vBookz PDF Voice Reader: Simple Text-to-Speech Solution for PDF’s on iPad, iPhone and iTouch

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.

14 thoughts on “vBookz PDF Voice Reader: Simple Text-to-Speech Solution for PDF’s on iPad, iPhone and iTouch

  1. Thank you for covering vBookz PDF Voice Reader.
    The Mac version is different than the one in the above movie.
    The ‘Rest of the world’ version has no built-in English. You choose your needed language. That way, we’re not enforcing the user to buy two languages and he pay for the app just once.
    We’re getting requests for more new features that will be implemented with our next version.
    Best,
    vBookz Team

  2. This is fantastic, Paul. I’m playing around with it. Have you found a way to open a PDF right into it without going through email or Dropbox? That would make it even more valuable as you come across PDFs online and don’t need to add extra steps to read it.

  3. Just downloaded it in Canada. There is no audio for English US. When I click on English (UK) there is an option to buy .. Which I would if I needed it. I switch back to English US and there is no option to buy, yet there is no sound when reading. I am not convinced that purchasing a language for sound will fix the audio problem. Please get back to me with a solution or this will be a bad review on the app store tomorrow. This means 3 bad reviews total in the Canadian app store. Three reviews total. The other reviews are by others who presumably have the same problem and feel like their time has been wasted. I’ll give the app a chance if you can help me get it to work vBookz because I see some potential here.

  4. I’m a doctoral student with a lot of peer-reviewed articles to read in PDF format, and, my full time job requires many hours of driving. I can now fill those once lost hours of time with meaningful instruction and have time to play with the kids when I get home! Thank you for sharing your experience with this iPad app and for providing such an insightful review! I downloaded it and it works wonderfully, I can put the cursor where I want the app to read, and it seamlessly reads across pages. So far, my only issue to report is that the app stops reading if the iPad goes to sleep. Probably an easy fix, I just need to do a little research.
    Thanks Again!

  5. Are you implenting new features for annotating the PDF’s? It would be helpful to highlight, leave sticky notes and look up words (dictionary) as you are reading your docs.

  6. In Word exist this option “Convert text to audio and send to and iPod”.. is fantastic this kind of tools.

  7. Thanks for this stunning post. I am looking for an app which provides text to speech program especially for PDF files. I already have text to speech iphone app but it is not for PDF format. So now I will definitely try vBookz.

  8. So which text-to-speech app do you recommend, vBookz or Voice Reader?? My main concern is listenability, i.e., how natural does the automated reading sound. Price is somewhat of an issue, but if we’re only talking about a couple of bucks here or there, I’m going to go with quality…

  9. Hi Ed. I think the quality is reasonably good with both options. You get both a male and female voice with VBookz, and you only get a female voice with VoiceReader. Additional voices on VoiceReader are available for $0.99. You can test these voices. The most important distinguishing factor is that vBookz retains original formatting of whatever you are reading. So, if illustrations, diagrams, etc. are important to you, then you need vBookz. If not, then VoiceReader will probably serve you well.

    Another option you may wish to consider is VoiceDream. I’m just trying it out, and plan to write about it soon. VoiceDream does not retain formatting, but it does a great job of reading the text with a high quality female voice. Voice Dream highlights text as it is read, and you have the option of reading white text on a black background. The cost of VoiceDream is $4.99.

  10. Thanks for the feedback Paul – I look forward to review of VoiceDream; if you feel,that it has the best quality of voice (i.e., easiest to understand/listen to) then I’ll probably go with it.

  11. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the information. Can one disable the red moving rectangle that reads each word? I like to listen and see the text at thsame time but i find the pointer very distracting.
    Best
    Maryam

  12. Hi Maryam. As far as I know, there is no way of disabling the word tracker. It might be worthwhile to contact the developer and suggest they provide an option for switch it off. –Paul

  13. Paul,
    Any suggestions for how to integrate a t2s with GoodReader? I am a PhD student with hundreds of articles neatly organized on my GoodReader, but there is no text-to-speech native. I’d hate to have to port everything over to another program – not simple on my iPad as far as I can tell.

    Thanks!

  14. Text files can be read aloud in GoodReader with the iOS ‘Speak Selection’ feature. Unfortunately, I think you’re out of luck when it comes to PDF files. For text-to-speech, you’ll need to open the files in another app such as vBookz PDF Voice Reader, Voice Dream or ClaroSpeak. –Paul

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