Three new IVONA voices have just been released for Text2Go, one of which is the female child voice named Ivy. Once the novelty of listening to a child text to speech voice had worn off, I was left wondering what I could use this voice for? The first thing that came to mind was perhaps a child text to speech voice could be used to read a childrens’ book aloud. To test the theory I set about converting a childrens’ ebook into an audiobook.
The ebook I chose was the popular childrens’ book The Sunflower That Roared by Michelle de Villiers available for free on Smashwords.com. This delightful story is full of beautiful watercolour illustrations. Like all ebooks published through Smashwords, it’s available in multiple formats, including .epub which is supported by Text2Go. If you have Text2Go installed you can just right-click on the link and Text2Go will download it and convert it to an audiobook for you.
I wanted to preserve the illustrations in the ebook and ideally have these displayed at the correct time during the narration of the story. This is possible without too much extra effort. Each chapter in an audiobook can have its own image and during playback it will display the image for the current chapter. By splitting the ebook into chapters and associating the correct illustration with each chapter, it’s possible to cycle through the illustrations as the story is narrated. The easiest way to split an ebook into chapters is to use the ‘Split at Cursor’ command in Text2Go.
The other thing I did before converting the ebook to an audiobook was to slow down the speed of the Ivy voice. This makes it easier for a child to understand and is also more realistic for a child reading out loud. You can change the speed of a voice in Text2Go using the Options page.
The final step is to have Text2Go convert it to an audiobook, transfer it to iTunes and then sync it to your iPhone, iPod or to best appreciate the illustrations an iPad.
You can listen to an except of The Sunflower That Roared.
The ultimate test was to see if it would keep my 4 year old son engaged, so we sat down and listened to the story together. It certainly held his attention for the entire length of the story and at the end he said he’d enjoyed it. It will be interesting to see if he asks to listen to it again.
They have been developed by IVONA and feature their new BrightVoice™ technology which employs a new language model to provide intelligent interpretation of text, and crystal clear sound achieved using noise and distortion reduction. Not only that, the new text to speech engine is up to 10x faster than the previous version, which is a real advantage when converting lengthy ebooks into audiobooks.
I have also decided to remove from sale all of the Nuance Realspeak voices apart from the Australian voices Karen and Lee. The main reason for this is due to the licensing agreement placed on us by Nuance which makes it uneconomical to continue to offer a large selection of RealSpeak voices. However now that we can offer the premium IVONA voices in both US and UK accents, I don’t really think they will be missed. Note that existing customers who have purchased RealSpeak voices will still be supported.
2011 is going to be an exciting year for text to speech. As ebooks continue to take off, there is going to be more and more choice available to convert to audiobooks. I’m also hoping to finally be able to offer some high quality French, German and Spanish voices for use with Text2Go this year.
Happy New Year!
Feedbooks is primarily an ebook publishing platform but it also has an incredibly useful feature that will turn any RSS feed into a downloadable ebook. Thankfully it supports the ePub ebook format which makes it a breeze to use Text2Go to turn this ebook into an audiobook which you can then listen to on your iPod or MP3 player.
Using Feedbooks and Text2Go you can convert any RSS feed into an audiobook with a couple of clicks. In summary all you need to do is
- Enter the URL of RSS feed you wish to convert into the Feedbooks News service.
- Copy the URL of the ePub ebook generated by Feedbooks
- Use the Open URL… command in Text2Go to download the ebook (If you’ve installed the Text2Go accelerator for Internet Explorer 8, you can combine steps 2 and 3 by simply right clicking on the ePub link in IE8 and selecting the Text2Go Convert to Audiobook accelerator command).
- Review and edit the eBook in Text2Go – you may want to remove old or uninteresting news items from the ebook before converting it to an audibook.
- Start the eBook to Audiobook conversion process in Text2Go.
Here is a detailed guide to converting recent posts from the blog ZenHabits into an audiobook.
1. Copy the ZenHabits RSS feed URL (e.g in IE, right-click and select copy shortcut).
2. Enter the URL of the RSS feed you wish to convert into the Feedbooks News service.
3. Copy the URL of the ePub ebook generated by Feedbooks
4. Use the Open URL… command in Text2Go to download the ebook.
3B. If you’ve installed the Text2Go accelerator for Internet Explorer 8, you can combine steps 3 and 4 by simply right clicking on the ePub link in IE8 and selecting the Text2Go Convert to Audiobook accelerator command.
5. Review and edit the eBook in Text2Go – you may want to remove old or uninteresting news items from the ebook before converting it to an audiobook.
6. Convert to an audiobook and listen to it in iTunes or on your iPod or iPhone.
No! It’s not about replicating the charming Kiwi accent. It’s because all the existing English voices do a laugable job of pronouncing Maori place names.
NZ loves its Maori place names. So much so that half the streets in NZ use Maori names.
