Have your eBooks read to you

I love reading, but I never seem to have the time I'd like to get through my ever growing unread collection.

So audiobooks come in handy. But they can be a bit expensive, and often the various services, such as Audible, don't have the specific title I'm after (although Audible is a superb service for the titles it does carry).

Wouldn't it be neat if you could have your current collection of Kindle, ePub, Mobi etc books read out to you? Read on to find out how.

Calibre is your friend

Calibre is an application for Mac and Windows which allows you to manage your eBook collection. You can use it to import and manage your current non-DRM eBook collection, and convert those books to a number of different formats.

If you want to import your Kindle books (and strip the DRM from them), follow the instructions here.

It's great having your entire collecton, DRM-free, and available to you in one application. Calibre can do a lot with those books but, for now, we'll concentrate on using it to help format the books so they can be read to you.

Voice Dream to the rescue

I use Calibre to get my books into the correct format (ePub seems to work best). I then use the Voice Dream iOS app to read it to me, as follows:

  • Get your book into Calibre. If it's in MOBI or some other non-DRM format, you can usualy just drag it into the application. If it's a Kindle book, use the method described above.
  • Use Calibre to convert the book to ePub format. (Obviously not needed if it's already ePub).
  • Stick the ePub version somewhere that your iPhone or iPad can find it (Dropbox is probably easiest). In Calibre, the links underneath the cover image will point you towards the location of the ePub on your file system. Copy the ePub from there to your Dropbox folder.
  • Open up the wonderful Voice Dream app on your iOS device.
  • Under Voice Dream settings, connect your Dropbox account.
  • Navigate to where you placed your ePub book and open it.

Hit the Play button in Voice Dream and listen to the magic of technology at work.

Initially, I thought there was no way I would want to listen to an entire book using text-to-speech, but Voice Dream does a remarkable job of it, especially with some of the premium voices. I'd thoroughly recommend Emma for your books, as she sounds the most natural sounding of the ones I've tried so far.

Is it as good as a properly narrated audio book? No, of course not, but it's a really good solution when you already have the book in some sort of eBook format. And I bet it's way better than you're probably expecting.

As a bonus, you also get all the other wonderful features of Voice Dream, such as the ability to have your Instapaper articles read out for you.

If you merely want to get the eBook into Voice Dream and have it read to you, there will probably be quicker and easier ways to do it, but I like this workflow, as it gets the book into my main catalogue (Calibre) and then allows me to export it and use it the way I want. Placing it into Calibre first in this way also makes it easier for me to get it into Marvin, my preferred eBook reader on iOS, should I prefer to read the book, rather than listen to it.