Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Text to Speech and ebooks

I am using my iPad for most of my readings, but was missing the text to speech function and bought me a kindle.
After all, text to speech is as I expected and far away from useful.
On the other hand I don't like to buy twice a book, as ebook and audio book.
I admit I did never listen to audio book till my wife and boss did tell me I should try.
I have an hour drive to the office. Obviously I can't read books during this time but listen to audio books. It is very comfortable to listen to a book during driving.
However ebooks have the advantage that I can make notes and posting parts to Twitter or to highlight parts which I think are important. Which an audio book is not able to. E- books allow me to read in the speed I want, and if I don't know a word I can look it up in the dictionary. Many times I don't understand certain words in an audio book and would like to see it written.

Therefore i would need two versions of the books which can get expensive and even if I would not mind to pay for it, it is inconvenient to switch between two books and find the correct page to make notes. Kindle with text to speech sounded right to use, but it does not make fun to listen to text to speech, it is too metallic and boring.

The beauty of audio books is the talent speaking the book.
I believe there will happen a lot in the future. It is similar like computer generated music. At the very first stage it was experimental and only a few bands using it like Kraftwerk. Today electronic music is a big part in almost all pop songs.
Everybody with computer can compose music. The programs are cheap and we are even able to give the sound a kind of soul by applying styles like pop, rock or even like Mozart style.

I see this in future with text to speech. We will be able to choose if female or male voice and the software which reads the books is smart enough to give the words some "soul". It might not sound like the best talent but at least similar like a normal person. and have already pretty good PC software to simulate a human voice. It just a matter of time to get these on your kindle or other ebook readers. Even if both are pretty good applications, they fail to be interesting enough for hours log listening. The reason is that the music in the voice is missing the personal character. If I would be the owner of such company, I would hire one of the best musician to engineer the software.
A musician can and would look at the sound and how to analyze and translate text in a different way than engineers.

But maybe it will be the other way around and we will be able to buy audiobooks which have the the written text attached to. We would be able to see the words which are spoken (like karaoke), and we can stop the speech to highlight the words we want. As soon a word is spoken it will get another color that we can see what the speaker said. If we want to read because we don't want to listen we can as well.

The latter version is easier to implement but then each book will be a very big file and the production costs per book will go up.

The first version would keep the books small and costs per book low. But the investment upfront would be much higher.

E-book reader are just at the beginning and we will see a lot improvements in the next few years.

- Posted using My iPad

Location:Spinning Wheel Ln,Spring Hill,United States

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