The latest in car GPS navigation units offer turn by turn spoken directions. This is where it’s sort of important that street names are spoken accurately. Unfortunately they’re not.
Take this as a typical example as spoken by Amy, the latest computerized British voice from IVONA.
As someone described it – it sounds like something you’d do after a very long night of drinking on the town.
Here is what it should sound like.
Here is another example as spoken by Lee, an Australia text to speech voice from Nuance.
Here is what it should sound like.
It’s not a shortcoming of existing TTS voices that they can’t pronounce Maori place names. It’s simply that there are different pronunciation rules for Maori words.
A NZ voice needs to be developed that takes these rules into consideration and all the better if it uses a sweet Kiwi accent. That would be choice Bro!
Text2Go, the popular Windows application for converting ebooks and web pages to speech now offers two premium quality text to speech voices that dramatically improve the listening experience. The new voices called ‘Amy’ and ‘Brian’, are developed by IVONA Software and have pleasant British accents. They offer incredibly lifelike speech and outstanding pronunciation accuracy.
“I have listened to just about every synthesized voice available and ‘Amy’ and ‘Brian’ are the best by a mile. Computerized voices have in the past suffered from robotic delivery, uneven pitch and laughable pronunciation errors. These new IVONA voices suffer none of these problems. I can’t believe how natural they sound. They have significantly raised the bar in text to speech quality.” – Mark Gladding, Founder, Tumbywood Software.
With Text2Go and the new IVONA voices you can convert ebooks, news and articles on the web to speech and listen to them on your iPod, iPhone or MP3 player while on the go. The advantage of text to speech is you can listen at times when reading is impossible, such as when driving, running or working out. Now you can pack more reading time into your day without sacrificing other activities.
Text2Go and one IVONA voice costs $US55. There is a free 30-day trial of Text2Go and the IVONA voices. They can be downloaded from http://www.text2go.com.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new voices.
Text2Go 4.0.2 has been released today. The major new feature is ebook to audiobook conversion. Text2Go reads ebooks in the open ebook format know as ePub (.epub), html (.htm or .html) and plain text files (.txt). The ePub format is preferred. If you have an iPod, Text2Go will create an audiobook complete with chapter marks. If you have another MP3 player, Text2Go will create one MP3 file per chapter and name them so they will appear in the correct order.
There is a tutorial on the Text2Go website that guides you through the process.
Changes since the beta include
- A faster text to speech process, resulting in quicker ebook to audiobook conversion.
- Support for DAISY text-only DTBooks.
- Improved ‘Split by Section’ command. It now recognises more variations of chapter headings.
- Support for ebooks containing drop-caps represented as an images.
- Correctly reports progress for ebooks with over 100 chapters.
- Now asks the user if they wish to share pronunciation corrections the first time they create a correction. Previously this was on by default.
You can download it directly here. Existing Text2Go users – make sure you uninstall your current version first.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to everyone who participated in the beta test and provided feedback. You input was invaluable.
UK Workers spend nearly 22 million hours commuting every day, equivalent to £266 million worth of working time
Each worker spends on average 52.6 minutes commuting to and from work each day, with workers in London having the longest commute of 74.2 minutes per day. The research was undertaken by the union congress and published to coincide with the start of Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.
One way to alleviate this problem according to TUC General Secretary Brendon Barber is for employers to offer flexible working arrangements.
“Remote working and flexible shifts can reduce commute times, save on office space and reduce energy costs – saving companies money and helping staff enjoy a better work life balance.”
This is a great suggestion for some jobs but for many, such as those in the service and retail industries, employees must keep regular hours and work from the premises. It’s still possible for an employee in this situation to vary their hours but it requires extending their day at either the start or end. For example, an employee could commute into work early and go to a gym located near their place of employment.
Another strategy is to turn your commuting time into productive time. At least this way the time spend behind the wheel is not a complete waste of time. This exact scenario was the inspiration behind Text2Go. I was spending over 90 minutes in the car every day and wanted to put this time to better use. As a software developer I needed to spend a lot of time learning new technologies. My solution was to create an application to turn articles, and news available on the web into speech and transfer it to my iPod. Now I could switch off the inane breakfast and drive radio shows and listen to information I found interesting and relevant to my profession.
Recently ebooks have been gaining in popularity. There is now a huge collection of top quality novels available on the web. Every genre is available and in fact due to the low cost of publishing on the web, you’re much more likely to find a genre specific to your tastes (now you can purchase those teen zombie romances you love so much without being embarrassed at checkout time). Many ebooks are free and almost all are significantly cheaper than a paperback, often available for a couple of dollars – the price of a cup of coffee. Text2Go 4.0 has just been released and supports direct conversion of ebooks in the standard ePub format to audiobooks. Chapters from the original ebook are preserved in the audiobook, making navigation during playback easy.
There is an unlimited amount of information on the web, catering to all interests and professions. Now is the time to turn some of that wasted commuting time into productive or at least entertaining time. If you do this, I promise you, your commuting time will seem much shorter and you’ll arrive at your destination a lot less stressed and perhaps just a little more well informed.
