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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