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Listening to a Kindle Book on an Android Device

by Allan Wilson

on Fri Dec 08, 2017

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I had a phone call this week from an adult with dyslexia wanting to use text-to-speech with the Kindle app to help him read books on an Android tablet. You would expect this to be relatively straightforward, but it took over two hours of investigation and I'm still not sure that I found the 'best' solution. I should make it clear that I quickly decided to call the enquirer back, rather than leave him hanging on for a couple of hours!

Do 'standard' text-to-speech options work with the Kindle App?

From past experience of Kindle apps I wasn't expecting the 'standard' Android solutions to work, but I decided to give them a try. I first tried the Select to Speak facility in available in recent Android versions (See my colleague, Craig's blog from 5th July.) This lets you select a block of text and have it read back automatically, but having selected some text from a Kindle book, I just got a spoken message saying "no text found at the location".

I next tried the Google Text to Speech system, as described on the TunesGo web site, only to see that, as I suspected, it does not work with the Kindle app.

What about the TalkBack Screen Reader?

Screenshot from TalkBack videoA Google search for "Android Kindle Text to Speech" came up with several YouTube videos and web pages describing the use of the TalkBack to read text from the Kindle app. This one looked promising as it showed the use of TalkBack in the Android 6.01 (Marshmallow) operating system - the same as I had on my phone. Unfortunately my phone doesn't seem to have TalkBack and it looks very different from the one in the video. (Trying to support somebody using an Android can be a nightmare as you can never be sure what their operating system looks like.) I had to revert to using TalkBack on an old Hudl. It did work, but it was painfully slow. TalkBack is designed for users with a visual impairment, but can be very confusing for a sighted person, especially for someone with dyslexia. You have to learn a totally new set of gestured and it is easy to forget something crucial and become totally stuck. If this happens, you may be tempted to use a two-fingered gesture, but it won't help! Would I recommend TalkBack for a user with dyslexia? Definitely, not!

What DOES work?

Cereproc web site.The best, inexpensive, solution that I could find involved the use of the Easy Text Reader app, in conjunction with the Heather Scottish voice from Cereproc. (Availability of Heather, Stuart and many of the other excellent Cereproc voices, for only £0.59, is one of the few advantages that Android devices have over the iPhone / iPad. You can hear samples of the voices on the Cereproc web site.) Other voices are built into the Android operating system, or can be bought from other companies , e.g. Acapela.

Once you have found a voice you like and installed it you'll need to make sure that it is selected as your default voice. 

Choosing Text to Speech Options

The exact procedure for doing this will vary depending on the version of the operating system, but it will be something like this:

  • Tap on Settings
  • Scroll down to Language and Input
  • Scroll down to Text-to-speech options and choose your voice
  • You may also want to adjust the Speech rate and Listen to an example.

The next stage is to install and run the Easy Text Reader app, then load the Kindle app and open your book. Easy Text Reader will automatically read any text that has been copied. Unfortunately, the Kindle app doesn't have a facility to Select 

All text, so you will have to do this manually, which can be a bit fiddly. Tap and Hold on a word so that  handles appear beside the word, then move the handles to the beginning and end of the text you want to read. Now select Copy from the Menu that should be on your screen and the text should be read out loud. The Copy option may appear as a word, or as an icon with two pages, one on top of the other.

Selecting text in the Kindle app

The best option?

Using an app such as Easy Text Reader works, but it is far from ideal. Selecting text to read out can be fiddly and there isn't a way to automatically read text from one page to the next. The 'best' option is probably to use the Kindle Immersion Reading facility, which 

combines the Kindle text file with an Audible audio file. This provides an excellent user experience with a high quality narration by a human voice, usually that of an actor, or the author, combined with highlighting of text as it is spoken and a smooth transition from one page to the next. It can be costly as you need to buy both the Kindle and Audible versions of the book, though the Audible price is discounted. The availability of Audible files is also an issue. There are currently over 3 million Kindle books but only 

Immersion Reading

around 200,000 Audible versions available. Not all of the Audible files have been adapted for use with Kindle, so immersion reading will only work with a small fraction of the Kindle books - admittedly this fraction includes most 'popular' books. If you choose this option, there will probably still be times when you will have to use Easy Text Reader (or a similar app) to have the text read out.

Is there a better option?

These are just the options that I found - perhaps you know of a better solution?


Tags: e-books, kindle, android, text to speech

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