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Kindle Text-to-Speech Features

written by: Erik Hinrichsen•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/19/2011

This article will review some of the features of the Amazon Kindle's text-to-speech function and show you how to get started using it yourself.

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    The Amazon Kindle outshines the competition in both sales and features. Though the Kindle uses the same basic technology as other eBook readers, it stands out for its wide array of features and low pricing. One of these features is the text-to-speech function. Using this feature, readers can have their Kindle read eBooks aloud. This makes the device a great companion on the road, where it can be used like an audiobook; however, this feature has also prompted some controversy due its perceived infringements on the audiobook market.

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    How to Use Text-to-Speech Function

    Also known as "Read to Me", this function is pretty straightforward and easy to use. Users don't need to mess around with hacks and workarounds, because the feature is included right in the Kindle software. Instructions on how to turn on this feature are below.

    Note: These instructions are for the Kindle 2.

    1. Press the menu button. The menu button is on the right side of the device.
    2. Using the controller buttons, scroll down to the line that says "Text to Speech." The controller buttons are between the menu and back buttons.
    3. Press the controller button to turn on the Kindle text-to-speech function. The audio should begin playing right away. Listen to the audio on the external speakers or on headphones through the headphone jack.
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    Quality

    The Kindle text-to-speech function is very useful, but it doesn't really replace standard audiobooks. Those who are used to the soothing voices employed by today's GPS devices may be disappointed, as the Kindle's voice is pretty electronic-sounding. Users can adjust the quality of the voice, however. The Kindle has controls to adjust the reading speed of the text-to-speech function, and the voice can also be set as male or female.

    In my experience with the Kindle, the text-to-speech function is most useful for short periods, like cooking or cleaning, when reading the Kindle would otherwise be difficult. Though the device could conceivably be used to read an entire book aloud, the voice can be grating after a while. For that reason, the Kindle isn't really a replacement for audiobooks, as its voice doesn't provide the nuance and human quality of a well-read audiobook. For short periods, though, this can be very useful.

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    Controversy

    The possible applications of the Read to Me function has many publishers worried. In these publishers' view, the text-to-speech function is a copyright infringement, impinging on the audiobook market. However, the function isn't really a replacement for audiobooks, as mentioned earlier. Still, several publishers threatened to sue Amazon, forcing a compromise. In the end, Amazon agreed to allow publishers to block the text-to-speech function if they so desired. Thus, the text-to-speech function is blocked on some books. Even if the function is blocked on some books, it is still available on others. Stay tuned, because it is possible that Amazon and publisher's groups will reach an agreement on the TTS function in the future.