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Using Balabolka to Read E Books

by Allan Wilson

on Wed Aug 06, 2014

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Balabolka is a very powerful, free text to speech program that can be used for a lot of different tasks, including basic text to speech, changing the appearance of text to make it more accessible, reading eBooks and creating audio files. This blog will focus on the use of Balabolka to read eBooks in different formats.

When you open Balabolka, it can look complicated, with a busy screen and lots of functions, but don't worry, we can simplify the display - and you won't need many of the available functions for reading eBooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Configuring Balabolka

The first step to take is to set up the voice that Balabolka will use. Balabolka searches automatically for all of the voices installed on your computer. SAPI4 voices are old, low quality voices so it is best to choose a SAPI5 voice. At the time of writing, there seems to be a problem with the Heather and Stuart voices, available from the Scottish Voice web site, but we expect this to be resolved very soon. Choose the voice you want to use, and adjust the Rate, Pitch and Volume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now click on View and Show, and then uncheck Configure Voice. You can also uncheck the Status Bar if you want, but keep the Toolbar. This will simplify the appearance of the program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can make the program appear less complicated by removing buttons you are not wanting to use and making the remaining buttons a little bigger. Do this by clicking on View and Buttons, then unchecking the ones you don't want. This is an example of a more simple set of buttons:

 

 

 

Reading your e-Book

Balabolka can read text from most e-Book and document formats, including AZW / MOBI (Kindle), EPUB (iBooks and lots more), PDF and DOC / DOCX (Word). You may have the files you want on your computer, download them from an online store of e-Books, or have them on an e-Book reader. See my previous blog and the Finding Books section of the Books for All web site for more information. There are various ways in which a file can be transferred from such devices to a computer. A Kindle, for example, can be connected to a computer using its USB cable and will appear as an external disk drive. You will find the books available on the Kindle in the Documents folder. Copy the book file onto the computer. There isn't space here to go into all of the possibilities for other devices - if in doubt, use Google to search for something like "Transfer file from iBooks on iPad to computer".

Open the file using Balabolka (click on File, then Open and navigate to where you copied the file). This is what the Kindle version of 'Diary of a Nobody' looks like when first opened:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can change the appearance of the text by clicking on View, followed by Font and Colours. You can now choose a font and size for your text and you can change text and background colours. You can also increase line spacing by adjusting Line Height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have set up your preferences, your book may look something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can now have Balabolka read the text to you by inserting the cursor at the start of the text you want to have read and then clicking on the green 'Play' button. Balabolka highlights the word that is being spoken at any time and changes the colour of text that has been read (by default, from black to blue, but this can be changed), to make it easier for you to see where you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What else can Balabolka do?

  • Creating Audio Files - Balabolka can convert text files into audio files in MP3 and other formats. If the original text has been structured properly, Balabolka can be set up to automatically create a new file for each chapter in a book.
  • Translation - Balabolka can use the Google Translate facility to translate text from one language into another and, if you have an appropriate foreign language voice on your computer, will let you hear the translated text in a suitable voice for the language. We recommend foreign language voices from Ivona or Cereproc.

 

Tags: accessible books, Balabolka, eBooks

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