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Author Topic: Electronic Book Readers and Audiobooks  (Read 6558 times)
Aster Breo
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« Topic Start: May 01, 2010, 09:59:17 pm »

I'm looking for info and advice about electronic book readers, like Kindle, and audiobook "services", like audible.com.

Thanks to neurological problems thoroughly discussed in other threads, I have a problem reading and retaining information.  I just completed detailed cognitive testing, and one thing I learned from it is that I do better with information I *hear* than with information I *see*.

So I'm investigating the various options for listening to books.  What kinds of technology do you use?  What are the pros and cons?  Where do you find the books and other materials for download?  Pros and cons of various sites?

One problem I expect to run into is the kinds of books I like to read vs. what's available in an audio format.  Fiction should be mostly fine, but, f'ex, I don't expect to be able to find many of the books I want to read about Celtic history, archeology, spirituality, etc.  Has anyone found anything like that anywhere?

Thanks!

~MI
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 10:13:05 am by Star, Reason: Adding audiobooks to the subject line » Logged

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« Reply #1: May 02, 2010, 08:10:42 am »

So I'm investigating the various options for listening to books.  What kinds of technology do you use?  What are the pros and cons?  Where do you find the books and other materials for download?  Pros and cons of various sites?

I'm not much help here as I learn much better by reading than by hearing. However, one of my friends in San Antonio loved to listen to books on tape while driving to various clients in South Texas and had a special voice controlled tape player that he could pause and unpause without having to take his hands off the wheel or his eyes off the road. I have no idea who made it or where he got it, unfortunately.
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« Reply #2: May 02, 2010, 09:22:10 am »

One problem I expect to run into is the kinds of books I like to read vs. what's available in an audio format.  Fiction should be mostly fine, but, f'ex, I don't expect to be able to find many of the books I want to read about Celtic history, archeology, spirituality, etc.  Has anyone found anything like that anywhere?

You can get a lot of books on cd or download that you can't get on audiobook.  That's what I do so I can read on the computer.  My problems are my eyes themselves, though, not comprehension.  If the quality of the sound doesn't bother you, some book programs, like Microsoft Reader, have an audio option.  It sounds pretty robotic - no inflection and sometimes reads the punctuation, but it works.

My niece works with computers and spent a while testing some print-to-voice (and vice versa) programs.  I'm going to a family brunch today and will ask her for some recommendations.

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« Reply #3: May 02, 2010, 10:12:36 am »

I'm looking for info and advice about electronic book readers, like Kindle, and audiobook "services", like audible.com.

Sorry--this is confusing me a little.  The rest of the post sounds like you're really just looking for audiobook stuff, but electronic book readers (like Kindle), while they might handle audiobooks (Kindle does, though I've never actually tried that functionality), are mostly geared to reading things visually.  I'm a little confused about why you're looking for information about them if what you're wanting are audiobooks, since that's not usually what they're about.

I listen to audiobooks on my commute; I use my iPod, which handles them wonderfully.  We used Audible as an audiobook source for a while, and I think were fairly happy with it.  (Hubby had the management of the account.  He did cancel it, but I don't recall why and he's away until next Thursday so I can't ask him just now...)  My primary audiobook source right now, though, is Librivox, which provides free audio recordings of public-domain works, produced by volunteers.  There are some issues with it (these are not professional readers, so do not expect professional quality; also, the books are in MP3 rather than a proper audiobook format, which can make them a little more unweildy to deal with sometimes--but hardly impossible), but overall I'm very fond of it.
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« Reply #4: May 02, 2010, 01:02:19 pm »

My niece works with computers and spent a while testing some print-to-voice (and vice versa) programs.  I'm going to a family brunch today and will ask her for some recommendations.

I talked to my niece.  She mentioned the microsoft reader one, and something called Dragon that sounds like it might be part of the windows accessibility options.

There is also one here  http://www.nextup.com/  called textaloud that offers a 15 day trial.  The program costs about thirty dollars and claims to have realistic voices, so it might be worth trying out.

She's checking her notes and will send me any more links that she had marked down as potentially useful.  I'll post them here when I get them.

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Blessed are the cracked, for it is they who let in the light.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
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That's how the light gets in

L Cohen
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« Reply #5: May 02, 2010, 03:42:12 pm »

 I'll post them here when I get them.

Absent

Actually, I'll just forward the e-mail she sent me.  She mentions a couple of programs and what they work with.  They do seem to all be for reading things on the computer - pdf, email, e-books, etc.  I think I was hoping for something like a scanner-reader, where you could run some device over a book page and have the words read to you.  That way you could still read directly from your book collection.  

I don't think any of them read scans, since most of the time when you scan a book into your computer it saves as a picture.  I have limited experience with this, though, since most of what I read either starts out online or comes as a cd.  There may be such a thing out there, though.  If there isn't it seems that some ingenious inventer could definitely find a market among those of us with huge book collections we can no longer read.

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"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
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Blessed are the cracked, for it is they who let in the light.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
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That's how the light gets in

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« Reply #6: May 02, 2010, 05:14:57 pm »

Sorry--this is confusing me a little.  The rest of the post sounds like you're really just looking for audiobook stuff, but electronic book readers (like Kindle), while they might handle audiobooks (Kindle does, though I've never actually tried that functionality), are mostly geared to reading things visually.  I'm a little confused about why you're looking for information about them if what you're wanting are audiobooks, since that's not usually what they're about.

