Ereaders that Talk

Now that we can read most any book anytime via an ereader download, it’s not surprising that listening to books wasn’t far behind. The upcoming Blio eReader Software is touting its ability to read almost any content to users in a natural-sounding voice.

An easy-to-use ereader platform providing natural text-to-speech would be a boon for the visually impaired, but the potential audience is much larger. Children could enjoy hearing stories while looking at interactive images, or a cook could listen to a recipe while mixing the ingredients. There are many potential scenarios where someone would enjoy listening to content being read, as long as it sounds lifelike and not robotic or flat. The fact that the voice is natural is one of the major points stressed by the firms launching the platform.

The companies behind the software are Nuance Communications and K-NFB Reading Technology Inc., and they say the software will launch in September. The software will be available as a PC download for use on desktops, laptops, netbooks, and tablets, and will be available in 2010 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and iPhone operating systems, according to the Blio Website.

Blio is also attempting to set itself apart in the crowded ereader market by saying it preserves a book’s original layout, fonts, and graphics. Users will experience the electronic book exactly as it looks on the printed page.

Nuance Communications’ text-to-speech technology will also be available for ereader manufacturers looking to integrate it in their devices. Users can choose to listen to “Samantha” or “Tom,” and the software supports more than 30 languages.

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