, minutes, or hours.

What Alexa skills have you found useful? Let us know in the comments below!

images by  plenty.r.crdotxstevepausti,

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

5 Comments

  1. Randy Lea12 July, 2018

    The latest update (for me this morning) for the Amazon Fire 10 tablet provided Show mode, no need for the dock. This works well when you have a tablet on a stand and charging near your work area.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder12 July, 2018

      thanks!

      Reply
  2. Syn18 July, 2018

    Huh? Echo can read kindle books. Just say Alexa read my kindle book *speak title here.* You have to say Kindle it assumes you mean audible and won’t find it.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder18 July, 2018

      The difference may be that I didn’t buy my ebooks from Amazon.

      Reply
  3. Janice Spina30 July, 2018

    We have an Alexa. I like it for playing music, telling scores of ballgames. It also is great at keeping the grandchildren occupied and entertained answering their questions and playing selected ones. It can be irritating when it doesn’t know a lot of common things. It will keep saying, “I don’t know that one.” Sigh. I then turn to Seri or Google for the answers. Sigh!

    Reply

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