Today's posting is a little different from the others, in that it's not related to a news article, but instead are some of my own personal observations dealing with an ebook aspect. I had a good amount of experience with a wide variety of read aloud systems including text-to-speech tools. For example, I often use text-to-speech tools when reading dissertations, this allows me to have a multimodality form of reading, improving my reading and I found this to be very effective. So with my Kindle I thought I would experiment with having it read to me a variety of different kinds of books and see what happened.
For the past few weeks I've been having my Kindle read me a textbook that I'm using with one of my classes. I often listen to this textbook while I'm driving longer distances or riding my bike, and as lately I've been taking a number of trips that have me driving for about two to three hours each way it gave me a way to more effectively beyond just listening to music. I’ve found that this machine reading of the textbook while I to be extremely effective. The only issue that I've actually been having is that the as is reading to me I keep waiting to take notes, not something good to do while driving or riding. I’ve adapted to overcome this notetaking problem, by using a voice recorder - I pause the ebook reading aloud, and then I use the voice recorder to take my notes, and then I continued reading. Later I use my voice recorder to go back within the textbook and add my notes and highlights.
So, on one bike ride I had just finished “reading” (listening) to a chapter from the textbook and I didn't want to continue with the textbook at that time. So I thought I would just switch to a novel that I had been reading (visual) on my Kindle and have it read that novel aloud to me as I continued biking. Very quickly I found myself being frustrated with the reading that was occurring. This was not a problem with the voice or the speed at which it was reading, or of the machine’s reading prosody, as for example question’s intonations did go up at the end of the sentence as compared to the rest of the sentence. New reading systems are a much more advanced than the old reading systems were and I had been listening to reading systems for quite a long time. And I found a Kindle to be very good at how it reads. What I realized was that I was having a visualization problem, a visulation that was creating a cognitive dissonance situation as I was listening to a machine read a novel. An issue that was not occurring while I was listening to it read me the textbook. Normally when I read a novel I constantly go through a series of visualizations of the based upon the descriptions in the book and as I continue to read adjust my image of what I'm reading for the text occurring. What I hadn't realized was that I also do the similar thing in that I visualize the voices of the characters within the novels I'm reading. So while the Kindle was reading it to me in a single voice, I had become quite used to reading and inserting character voices in my head, with a complete female voices, male voices, and accents for the different characters. So while my head kept looking for the different voices, the Kindle just kept reading with its only voice.
So I'm finding the Kindle to be an excellent reading resource, one personal issue I've discovered is that the for novels with lots of dialogue it can be a little frustrating in listening, although I have no problem reading it off the screen. This isn’t a Kindle issue, it is an issue of the computer reading voice for a number of books - such as novels. Here is definitely where audio books or books on tape, where there is a real reader, using different voices or where a book has been done with full cast audio (different people reading) are definitely better than machine red voices. Although I did do an experiment where I used another piece of software that allowed me to pick between six different voices and actually assign different characters of different voices and had it read to me in that one actually worked out quite well. I was able to follow the novel throughout with the assigned different voices to read different parts. One possibility for the future electronic book reading devices would be to somehow code in the different characters and so that the system would recognize that it and use different character voices, that way it could become similar to a reader’s theater reading experience, where there are different characters with different voices.