Listening to documents on the Kindle Fire UPDATED

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Listening to a podcast, by Terry Freedman

Listening to a podcast, by Terry Freedman

Recently I’ve started using my Kindle Fire for listening to documents and periodicals, because it has a text-to-speech option.

Why?

I’ve started using it for two reasons. First, I wanted to see what the experience of listening to a book, as opposed to reading it. I thought if the experience was good, I’d try Audible or buy the audio book add-on next time I buy a Kindle book from Amazon. Since thinking along these lines, a few people have reminded me that my local library loans out ebooks, so that would be a good first port of call I think.

The second reason for trying the text-to-speech facility is that I don’t often have the luxury of being able to sit down and read. However, when I’m doing various domestic tasks, such as feeding the feline malingerers, that would be the ideal time as I can’t do much else (apart from write articles in my head, as I mentioned in my review of The Writer’s Practice, by John Warner).

How?

To try it out with a book, I used a pdf version of a book I was sent to review. You can opt to listen at the normal speaking speed, or several times faster. I’m sure the 1.5x or even 2x speeds would be ok for light reading. However, when reading (or listening) to a non-fiction, especially an academic, work, I like to cogitate on what’s been said. I can do that when the speed is normal, but not very satisfyingly when it’s faster. I honestly don’t know when the 7x speed would be useful.

Here’s a screenshot (look near the bottom for the text-to-speech facility):


What is my verdict?

Text-to-speech on the KIndle Fire, by Terry Freedman

Text-to-speech on the KIndle Fire, by Terry Freedman

On the whole it was a great experience. I’ve managed to “read” 25% of a book in just a few days while doing domestic chores. Also, the voice is a very pleasant female one (I don’t think you can change that), and not at all robotic. So I will definitely be exploring audio books proper in the near future.

However, it has a couple of disconcerting “features”. 

First, it mispronounces some words, for example Utah is rendered as Utaw. 

Secondly, if you have to pack up, when you start again it reads from the top of the page, not from the point it reached.

Thirdly, it reads out the footer, which appears in the body of the page on the Kindle. (Bear in mind that the book was formatted as a pdf, not a Mobi file.)

Fourthly, you can’t skip bits of text unless you go on to the next page. Thus in the book I tried it out with, at the end of each chapter there’s a list of references. In some cases, the next chapter starts on the same page. But you can’t “tell” it not to read out the references and go straight on to the next section.

Therefore this solution is not ideal. Nevertheless, it’s pretty handy, and I will certainly continue to make use of it.

Update: See also Further thoughts on listening to documents on the Kindle Fire