Kindle Text-to-Speech: “Robotic NPR”

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NPR’s next hire? (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ve made a discovery about Amazon’s Kindle e-reader: It’s a pretty good “news radio.” That is, its text-to-speech function does a surprisingly decent job of reading news content aloud.

I currently subscribe to the Wall St. Journal on my Kindle, and I’ve gotten in the habit of letting it read me some interesting articles as I go through my morning routine. I like it. The automated text-to-speech reader is a bit flat for fiction, narrative, and essays that require significant emotional or rhetorical inflection — but it’s great for news. I’ve starting considering it my “robotic NPR.”

(Ducking the reflexive outcry from all my friends at NPR…)

Of course, my point isn’t only about the Kindle. It’s about how any text-to-speech service or tool can interact with text-based news and information content — and why creators of text-based news content should start to take that into consideration. Because you never know exactly how people will experience your content…

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Listening to Tony Schwartz

Today I was out and about running several errands, catching up on my backlog of podcasts. Two shows that came up in the queue really got my attention, and I think everyone involved in media (especially online or mobile media, particularly any media with an audio component) should listen — REALLY listen — to them both in full.

They’re both retrospectives of Tony Schwartz — an agoraphobic genius who produced over 30,000 sound recordings, thousands of groundbreaking political ads, media theory books and Broadway sound design. He also invented the portable tape recorder and was a pioneering folklorist. He died in June.

I feel like an idiot. For all my work in media, I knew nothing of Schwartz’s work. Until today. Now I’m obsessed. He pulled together the threads of human nature, psychology, the nature and effects of sound, motivation, persuasion, provocation, media and communication in clearly human terms.

So I’ll be learning more about his work. Here’s a sample:

In the meantime, here are the podcasts that grabbed my attention: