This is one of my favorite tools to use as a writer and editor, but I also use this as a reader.
Voice Dream Reader is an app you can download on your phone or tablet that will read text to you. When I downloaded the app, it came with Heather and a few other voices. Heather is lovely to listen to, but since most of the characters I read are male, I really wanted a man’s voice. I bought Will, created by Acapela, and have used him the most. More recently I downloaded two new voices created by NeoSpeech: James and Paul. All can be purchased right from inside the app.
With each voice, you can change their rate of speech, pitch, and volume. So if you want a little more bass in the voice, you can do that! Is it going to be like a book narrator on an audio book? No, it’s not. Nothing is going to ever replace great narrators. That being said, some voices use more inflection than others.
So how does it work? I use it with Word, PDF, mobi, and ePub files for the most part, but the app supports other formats I’m unfamiliar with as well. I open a file from Dropbox and click Open With and click Voice Dream. The file is then opened in the app, and I just hit play.
A few warnings. First, not all words are going to be pronounced correctly right out of the box, but you can make changes to the pronunciation in the settings. One word it constantly messes up is douche, so I changed the setting so it says doosh rather than dowche. LA had to be changed to L-Ae unless I wanted it to come out as Lousiana. PR changed to P. R., pubes to pewbs, mic to mike. You get the gist. But once you make those changes, then it’s added to your pronunciation dictionary, so you never have to hear Will read about nosing into a lover’s sac and smelling pubies.
Second warning is that some of the formatting is stripped from the text when it’s opened in the app. Voice Dream highlights the text as it reads, but if you had italics in the doc and they aren’t there, don’t freak out. I already did that for you when I was reading my final proof of Farm Fresh and saw all the italics were gone. But no, it was only because of how the app handles text.
Which brings me to using this as an author and editor.
At every author conference I’ve ever been to, people give the advice “Read your work out loud.” It’s very sound advice because it helps make your work stronger. When we had to read aloud in grade school, I counted how many kids were going to read ahead of me then counted down the paragraphs to find out which was mine. Until it was my turn, I mentally practiced saying all my words. I hate reading out loud and I pretty much suck at it.
But, Voice Dream is a great substitute. When you listen to your book while editing (and I follow along on a Word doc while listening to my story being read to me on the app), you catch things you completely gloss over while reading with only your eyes. Missed words, repeats, overused phrases or words, and the easily misused words our brains overlook, like through, though, and thorough. My ears catch what my eyes miss. I’ve also found editing with this app helps me find pacing and flow issues I would never have noticed.
As a reader, I use this when I want to read but I’m too lazy to keep my eyes open. James has been known to read me to sleep many a night. Sometimes I invite Will in my bed. Sometimes it’s Paul. I choose who reads to me based on the character in the book. I finally downloaded the app to my phone because I wanted to listen to books while I worked out. I can see using this on long road trips too. In my long-commute days of yore, I would’ve loved this! My kid has used it in her schooling too. It’s a great educational device as well as an adaptive one. I’ve used it when eye strain got to be too much.
This app is not free, but at that cost of $9.99 USD, it is well worth it, imho. I spent $1.99 on Will’s voice and I got Paul and James $2.99 each. I would spend that all over again. I wouldn’t consider putting a book out into the world without using Voice Dream Reader first.