Millions of people are currently staying home and doing their part in slowing the spread of Coronavirus #covid19 and finding innovative ways to connect with each other digitally

Staying indoors means having to find new tools and services to connect with each other, digitally. It also means new ways to engage the children who cannot go to school or kindergarten and the playground.

Me and my wife have been lucky on one hand to still have our jobs. But on the other hand, with the kindergarten closed, we have to manage our schedules to work full time and also take care of our son. Two weeks into the #staying-indoors we have now settled into a good routine. Staying indoors with a small child has also made us more creative in ways to engage him all day, everyday! He has so much creative energy that is also rubbing on to us:)

Smart Speakers for productivity

Among so many creative ideas, one of the tools that could be valuable in these times, one of them  is smart speakers (google home/Alexa's). These devices are quite intelligent already and I believe can be part of the solution to help us be informed (via news snippets), have mental peace or relax (with meditation apps, music services) or learn something new (with podcasts and audiobooks). I know for a fact that many of us have one of these smart speakers at home but probably do not use it often. Perhaps it's time to re-plug that device while we are all indoors.

Even before corona times, I had spent some time exploring use cases and even building some small apps for this ecosystem. I had written an article on the topic of getting more out of these smart speakers which you can read here.

Engineering works

With the quarantine period, I started exploring more in depth on using the smart speakers for learning and development and helping us be more productive in our time staying indoors. I was digging deeper into how I could use Google Home to engage my child and play audio books to him. There was unfortunately no free or freemium service that I could use directly for this purpose.

Outside of the smart speakers ecosystem, there is this amazing project Librivox which has so many audio books in the public domain but does not have a google assistant app.

So I went and did what most engineers would do, I built one :)

It was a fun exercise and it taught me a lot about the smart speakers developer ecosystem. And I can proudly say that the app itself turned out as I imagined. I got a lot of positive responses and encouragement on reddit and I will not lie, it totally made my day (and week) :)

About Book-Reader

Book reader is an app for Google Assistant which provides access to thousands of books in audio format. The audio books are available in the public domain thanks to the Librivox project. With Book-Reader, these books can now be easily accessible over Google assistant on your mobile phone or Google Home speaker.

To use the app, you need to have a gmail account. Activate the app from the google’s directory listing (sort of like playstore for android apps). The listing is here

You can also click to the following link to try it out directly on your phones

🅖 Ask Book Reader to Listen to Audio Books for free

To get detailed instructions on how to use the app, please visit book-reader.speakhub.io

Here you can find details on usage commands, list of supported book titles and even a recommended book list to help you get started.

I hope it is useful to some of you! Please let me know if there are improvements that could make the app even better for you! Cheers and stay safe