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ipodaudiobookLearning skills to increase our income or just having a moment to read a book for fun is hard to do when you put almost two-thirds of your day toward paying yesterday’s bills. Or am I the only one that feels like that?

I’m trying to get through my Instrumentation Technician apprenticeship as fast as I can, but between my day job and my night gig, I don’t have a lot of study time. But what I do have is a fair amount of time in my truck, traveling from site to site. Hmmm, light bulb, convert my text books into MP3’s that I can play on my iPod. Hmmm, bigger lightbulb! Write an article on that.

Step 1: Get a Good Free Text to Speech (TTS) Program

SpesoftLogoOf the three Text to Speech software apps I tested with my text file of tongue twisters, the one I liked best was Spesoft’s Free Text To MP3 Speaker. I also tried Speakonia and Ultra Hal Text to Speech Reader. Unfortunately, those two do not convert the text directly to Mp3 format – just .wav. Other than that, they didn’t have as many choices on recording quality as Spesoft’s.

Step 2: Get a Good Book

gutenbergThere is a veritable cornucopia of copyright expired books out on the web. Project Gutenberg is probably the best known. Go on over, search for a topic and find the book you would like to read. Now download it. Please consider making a donation to Project Gutenberg if you can. It really is a great resource that has been going for about 30 years now.

I suppose you could do this with an eBook The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks Read More you own, as long as it wasn’t for public performance and you didn’t upload it on the web somewhere, and you had the express written consent of Major League Baseball, its broadcasters and affiliates. That’s just an opinion – do so at your own risk.

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Step 3: Edit the Text as Necessary

You could skip this step if you don’t have the time. Keep in mind that older books often have different spellings or curious characters that might not be read properly by your TTS program.

Step 4: Open the Book in Your TTS

Well, this means that you open the book in your Text to Speech software application.

Okay, here’s more details. Click on the Load Text from File button.

load_text_from_file

From there, navigate to the text file you want converted. Select that text file, and click on Open.

open_file

Now, your text should appear in the main part of the program, just like this!

loaded_text

I take credit for creating the grumbling gremlin tongue twister. It came to me as I was thinking about a gremlin that was, um, grumbling. The car, not the monster.

Step 5: Let the TTS Do It’s Thing

This is the time saver part. Just hit Record and Create Audio File, save it with the file name you want and walk the dog. Don’t have a dog? Walk the neighbour’s dog – just tell them first or it gets ugly, and the neighbour thinks you’re taking the dog for that ritual Join a Cult Online: How I Joined, Started & Finally Recovered Join a Cult Online: How I Joined, Started & Finally Recovered Read More you had planned for later. Or something like that.

record_and_create_audio_file

Spesoft Test to Speech software also allows you to choose different voices, adjust the speed, pitch and volume of the voice as well as tweak the recording quality. Everybody seems to have different preferences, so you might just want to play around with that for a bit. Personally, I set the Output Quality and Sample Rate as high as possible. My iPod doesn’t have much on it. Not much of a music guy.

Now you have an Mp3 of the book that you finally wanted to read. Pop it on the iPod, crank up the Shakespeare and get ready to cruise the strip. That’s kind of lame isn’t it? Well, hot librarians might dig it.

Image Credit : yum9me

  1. sample007
    December 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    QUOTE: "If you’d prefer a real person reading the text, then try Librivox. The books there are all read by real people."

    You don't need real people to do the legwork anymore! The natural voices text-to-speech engines today ARE real people, not robotic sounding. They sound just like a real person (especially the Neospeech engine), with very little distinction. You can test them out by going to

    http://www.Neospeech.com

    Try typing in something and see how it sounds!

    .

  2. sample007
    December 16, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Great idea! Just so you are aware, there is a company that scans books and converts them to mp3 audiobook using "Neospeech", which is one of the best text-to-speech engines on the market, even better than AT&T's Natural Voices. For a small fee, this company will do all the work for you, and send you the mp3 files. And their prices are fairly cheap;

    http://www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com

    They advertise $0.04/page, starting at $14.95.

    Check them out. Their great!

    Cheers.

  3. Israel Nicolas
    July 28, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I use this for proofreading and editing... Good tool!

  4. Ibrahim
    July 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the Librivox pointer - but I will try both anyways (only Librivox for poetry). Thank you guys also for doing the work for us to keep us update on all the wonderful freewares popping up.

  5. Ibrahim
    July 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    What happens to all the emotions, intonations, pauses, duration and pitch variations expressed by humans when reading a story loud and closely portraying the given human interaction/situation in the story. Even humans have to acquire a skill in narration - our ancient oral tradition - to bring the great art into life. I hope it does not produce plain and boring mechanical or robot like sound.

    • Mark O'Neill
      July 26, 2009 at 5:51 am

      If you'd prefer a real person reading the text, then try librivox.org Librivox. The books there are all read by real people.

    • Guy McDowell
      July 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

      The process does lose that emotional connection. I agree that the oral tradition is a wonderful component of the human experience, that we seem to be losing.

      However if we were to take a book, read it out loud to make the audiobook, then there is no time savings there for ourselves.

      Librivox is a very good fix for that problem though.

    • NomDeGuerre
      July 31, 2009 at 7:48 am

      Unfortunately, the audiobooks on librivox are read by volunteers, so you will rarely find the quality of recording to be on par with retail audiobooks recorded by professional narrators or voice actors.

      Although you can't argue with the price, I've had to stop listening to more than one classic from librivox because the reader for a given chapter was either so
      - monotone
      - an unintentional parody of themselves
      - speaking with an incomprehensible accent or
      - functionally illiterate
      that it was impossible to enjoy the reading. In some cases, I'd actually prefer the cold, monotone but consistent attempts of AI text-to-speech.

  6. Ken
    July 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Hi,
    Somehow you got lost going from "convert my text books into MP3’s" to "get a good book". How many of the textbooks for your course are on Gutenburg or in the public domain?
    Ken

    • Guy McDowell
      July 26, 2009 at 9:21 am

      None of my textbooks are in the public domain. However, in writing the article, to explain how to convert a book that isn't already in digital format, I would have had to go through the process of Optical Character Recognition (OCR). That was a bit beyond the scope of the article.

  7. Jana
    July 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I agree whole-heartedly! I am never without an audio book. Just as an FYI .. a lot of the Project Gutenberg books have already been converted to audio. Check out Librvox at http://www.archive.org/details/librivoxaudio. I just "read" their version of Trolloppe's "The Way We Live Now" which was the first book on the Newsweek list of 50 books to read now. Thanks for the good post. Jana

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