Have you ever been deep into a book and had to put it down to go somewhere? What if you could get in your car, put on your sneakers, or close your eyes and fire up that book – right where you left off – and have your phone read aloud while you get where you need to go, get some things done, or just lie in a tub with a damp cloth over your your eyes? Sound good? You don’t have to buy anything, probably. You can do this from your phone, your Kindle, or your Amazon Echo.
Use Amazon’s Whispersync
The easiest, slickest, and most enjoyable way to have a book read aloud is to use Amazon’s Whispersync. You have to own both the Kindle version and the Audible version of the book for this to work. But you often get a significant discount on one of them so this isn’t quite as expensive as it sounds.
Here’s how to do it:
- Buy a Kindle book on Amazon that also has an audio version. Then buy the Audible version of the same book. Sometimes, publishers make the Kindle version super cheap if you buy the Audible version. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service that gives you access to thousands of titles for $10 a month, the Audible version is often available without an additional fee.
- Open the Kindle app on your phone (or on your Kindle) and read some of the book.
- When you want to switch to listening to the book, I open the same title in the Audible app on that same phone. (I could also switch to another device here. It doesn’t care.)
- A message informed me that it would pick up where I left off on another device. It did that without any input from me but I could tap “undo” to go to another place in the audiobook.
- When I wanted to switch back to reading, I opened the Kindle app and also opened that same title. It asked me if I wanted to go to the most recent page read (in Audible.) I tapped “Yes” and it took me to the same spot in the book it had last read.
If you are reading a book on your Kindle and want to get in the tub and have that book read aloud to you, you can switch to audio, if you have the audio version, right from your Kindle. Or open the book on your phone and start listening either through headphones or a connected speaker that way, if you want to go for a walk, say, and don’t want to bring your Kindle. In fact, you can listen through any tablet, phone, or Amazon Echo, so the way you do this is really up to you. You don’t even have to have a Kindle, really, for this to work. Not only will this service read the book aloud while you walk or drive, it will remember where you were and cue up the audio in precisely the same place you left off when you were reading. It’s like magic. And the audio books are read by skilled voice artists or actors.
Use the Kindle App
You don’t have to own a Kindle to buy a Kindle book on Amazon and read it on a tablet, computer, or phone. Just download the Kindle app. When you have a book open in the app, you can use Whispersync or turn on text-to-speech and have it read aloud to you at any time. While you are reading a book, just choose Tools/Start text to speech and a computer voice will take over the reading so you can close your eyes.
Get your iPhone to read aloud
If you don’t have a Kindle (but do have an iPhone) or want a cheaper way to do this, get Siri to read aloud. All she needs is a digital copy of the book, downloaded to your phone, to read from. Open a book using the Books app. Then summon Siri and say, “Speak Screen.” She will read the book aloud, in her voice. She does a good job, too, for the most part. But she is an AI and sometimes mispronounces things. She will also read emails, news articles, texts, and whatever else is on the screen, so this can use her to help you keep up with work or information while resting your eyes, staying active, or driving.
Get your Android phone to read aloud
If you have the book you want to read on an Android phone, you can turn on TalkBack to have your phone read it – or anything on your screen – aloud. You have to listen to a computer voice do the reading and, since it’s designed for accessibility, it changes the way you interact with the screen but it’s simple enough to turn on and off.
Find the book you want in, say, Google Play. Buy it – or get the free sample – and open the book in the Google Play app.
Turn on TalkBack by pressing both volume keys on the side of your phone at the same time for three seconds. With the book open on your screen, tap the screen, then double-tap to enter skim mode. Now you will see a three-dot menu on the top of the screen. Select it, then choose Read Aloud. Your phone will start reading. You can use the menu to stop reading aloud or press both volume buttons at the same time to turn off TalkBack.
Ask Alexa to read to you
If you have an Amazon Echo on your bedside table or an Echo Auto in the car, Alexa will read any book in your Amazon library — even of you don’t own the Audible version — aloud for you. Just say, Alexa, read [name of book title] and she will locate the book in your library and start reading aloud, in her voice. You don’t have to own the Audible version of the book for this but if you do own an Audible title, she will cue that up and play it.
There doesn’t even have to be an audio version of the book you want her to read. She converts from text to speech and is pretty good at it. If you don’t have a particular book in mind and just want her to read something from your library, browse your options in the Alexa app. Open the app and tap Play from the option along the bottom of the screen. She will show you everything that’s available in your library.