Friday, January 23, 2009

Speech-enabled Blogging

Today, I received a comment to my last post about Talkr suggesting ReadSpeaker as an alternative. As you may infer from the new "Listen" button under the title of each post, I'm giving it a try. To visit the ReadSpeaker site, you can use the above page link or the ad link which appears when you click Listen button.

In keeping with my "Free is Good" theme, I'm using a "free" edition, the price of which is the ad buttons. ReadSpeaker is available in three other ad-free editions with varying features; costs range between 39 and 149 Euros with ad buttons, significantly more costly without.This an excellent solution for bloggers who want a "barrier free" site. Intended for individuals and small businesses and currently in Beta, ReadSpeaker appears to be a scaled down version of WebReader from VoiceCorp International BV.

After registration, installation was simple: Fill in a short form, choose a male or female voice, and click a couple of buttons.
In my case, using
ReadSpeaker's Blogger widget made editing a gadget in the Blogger Layout--Page Elements quick and simple, no HTML coding required. Saving the gadget put a Title in my sidebar and a Listen button for each post. Installation is much easier and more goof-proof than for Talkr. No feed reader is required, only a sound card with speakers or a headset; three of four minutes of button clicking, a bit of text entry, and you're in business.

The conversion from text to voice is reasonably good, still recognizable as a computer, but understandable without difficulty. The only thing that I don't like about it is that it reads my entire page header text before each post. Obviously, I could shorten this text or eliminate it entirely -- but I don't want to. I suspect I will be hearing from the ReadSpeaker folks shortly with instructions about how to limit the audio output to posts only.

ReadSpeaker supports four languages, with more promised in the near future. With the Listen button clicked, you can both listen to a post or click a link to download the audio file. Since Quicktime is currently my default player, I was given the option of saving it as Quicktime movie. In effect, I can use this feature as an on demand, quasi-podcast or convert and re-publish the file as a true podcast through iTunes.

Since this is considerably more diffucult than the Talkr approach, unless I missed something, for the blowner ReadSpeaker and Talkr serve different needs and listening styles. For the moment, I'll keep both as blog enhancements, at least until someone comes up with a version that seamlessly combines the features of both.

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