Voice Dream text-to-speech app can now play audiobooks, too, and soon you may be able to hear audios of PDFs while seeing the original layouts

Screenshot of the Beautiful and the Damned in Voice DreamThe new version of Voice Dream, a superb iOS text-to-speech app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, can now play audiobooks, too.

Even at $10, costlier than the typical app, Voice Dream is a Buy, capital B, at the Apple App Store.

Voice Dream 2.9.2 can handle zipped MP3s as well as audiobooks in Daisy, thanks to help from a Swiss library organization, and navigation and general usability are excellent, just as in the regular text-to-speech mode for ePub files and others.

Dozen of optional voices in common languages work with the app, and my favorite is the UK-accented “Peter” voice ($2 or so).

What’s more, developer Winston Chen says Voice Dream can store thousands of books, and I believe him. No, I don’t know Winston beyond the Facebook and LinkedIn drills and review-related correspondence. As an accessibility advocate, I just love this program despite some minor flaws I’ll mention here. For my purposes at least, it leaves the competition in the dust.

Teachers and librarians should recommend Voice Dream to the appropriate print-challenged people and buy it themselves so they can show students and others how to use it. Voice Dream is also a treat for regular readers like me who enjoy listening to books while exercising. Ditto for commuters. While the voices aren’t 100 percent natural, they come far, far closer than those of several years ago.

Also, the new Voice Dream lets you create a bookmark in the Safari mobile browser, so you can fire up the TTS app from within Web pages of news sites and others and hear them. Here’s what you can copy into the bookmark (ideally placed near the top):

javascript:window.location=%22com.voicedream.reader://open?url=%22+window.location

Voice Dream displaying an audiobookYou won’t hear the voices right away, but soon enough. Tap on the arrow at the top of the screen. Choose SmartSave and let the the gears grind. Then hit Done and you’ll return to your Voice Dream library. Please note that the addition to your library might show at the bottom of the list or elsewhere rather than the top. Luckily Voice Dream can sort alphabetically by title and also has a search feature. Pay attention to the title on the Web page before saving, in case you later need to hunt for the page. I’m not sure if I’m overlooking something or if the appear-at-the-top issue is a bug in a much-appreciated experimental feature.

Voice Dream is just the ticket for absorbing long New York Times Magazine features while I tread. While before I could switch from Safari to Voice Dream’s browser to save text as audio, this way is much more convenient.

Now—another tip. To make best use of the MP3 capability, go to the LibriVox and bookmark it within Voice Dream’s own browser. This treasure of a  site offers zillions of free audios of public domain books. Don’t forget to bookmark other audio and text sites as well. By tapping the + sign at the bottom of Voice Dream’s opening screen, you’ll see not only the Web browser but also a shortcut to the Project Gutenberg site, and I’d love to see Feedbooks, manybooks.net and the Internet Archive added as well.

For more on Voice Dream, see LibraryCity’s original review and a follow-up, as well as a write-up early this year from the American Federation for the Blind. Also see the gung-ho comments that users left at the App Store.

Just the same, I can’t anticipate the needs of all LibraryCity readers, and I did want to call attention to App Store remarks, dated November 13, from drakedanecl, a generally happy Voice Dream customer who experienced difficulty with file handling within iTunes FileSharing. Also see his other caveats. That said, he still gave Voice Dream’s current version five stars. Yes!

Winston Chen and familySo kudos once again to Winston (the link goes to NPR’s segment on him). Already Voice Dream can turn PDFs into audio files, and he is now aiming for it also to be able to read  the PDFs aloud while keeping the original formatting (Voice Dream already can do TTS of PDF). Stay tuned. If the past repeats itself, he’ll make the forthcoming version available to existing users for free. Me, I’m rooting for the next Voice Dream to let me change the spacing and margins of text for everything, even if the original layout isn’t preserved. Come on, Winston. You really could turn Voice Dream into a good general-purpose e-reader without dissing the accessibility community.

The addition of the ability to read Adobe-DRMed books, especially library ones, would help as well (yes, I dislike DRM as much as the next victim does, but don’t expect it to vanish tomorrow). I hope that Adobe and OverDrive, the biggest supplier of library e-books, will cooperate fully with Voice Dream.

Likewise, Winston can ideally go on to an Android Voice Dream in time, although I can understand his desire to focus now on perfecting the iOS one. I’d do the same in his place.

If you want DRMed library e-books read aloud to you, even though Voice Dream can’t do it: One solution in some cases would be the Kindle’s usual audio capabilities. For TTS from OverDrive’s ePub files, see How to get the most out of library e-books via the right gadget, text to speech, and otherwise.

(Updated Dec. 2, now that the Voice Dream half-price sale is over.)

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