Text to SpeechFor those of us who read slowly, technology can vastly improve the ability to comprehend the written word; I’m living proof. I have the computer to read to me using Text to Speech technology. I read books on my cell phone, where the narrow screen with only five words on a line, helps my eye track across the short line of text without loosing my place, and I can, at the touch of a button, change the text size and or color. This has sped up my painfully slow reading quite a bit.
On a Windows machine the two programs that I recommend each cost $30. The first is TextAloud, and the second is Expressivo. Each has benefits and drawbacks. If you get the AT&T 16 voices with the Text Aloud, you’ll be amazed how human like they are. There is a bundle special which gets you two voices for $25, a real bargain.
On a Macintosh computer, ( I’m a very long time Mac user), this works the same way, but the ability to read the text aloud is built-in to the Mac operating system. Extra voices for both platforms are available. I use many programs, but bought Text Aloud for my brother.
If you’re a Windows user and don’t need all the features that TextAloud or Expressivo, there is a free alternative, the Ivona minireader. When you install the mini reader, it will suggest a download of the Ivona voices, too, but you can uncheck that box if you don’t intend to purchase any extra voices. I think the Ivona voices are truly human like and worth the money. The mini reader is quite small. You can just park it in the corner of your screen, select text and hit the hot key combination to start the reading. You can pause and resume the reading in any program. I highly recommend the minireader.
Other tech reading optionsinclude using an Amazon KIndle to read books and documents. You can choose from eight text sizes, and have a voice read aloud on many books and documents. Link to Kindle 3 review and pictures of the font sizes. The 2013 crop of Kindles only has one which can voice the text, that is the Kindle with keyboard.
On an iphone/touch/ipad, the text size is also adjustable. When using an ipad, the books purchased from Apple are completely accessible, including described images for the non-visual reader. Amazon makes free reader software for Windows, and Mac computers, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry mobile devices. The Kindle itself has a built-in voice to read the text, but after some complaints from various authors, only some of the books can be read aloud by the onboard voice. This is a real blow to folks like myself who rely on text to speech technology.
Library ebooks on IOS devices and computers. Here is a link which explains the steps for downloading the epub and PDF digital books from public libraries. Try the free Bluefire Reader for reading these books. Press Release from OverDrive about downloadable digital books.
For people with limited hand movement, reading a book can be very difficult. Even turning pages can be a real problem. If the book closes, getting it open again and back to the correct page might be nearly impossible. With a touch screen device like the ipad/iphone/touch the page turning is done by touching the edge of the screen. You can use a finger, your wrist, nose, or tongue if need be. There are also styluses which can be attached to a mouth stick. Here is a link to an article describing how this is done.
Audio BooksThere are many new options for “reading books”. I’ve been a member of audible.com for the past ten*-+
years. Audible.com is a subscription service which provides downloadable audio books. These downloaded files can be played on a computer or an mp3 player. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides free downloadable books and digital book players for people who qualify as “print disabled”. NLS books are also provided on cartridges which are sent through the mail. RFB&D (Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic) now called Learning Ally also has downloadable files, which can be read on a computer or transferred to a portable player. The most accessible way to read audio books is with the various software DAISY book readers for iPad and iPhone. Read about them on the itunes store.
If you are a slow reader, but don’t qualify for the NLS services, there are other free options. The public libraries have begun a download service. You check out the books for 21 days, just like printed books, and listen to them on your computer or transfer the books to a portable player. I bought an inexpensive player, $32 Sandisk Clip+, expressly for this use. Not all players are compatible with the Windows Media format, The Overdrive Media site has a list of compatible players. Check with your local public library for information. If you’re a Mac user, choose the books in mp3 format. The Net Library, which is very similar to Overdrive, is another source of free audio books. If you do a search on the public library site, and find an indicator for a downloadable book (red for Netlibrary and green for Overdrive), I suggest you log into the Netlibrary site to download the files directly in one large file, and for-go using their special software. I’ve tried it both ways, and the Netlibrary software in is “to be avoided”. As far as I know, you will need to use the Overdrive Media software for their files. If you have questions, please use the “contact me” link, and I’ll try to help you.