Wednesday, January 19, 2011

With Great 'Text-To-Speech' Comes Great Responsibility

Yes, your Kindle is a small miracle. Yes, the robots now read to you. Yes, it's incredible. But with great power comes great responsibility, and that means knowing when to say no to your newfound powers. This month is my one-year anniversary with my Kindle, and I've learned that there are pitfalls when it comes to using the text-to-speech function.

The text-to-speech (TTS) function is acceptable for relaying narratives such as biographies, histories, and even fictional story-telling. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, something is lost in having Dickens read to you. I'm sorry, but it's true. On the flipside, having the new Dexter novel read aloud to you probably makes the terrible prose more digestible.

On the other end of things, there are some things which just do not benefit from text-to-speech. For example, using TTS to read the Puritans for the most part is not advisable. This is because there are just some books which we're supposed to read slowly and think about as we're reading it. Reading Thomas Watson's The Saint's Spiritual Delight is a wonderful experience. But you miss out on so many opportunities for profound reflection when you just let the text fly by you. I could give more examples of this in action, but I think we all know some books that you just shouldn't let fly past you.

So today's lesson: just because you can... doesn't mean you should.


  1. Does Amazon plans to improve this technology that will sound more human? what about text-to-speech in different languages?

  2. I think it basically sounds out the words. So it might not be good with french or something like that, but it seems to sound out latin words just fine. I think I've read some fiction books where characters spoke spanish, and the spanish is really pretty good - but no accents. It's like listening to a tourist reading straight out of a spanish-english dictionary! LOL


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