Woo-hoo! Text-to-speech on the Kindle Fire (for some books)

Tom Semple, you are my hero this morning!

Tom is one of my regular readers and commenters, and very technically adept.

As ILMKerss know, I use text-to-speech for hours a week, typically, on my Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi. That’s the software that reads text out loud (unless that access is blocked by the publisher). I’ve done that since the Kindle 2.

I took my Kindle Fire to work with me yesterday, partially to test it out as a work device for me. I was able to take notes somewhat effectively, which is important. I was away from wi-fi most of the time, so I got a sense of those limitations. With a little forethought, it’s not bad, although I would have had to go somewhere at lunch to use the internet on it…it wouldn’t have been far, though…I could have done it, had lunch, and been back in an hour easily.

I left my reflective screen Kindle at home…which did create some separation anxiety. :) That’s how I suffer for you.. ;) Just kidding, but the part that drove me nuts was a forty-five minute drive without enjoying a book.

I’d like to be able to use the Kindle Fire when at work, and the reflective screen Kindle at home (for longer form reading).

Without text-to-speech, though, the Kindle Fire would fail me getting to and from work (and I work different places different days).

Now, thanks to Tom Semple, I have a potential solution!

I had downloaded Quickoffice Pro when it was the FAOTD (Free App Of The Day). It’s $14.99 right now.

Tom told me that it did text-to-speech (I had found the Pico TTS app on the Kindle Fire, but I did think it was being used).

So, I tried it. I didn’t test it on a Kindle store book, and it didn’t give me that option. What it do was let me pull in a document from Google Docs…and it did read it out loud for me!

It’s much slower than the setting I use on my Kindle, but it definitely worked.

I didn’t have a book in there…it was reading a relative’s wish list for the holidays. :) I downloaded A Tale of Two Cities from Project Gutenberg in plain text format.

I uploaded it to Google Docs (having it keep the txt format) using my Significant Other’s netbook. I didn’t try downloading it directly to the Fire yet..that might be possible.

I was able to open it through Quickoffice, then tap the bottom of the screen and tap the megaphone icon.

Boom! Text-to-speech!

I haven’t found a way to adjust any voice options. This one was somewhat like the female voice on the Kindle on the middle speed, I’d say, but it might work for me. I’ll test it out in the car today.

I use text-to-speech with personal documents now, and it will work for that. Again, I don’t expect it to work for Kindle store books (even the minority that do not have Digital Rights Management…DRM), but I read a lot of things that aren’t. I can work this for magazine articles and work documents, and public domain books. That may be very helpful for me.

Does it make the device more accessible for those with print disabilities? I’m not at all sure how they would start something…I haven’t found audible menus or feedback yet.

However, this greatly enhances the value of the Fire for me. I prefer TTS to audiobooks, if I haven’t read the book yet. It would take some adjustment to get used to this voice for me, but still…woo-hoo!

This also clearly suggests to me that we could get text-to-speech on Kindle books on the Fire with an upgrade.

Thanks again, Tom Semple! I’m always grateful that readers take the time and make the effort to comment on the blog. We are much wiser as a group than I am as an individual, and those comments let me share this wisdom with you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.