This is a post I’ve been eager to write, so I was delighted to read an email from the people at vBookz this morning, letting me know that Apple has approved their app for reading PDF’s aloud. I’ve installed the app on my iPad and iPhone, put it through its paces, and I’m not disappointed. At $4.99, this solution isn’t free. For anyone who really needs text-to-speech, it probably won’t seem expensive.
vBooks PDF Voice Reader is an iOS app that will read PDF files aloud. Original formatting is retained, and text is highlighted by an ‘interactive cursor’ as it is read. The cursor looks a little like a magnifying lens as it tracks words being spoken. The cursor may be dragged back to re-read something. Or, it can be moved ahead if you wish to skip ahead.
The cursor enlarges with the text, when zooming in by pinching. Double-tapping a document with a single finger enlarges the document so that it fills the screen. This usually yields text that is reasonably large, especially on an iPad in landscape mode. On the other hand, using the three-finger zoom, iOS’s accessibility feature, makes it tricky to follow the cursor while reading.
Users can choose between high quality male or female voices. When opening a file for the first time, the user must choose between “English” and “English UK”. As well, there are 9 other languages to choose from, but each language costs an additional $4.99 as an in-app purchase. The additional languages include: Czech; Danish; Dutch; Finnish; French; German; Italian; Norwegian; Polish.
The short video below provides an quick overview of the app.
It could hardly be easier to bring PDF files into vBookz PDF Voice Reader! Simply open a PDF email attachment, or a PDF file in your DropBox account. Then click on the forward icon to be given the option of opening the file in vBookz PDF Voice Reader. Once a PDF file has been opened, it remains on a book shelf in the “Library” for future reference. The process seems to work well with both short files and those that are book-length. Files can also be brought into vBookz PDF Voice Reader from your computer, via iTunes.
UPDATE: If you open a PDF file in Safari, simply tap the screen to be offered an “Open in” button at the top right corner of the screen. You are given the option of opening the file in vBookz PDF Voice Reader.
It is noteworthy that there are two versions of vBookz PDF Reader–one for the US and Canada and another for the rest of the world. I don’t know if there are differences. As a Canadian, I’ve only been able to test the version available to me here. It is also noteworthy that there is a version of vBookz PDF Voice Reader for Mac computers.