The first generation Kindle was ugly and slow. It wasn’t comfortable to hold, it was an unsightly, off-white color, had no internal light source, and the right button on my Kindle was broken, turning multiple pages every time my thumb would mistakenly click down too hard. But still I loved it.
I primarily loved my Kindle for two features: its on-board dictionary and its text to speech function. Even with its retrospective uncoolness, there was a trendy aspect of our Kindles that my wife and I felt when out reading on Saturday mornings at our local coffee shop. The bitter coffee aroma in the air, the sweetness of a pretentious Northwest coffee drink, and a host of hipsters asking about our plastic, abstract-art book-repositories. Times were good for me and my Kindle.
Text to speech rocks my world
My Kindle didn’t have a bluetooth. It had a long, gray cord that would stretch from the auxiliary outlet of my car to the passenger seat. I would listen to the robotic text to speech voice for five hour commutes up and down I-5 from Portland to Seattle. It would reliably mispronounce almost all proper names which I accepted as a crazy quirk of my otherwise lovable e-reader.
Our love affair didn’t last. My wife gifted me a Kindle DX for my birthday, which was huge (bigger than an iPad) and had the equivalent computing power of an late 1980s computer. My preference for the big model was the beginning of the end.
Soon, I was listening to books on CD rather than firing up my behemoth Kindle, then I graduated to an iPad (which allowed me to read Kindle books), and later Audible audiobooks that I could download and listen to in the car or when I was out on runs. The Kindle was an afterthought anymore, and I resisted the urge to buy later versions. I would still try and read the Kindle occasionally, but the experience was always lacking relative to its alternatives.
My wife did upgrade her Kindle and to our shock, Kindle discontinued the text to speech feature. The dictionary was the only reason to use a Kindle anymore, but the loss of text to speech psychologically diminished my drive to re-establish a relationship with my Kindle device. We were through and I was crushed.
As time went on and I continued to support Amazon through Audible, I was missing the opportunity to read and listen to the same books. I could be sucker a buy the book and the audiobook, but I opted for the next best option: increase my running until suffering from debilitating shin splints. I missed reading like I missed the feeling of normalcy in my inner right shin. A lot.
When Amazon recently released the Kindle Voyage, I considered a reconciliation. It got rave reviews, is thin, attractive, has a great user interface. For $250 I imagined they must have reincorporated text to speech into the device. They didn’t.
Devastated again by Amazon, I wondered will I ever love again? Is it too much to ask to be able to read and listen to a book without spending thirty or forty bucks a pop? That’s when my iPhone, my Kindle app, Siri and I entered into a polyamorous, literary relationship.
How to enable text to speech reading on your iOS device
You can set up your Apple device so that Siri’s text to speech feature will read your Kindle books to you. Here’s how you set it up:
Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Accessibility Shortcut -> VoiceOver
- You’ll want to enable “lock orientation” and “do not disturb” (if anything pops up or changes while Siri is reading, it will read those instead).
- You then go into the Kindle app to the page you want to start from and press the home button three times. You’ll get the auditory response “VoiceOver On.”
- Then run two fingers down the screen and Siri will start reading to you, mispronouncing most (if not all) of the proper nouns.
You can also have Siri read articles in a browser, Office documents, et cetera using this feature.
Important tidbit: you will want to turn this off when Siri isn’t reading books and documents to you, and you do this by pressing the home button three times.
As a postscript, I don’t love reading on a iPad but I don’t mind it too much either. And although I miss those whimsical days pretentiously reading on my first-generation Kindle (and having her read back to me), Siri’s text to speech feature provides me with the same function and is a lot more portable. MapMyRun works concurrently with it, talking over Siri to tell me that my split times are pretty bad, which I blame on the shin splints that are indirectly attributable to Amazon.
You should also know that in addition to mispronouncing proper names, Siri mispronounces expletives. I personally wish that Apple would remedy this curious problem, but I guess it keeps all books suitable for work. Whatever.
In any event, I hope this feature is as useful to you as it is to me, expletives and proper nouns notwithstanding.