I'm sorry.  I should have been clearer.

I'm looking for info on both, audiobooks and electronic readers.

I'm reasonably familiar with the concept of audiobooks, although the only time I'm actually used them is in the car's CD player.  I haven't used them with an ipod or computer.  Yet.   Smiley

I'm interested in Kindle-like devices because -- if I understand correctly -- some of them have text readers.  So, for books that I can't get in an audiobook format (most of what I'm interested in reading, unfortunately), I can get some of them in an electronic format and use a text reader.  I'm pretty sure Kindle has one, but I have no idea how well it works or what some other options are.

Does that make more sense?
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Aster Breo
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« Reply #7: May 02, 2010, 05:16:10 pm »

Actually, I'll just forward the e-mail she sent me.  

Thanks so much, Marilyn.  I saw the email come in and will read it as soon as I can.  I really appreciate you asking your niece and the info she provided.
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« Reply #8: May 02, 2010, 07:59:44 pm »

I'm interested in Kindle-like devices because -- if I understand correctly -- some of them have text readers.  So, for books that I can't get in an audiobook format (most of what I'm interested in reading, unfortunately), I can get some of them in an electronic format and use a text reader.  I'm pretty sure Kindle has one, but I have no idea how well it works or what some other options are.
Yes, if you look on the Kindle page of Amazon, there's a promotional video that includes a short example of the text reader voice at one point. It is somewhat robotic, but I've heard that you kind of get used to it. Although I haven't used it myself.

And FWIW, I know some of our local libraries around here have audiobooks on itty MP3-type players you can check out, with one book per little player. Very neat.
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« Reply #9: May 02, 2010, 08:00:43 pm »

My primary audiobook source right now, though, is Librivox, which provides free audio recordings of public-domain works, produced by volunteers.  There are some issues with it (these are not professional readers, so do not expect professional quality; also, the books are in MP3 rather than a proper audiobook format, which can make them a little more unweildy to deal with sometimes--but hardly impossible), but overall I'm very fond of it.
Thanks for sharing! I've never listed to an audiobook, and I'm honestly not sure if I'd like it, but this looks like a good way to get started.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #10: May 02, 2010, 08:27:04 pm »

I'm interested in Kindle-like devices because -- if I understand correctly -- some of them have text readers.  So, for books that I can't get in an audiobook format (most of what I'm interested in reading, unfortunately), I can get some of them in an electronic format and use a text reader.  I'm pretty sure Kindle has one, but I have no idea how well it works or what some other options are.

Oh, OK.  I just wasn't aware that the Kindle had a text reader, sorry.  That makes it make more sense.  Smiley  I'd test the text reader and let you know how it works, but, um, my Kindle seems to have locked up.  I'm not sure what's going on, other than I'm having the sort of day that could really, really convince me that Mercury Retrograde is a completely valid concept--communications are mostly OK, but tech is just hating me today.  ::sigh::  So if I can get it cooperating again, I'll try to remember to give the text reader a whirl and see how it works!
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« Reply #11: May 02, 2010, 08:34:27 pm »

I don't think any of them read scans, since most of the time when you scan a book into your computer it saves as a picture.

Actually, not necessarily--there is a type of scanning called OCR which is specifically meant to transcribe text by scanning it.  The problem with it, though, is that it's far from perfect.  The things I've seen scanned via OCR, unless they've been carefully edited afterward, have contained a lot of typos where the scan didn't read a character (or character combination) quite right.

Which is to say, if MI could get her hands on a good OCR scanner, she might be able to get her physical book collection into text-reader-friendly format.  (Potential copyright issues, maybe, but making a copy just for her own use should be OK, shouldn't it?...)  However, I have no idea what such things cost, and it's not likely to be a perfect solution.
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« Reply #12: May 02, 2010, 08:51:51 pm »

So if I can get it cooperating again, I'll try to remember to give the text reader a whirl and see how it works!

That would be great!  My biggest issue with the Kindle and this whole idea is not having a way to try it out.  So if you can get yours working, let me know how it does.  Thanks!
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« Reply #13: May 02, 2010, 08:59:47 pm »

Which is to say, if MI could get her hands on a good OCR scanner, she might be able to get her physical book collection into text-reader-friendly format.  (Potential copyright issues, maybe, but making a copy just for her own use should be OK, shouldn't it?...)  However, I have no idea what such things cost, and it's not likely to be a perfect solution.

So, theoretically, with an OCR scanner, I could scan my books (or just the relevant portions).  Those scans could then be read using a text reader program on a computer (assuming the computer can handle it), right?  Could a Kindle also read them?

I've also been looking a little bit at the IPad.  My concern there is title availability.  With the Kindle, there are actually several fairly obscure books in my current cart that have Kindle versions.  So, while not everything is available (yet), at least some are, which gives me a place to start.

I'm also looking into some text reader programs.  (Thanks for the links, Marilyn!!)  That might be a possibility, but, again, the big problems are 1) can my poor little laptop handle the program, and 2) getting the books I want to read into an electronic format.

Arrrgh!  This is so frustrating.
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« Reply #14: May 02, 2010, 09:01:01 pm »

That would be great!  My biggest issue with the Kindle and this whole idea is not having a way to try it out.  So if you can get yours working, let me know how it does.  Thanks!

Looking again at the Amazon page on the Kindle, I think the "Read to Me" feature is new.  So you might not have it if you have an older Kindle model.
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