12 October, 2007

Converting Text to Audio

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning has articles in MP3 format. It's useful to me as I don't get much time to read, but spend ages walking to places. Perhaps we could similarly offer resources to students in multiple formats and a central copy of text to audio conversion software in Learning Technology Development, could be used for this.

I've looked at two pieces of software that can create audio files from text files. NaturalSoft's NaturalReader, and TextAloud from nextup.com. It's difficult to compare them completely as NaturalReader doesn't give you a full demo, while TextAloud does, but I can compare:

Quality of voices:
Both let you use high quality voices (e.g. AT&T NaturalVoices, VoiceWare's NeoSpeech) which we'd need to use, and both allow you to change the speed of the speech in the recording. NaturalReader allows you to choose which voices you have, including UK English which is nice.

Import Function:
Both allow you to import text, PDF, Word and HTML files to convert to audio.

NaturalReader Professional Basic costs about $40 (£20), including a high quality natural voice, and NaturalReader Enterprise Basic costs $80 (£40) for 4 voices and a batch conversion function. Important if we were going to use it a lot.

TextAloud would cost $55 (£28) with 2 high quality voices.

So really there is not a lot between them as far as I can see. I'd like to test the NaturalReader Professional as this looks best value. If it was used a lot we would perhaps need the NaturalReader Enterprise. There is also a Developer version that can other applications can call on the command line to convert and batch convert files. This would be useful if we tried to put together an automated system, where perhaps staff could send in a text file and automatically receive an audio version back.

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