Many thanks to Bob Sprankle for mentioning the outstanding website readthewords.com on the most recent episode (May 4) of Bit by Bit. I’m going to be driving in a car at least fourteen hours in the next three days, and I’ve used readthewords.com to convert three articles about coursecasting into mp3 audio files I can listen to via my iPhone in the car.

Read The Words - My Recordings

I am VERY enthused to be able to listen to these articles in the car when I am on the go! While readthewords.com does provide a MP3 download link and a podcast RSS link, it does NOT appear (yet) to provide a single web feed / RSS feed for all the articles a user has converted. This is unfortunate, because if an aggregated web feed was provided that would permit me to simply add that feed to my PodNova subscriptions and then be able to directly download my new converted articles as mp3 files whenever I sync my iPhone and iPod. Perhaps they will add this feature later. It would also be great to let users create different channels of content, so converted audio files could be organized essentially into different “folders.” It would be handy if the same file could be linked within multiple categories as well.

readthewords.com lets you select from a pretty long list of different computerized voices when you register for a free account and choose to convert a text file:

Read The Words - Voice Options

So far I’ve just gone with Michael (US) and Elizabeth (UK.)

It would (will?) be great to see tools like this continue to develop which allow teachers and instructors to not only create customized playlists of articles converted to audio mp3 files, but also include spoken podcasts and vodcasts. I can foresee customized “channels” of content like this being welcome rich-media additions to courses at both the university and K-12 levels. This text to speech technology is VERY important from an accessibility standpoint, but not just for learners formally identified as needing accomodations. See my post “Converting text to and from speech for accessibility and convenience” from March 2008 for some additional text to speech tools and links. I’ll check in following this week’s experiences driving and listening to articles from readthewords.com later next week! :-)

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  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    I think this is a great service. I also have downloaded and used 2nd Speech Center. I confess, however, that I still struggle greatly with listening to the computerized voices…

  • http://paulhami.edublogs.org Paul Hamilton

    Wesley, I’m glad you acknowledge the value of this tool for learners with reading challenges. There are so many learners for whom reading text is a major barrier. For these individuals, a service such as ReadtheWords can be absolutely invaluable. Thanks, too, for the helpful link to your March 7th post. I also want to mention how much I appreciate the accessible version of captcha you use here. –Paul

  • http://blog.rspeak.com niclasbergstrom

    You should also check out a couple of services that we have developed. One is the http://www.audiofeedcreator.com that I created for a couple of years ago. However, we are now focusing the development on our new service http://www.vocalfruits.com where we shortly will add support for some more languages and better user interface and make it totally free. Both services are about converting RSS feeds into podcasts. VocalFruits also have the feature to aggregate items from a number of feeds into one, and also the possibility to send an email directly to the feed to update it. Perfect for speech-bloggers on the run. What we do now is to take the best out of the two services to further improve the VocalFruits platform.

    Since me and my team developed the ReadSpeaker services back in 2001 we have been dedicated to work with the best text-to-speech engines on the market, even if it means using a number of different TTS suppliers and platforms. On top of that we have worked for years with an additional layer of reading improvements to make it even a better user experience.

    We started already in 1999 and were originally working from an web accessibility perspective only, but over the years, as TTS have improved, we are now targeting the broad audience. However, we are always dedicated to our mission to make life easier for all the ones that have a hard time reading text, whatever the reason may be.

    We at VoiceCorp will soon release some really cool services for consumers. I’ll keep you posted.

    Niclas Bergstrom
    CEO, VoiceCorp Group
    Founder, ReadSpeaker
    [email protected]
    http://www.voice-corp.com

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