"We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?" - Steve Jobs

Make All Your Books an Audiobook For Free

I’ve written about this before, but given the amount of times I’ve moved my blog around, I think the post has now been lost. Some recent changes in the latest iOS 14.5 reminded me about it, however, so I thought it was worth revisiting.

In the past times, before the pandemic, I used to have a long daily commute. At least 3 hours a day, usually more. Because of this, I found myself getting through a lot of audiobooks and really discovered a penchant for it. Since my commute stopped, at least for a short while, I’ve not touched an audiobook. I’ve got into real reading a lot more, but find that I often only get time to read late at night, which quite often results in my falling asleep literally a page or two into the chapter. I really can’t read more than a few lines without passing out. It’s almost like an illness …

Something I’ve started doing as I’ve been moving around the house, or in between calls / meetings is a bit of both. No, I’ve not been buying the same book twice, in audiobook and eBook form. I’ve been taking advantage of a really helpful Apple Accessibility feature called Speak Screen. You can turn this option on under Settings > accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Screen. Once on, you activate it by swiping down with two fingers from the top of the screen and, as you’d expect given the name, it starts to read the screen.

This has been possible for a long time and, while not as engaging as real professionally narrated audiobook, it was more than passable as an extension to reading a book when you wanted to do it in short bursts. I discovered the latest iOS 14.5 beta added a couple of new voices and some of them are really rather impressive. After listening to these on my iPad it reminded me about the accessibility feature above so I tried it out with a standard book. The results really did sound fantastic, as you can see below.

New Female Voice

New Male Voice

Again, these are obviously lacking when compared to a real audiobook these really do sound great and they’re a great free alternative to buying an audiobook version of a book you own if you only want to listen to a few pages. It even skips to the next page for you while you use your phone for other things.