Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Text-To-Speech Reader For Public Domain Classics on the iPad

As far as iPad ebook readers go, iBooks is probably the most beautiful one, and in terms of design there are far worse looks an aspiring reader app could ape. And that's just what vBookz did: it took iBooks' look, adding a few flourishes like ribbon bookmarks, and gave it the gift of text-to-speech.

For those who didn't follow Kindle text-to-speech saga, here's the jist: authors didn't think that buying the rights to read their ebooks necessarily gave readers the right to listen to those ebooks. It got messy. But vBookz sidesteps that whole business by including books from the Gutenberg Project, which are public domaine.

Now public domain isn't just esoteric old stuff, it's good old stuff. Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, all of these are in the public domain and included in the vBookz download, and an in-app store lets you seek out and download the other 20,000 ebooks in the public domain. And then it reads them to you.

You can adjust the rate of speech and choose between a man or woman's voice. Impressively, a magnifying bar rolls over the words as they're read, allowing you to follow along with the speech. The $5 app also allows readers to purchase access other languages, potentially a powerful tool for someone learning a second language.

Click this link to purchase vBookz from the iTunes App Store.

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