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EasyReader - a New Option for Reading E-Books

by Allan Wilson

on Fri Aug 04, 2017

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Dolphin recently released their EasyReader app, a free option for reading material from existing e-book libraries on an iPad. (An Android version should be available later this year.) The app allows electronic books in a different formats to be downloaded from various online libraries and read back by a text-to-speech system, and with your own preferences for the appearance of the text. It could be particularly useful for people with low vision, dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

When you open the app you will be asked to set up a Dolphin Account - this is free and only requires an email address and a password. Thereafter you can access your personal user area, though you'll have to log in each time you use the app.

Personal User Area in EasyReader

Access to Books

Sources of text.

If you click on the 'books' icon at the top left of the display for your personal user area (My Books), you will get a list of the various ways in which resources can be added.

EasyReader relies primarily on existing online libraries as sources for books, listing 5 in the Manage Libraries section, but a further 12 are available. Options include Project Gutenburg and the RNIB Bookshare site. Most of the online libraries require an additional log-in and some may not be open for access from the UK.

Unfortunately, the Books for All Scotland database is not included in the list of libraries, nor can you access any books or other materials that you may have scanned or downloaded, other than by using the 'My Clipboard Texts' feature. This allows you to copy text from an open document on your iPad and have it read out, but it is a bit fiddly to use.

Text Settings

Text settings for EasyReaderEasyReader has a very good set of options for changing the appearance of text - tap on the 'A' to the top, right of the screen to access them:

  • Text size can be magnified up to 600%, with automatic re-flow.
  • There is a good choice from among six fonts, including the font in the original document, so most people should be able to find an accessible option.
  • Margins, line and letter spacing can all be adjusted, though there isn't an option to increase space between individual words.
  • There are 28 colours available for text, background, sentence highlight and word highlight, so everybody should be able to find a suitable combination.

Audio Settings

Audio settings in EasyReaderTap on the 'speaker' icon in the top, right corner to access Speech Settings. EasyReader uses the free Apple voices provided by the iOS operating system, but there is also an option to purchase additional Nuance voices for £6.99 each. These include the Scottish Fiona voice.  Note that some of the Nuance voices are the same as those provided by Apple, so don't buy a voice that you already have!

The 'Voice settings' include an option to vary the pitch of the voice, which is very useful if used with somebody who needs the spoken text to be slowed down. If you reduce the Speech Rate, the voice will deepen and can be less easy to understand, but increasing the Pitch will compensate for this, resulting in a more natural sound.

The Verdict

Overall the flexibility of the text and audio settings, not to mention the very attractive pricing, make EasyReader an excellent app IF you can access the books you need, but the inability to use it with your own material, or books that have been downloaded from other sources presents a major disadvantage, particularly for teachers in Scotland with pupils who have reading difficulties.

Tags: text-to-speech, e-books

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