For more tips on commuting see
I few days ago I invited Text2Go owners to take part in the Text2Go 4.0 Beta. I’m now opening the beta up to anyone who’s brave enough.
You can download it directly using this link Text2Go 4.0 Beta. If you already have a previous version of Text2Go installed, make sure you uninstall this first.
The beta version is quite stable and I encourage you to give it a try. Having said that, if you do find any bugs, please use the Support… command within Text2Go to let us know.
The major new feature is ebook to audiobook conversion. Text2Go reads ebooks in the open ebook format know as ePub (.epub), html (.htm or .html) and plain text files (.txt). The ePub format is preferred. If you have an iPod, Text2Go will create an audiobook complete with chapter marks. If you have another MP3 player, Text2Go will create one MP3 file per chapter and name them so they will appear in the correct order.
There is a tutorial on the Text2Go website that guides you through the process.
Here are a few sources of ebooks to get you started.
- Smashwords, a great source of contemporary works by independent authors
- epubbooks.com, a nice selection of free, public domain classics in the ePub format.
- Project Gutenberg, the original, most extensive source of public domain classics.
- Finding Free eBooks, free ebooks from all over the web.
- eBooks Just Published, my own site announcing reasonably priced and free ebooks.
This new version includes the following minor enhancements.
- Improved hotkey support. You can now define hotkeys for commands that work in Internet Explorer, such as Add Text, Speak Selected Text, Text2Go, Check Pronunciation, etc.
- Support for larger audio files. Text2Go was previously limited to producing audio files up to 2GB in size. This was a limitation of the Microsoft .wav audio file used as a temporary file during text to speech. Text2Go will now save speech directly to an MP3 file, avoiding this limit. A side benefit is that outputing MP3 files is now faster as there is not need to convert from a .wav file to an MP3 file.
- A number of minor bug fixes.
Let me know what you think.
Text2Go 3.7.3 has been released today. It’s a minor release that includes support for hotkeys and the ability to skip forward and back a sentence or paragraph when reading aloud at your PC.
Hotkeys can be configured by going to Options… and selecting the Hotkeys tab.
To add a hotkey, select a command from the list, click in the text box where it says Press hotkeys, and hold down the key combination you want to assign to the command. When you’re happy with the key combination, click the Assign button to assign it to the command.
The Text2Go toolbar has been enhanced to include controls to skip forward and back a sentence or paragraph. These additional controls only appear when text is being spoken.
Skipping back a sentence or paragraph is a little tricky. If you’re more than 2 seconds into a sentence or paragraph, Text2Go will take you back to the start of the current sentence or paragraph. If you’re less than 2 seconds into a sentence or paragraph, Text2Go will take you to the start of the previous sentence or paragraph. This works in much the same way as music players work when skipping back a track.
If you’re wondering whether Text2Go is compatible with Windows 7, I’m happy to report the answer is a definite yes! I’ve been running Text2Go without problem on Windows 7 64-bit since the release candidate. I didn’t have to make any changes to Text2Go to support Windows 7. Text2Go already supported Windows Vista and there aren’t a huge amount of architectural changes between Windows Vista and Windows 7. This means that just about all software than runs on Windows Vista will run on Windows 7. I’m really loving using Windows 7. Microsoft really have got it right this time.
One thing I was curious to investigate was whether they’d made any changes to the text to speech functionality and Narrator in Windows 7.
The first problem I ran into was where had they moved the text to speech options. There’s no longer a Text to Speech applet in the Control Panel. If you view the Control Panel by Category you have to first click on the Ease of Access category.
Then you need to select Ease of Access Centre.
You’re then presented with the following confusing dialog, ironically titled Make your computer easier to use.
You need to select Use the computer without a display.
Now click on Set up Text to Speech.
This is the same familiar dialog that’s been around since Windows XP. No changes here and unfortunately it’s now been buried in the most obscure location.
Now there is a quicker way to access the Text to Speech settings dialog but it’s even less intuitive than the above, if that’s possible.
First you will need to switch your Control Panel view from Category to Large icons or Small icons. Then click on the Speech Recognition applet – yes I know speech recognition is the opposite to text to speech, bare with me.
You can see in the left column there is a Text to Speech link, kindly included for wayward travellers. This will bring up the text to speech options. It’s much quicker to access but so unintuitive, you’ll have a hard time remembering it.
Microsoft really need to bring back the Text to Speech applet and display it in the Control Panel when viewing by Large or Small icons. Here’s hoping they add this back in before the final release of Windows 7.
I was also hoping that they would have included a male voice as well as the female voice, Microsoft Anna, that comes with Vista. Many people have complained that they lost the male voice, Microsoft Sam, when moving from XP to Vista, even though Microsoft Anna sounds a lot better than Microsoft Sam. Microsoft, I hope you’re listening.