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Text-To-Speech on the Kindle

March 26, 2010

One of the last “Amazon highlighted” features I used on my Kindle was the ‘Text-To-Speech’ tool.

Why? I have never been an audible books fan–finding it too difficult for my ADHD mind to follow the words while my brain process countless other simultaneous thoughts. Also, I imagined a computerized monotone voice much like my Speak & Spell from my youth.

But I finally decided to give in and try out the feature on a recent 1-hour drive. I was surprised to find it a useful tool, albeit with several annoying quirks that, hopefully, future firmware upgrades will fix.

The pros:

  • Some inflection–particularly the software’s ability to find upcoming punctuation and alter inflection on words prior to the punctuation.
  • 3 voice speeds; 2 genders
  • Auto page tuning
  • Pause

Quirks

  • Long delay (up to 35 seconds sometimes) for startup of text-to-speech
  • Disabled page buttons (there is no way to skip ahead to the next page without turning off the text-to-speech)
  • Inconsistent pronunciations

Overall, this can be a useful feature under certain conditions, although improvements to the software would be helpful in future firmware updates.

SHORTCUTS

  • Start/stop:  Shift+SYM
  • Pause: Spacebar
  • Start at specific point on a page: Move cursor to the point just before you want the reading to begin.

Below is a sample of Text-to-Speech (Male-default -> Male-slower -> Female-slower) from the book, Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down:

Text-to-Speech sample (mp3)

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