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No Need to Play Hide ‘n’ Seek to Find Text-to-Speech on the New 8.9-Inch Kindle Fire HD – Here’s the Scoop

Some Kindle owners will go through their entire lives without ever using the Kindle’s Text-to-Speech feature, but if you’re like me and you enjoy using it, you’d be disappointed if you couldn’t find it on a new 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, right?

Well, not to worry. I was a little concerned when I unboxed the latest model this week, but once I had done a little rooting around I found the text-to-speech feature and unleashed it for good for (almost) all my Kindle books and personal docs. It’s hidden from view at first, but here’s how you can set it up on yours. You can use any TTS-enabled book to unleash your TTS functionality, of course, but in the screen shots below I am using the excellent memoir Playing Bigger Than You Are by my old friend and colleague Stewart Acuff.

Here’s how to access Text-to-Speech on the new 8.9-Inch Kindle Fire HD in four easy steps:

FIG. 1. First, from any page in a TTS-enabled book like this one, tap the bottom of the screen and you will see a progress bar showing where you are in the book. If TTS is not turned on, it will look like the progress bar in Fig. 1 above.
FIG. 2. Select the Aa font button in the upper left corner of the display and you’ll see a pop-up screen like that shown in the upper left corner of Fig. 2 above. Text-to-Speech still does not appear as an option, so on this pop-up, select “More Options.”
FIG. 3. From the “More Options” pop-up that appears in the upper left corner of the display, select the “On” button to the right of “Text-to-Speech.”
FIG. 4. Tap anywhere on the rest of the page to bring the book back “to the front” of your display, then tap again at the bottom of the display. In Fig. 4, for example, tap just below the words “The next morning I told Holt” and the Text-to-Speech control line will come up with a “Play” icon at the left.

Hope that helps!

And my apologies for the fact that I used the same page in all four screen shots here. I didn’t want to infringe on my old pal Stewart’s copyright. So if you want to find out what he told Holt the next morning, you’ll just have to ante up $2.99 to buy the book. Which I hope you do, because it is a pretty inspiring piece of work. Like Stewart.

What About TTS & Collections on the New Kindles?

By April Hamilton

We know many Kindle Fire owners have been anxiously awaiting the announcements this week to learn if two of their most-wanted Kindle Fire features, Text-to-Speech (TTS) and Collections, would be included in some kind of firmware upgrade for existing KiLarndles. KF-KND Editor in Chief April L. Hamilton attended the press conference this week, and afterward posed these questions directly to Amazon Kindle Vice President Peter Larsen.

TTS Solutions For the Kindle Fire

Larsen stated that Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading are Amazon’s TTS solutions for the Kindle Fire family of products. The original TTS functionality is still there in Amazon’s Kindle Keyboard 3G (currently priced at $139) and Kindle DX (currently priced at $379) models, but there is no audio or text-to-speech on the Kindle Paperwhite or the $69 Kindle.

Amazon is offering discounted pricing for Kindle book + Audible audiobook bundles in order to minimize the expense of the Fire TTS solutions. For example, Rob Lowe’s bestselling memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, is available at the usual retail price (set by the publisher) of $9.99. Adding the Audible audiobook after you’ve purchased the Kindle book is currently priced at just $3.95 more, as opposed to usual price of $14.69. So you end up getting both the Kindle book and the Audible audiobook for under $14: less than you’d usually pay for the audiobook alone.

Paying an extra four bucks to hear the book professionally read (in this case, by the author himself) doesn’t seem like such a bad deal, especially since doing so gives you access to the Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading services. Whispersync for Voice allows you to switch back between the Audible and Kindle versions of the book, and both formats will “remember” where you left off so you can pick up right there, whether switching from audio to Kindle or vice-versa.

For a limited time, you can test-drive the Kindle Fire TTS solutions for free with these Kindle/Audible book bundles. IMPORTANT NOTE FOR AUDIBLE MEMBERS: when you go to the Audible product page to ‘buy’ the free audiobook, by default, the box to “apply listener credit” will be checked off. Click the box to un-check it; you’ll still get the audiobook for free, and your Audible Listener Credit will remain unused.


When asked if Amazon intends to add the Collections feature to the Kindle Fire at some point in the future, he replied that while Amazon can’t share its business roadmap or discuss projects in development, the new FreeTime parental controls service is a type of Collection. He went on to say his department knows this is a feature Fire owners have been wanting, and there are some good things in the works.

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Larger Font Sizes, and Text-to-Speech, for Easy Reading on the Kindle

Thanks to Marilyn for writing in with a question that may be important for many readers:
I have an amazon kindle and I want to know how to change the size of the type to larger as I just had eye surgery and I would like to read without reading glasses Please help
Marilyn Burstin
Marilyn, just to the right of the space bar, on the bottom row of your Kindle keyboard, there is a font key marked “Aa.” Press that key from within any Kindle book or text document and you should see a display like the one in the screenshot at the right. Across the top, in this screen shot from my Kindle 3, are 8 font sizes including a couple of very large options that should suit many visually impaired readers.
You can select the font size that is right for you by using the 5-way controller at the right of the Kindle keyboard, and your setting will remain in place for all Kindle documents that you read. Kindle apps for computers and mobile devices also offer similar font sizing.
Unfortunately, Amazon has not figured out a way to increase the font sizes in the way our Kindles display the inbuilt Kindle Store, our Home screens, and other pages like the Kindle’s settings page. Given how useful the Kindle can be for visually impaired readers, such an enhancement would be terrific.
Meanwhile, on that same font-size page on the Kindle 2, Kindle 3, and Kindle DX, you’ll also see a line that allows you to turn on Text-to-Speech, which will really give your eyes a rest if you can get used to the slightly robotic voice and the fact that some publishers continue to opt out of the program so that Amazon is forced to block visually impaired readers from being able to enjoy their books. As you can see from the post linked just below, I’ve found it possible to get used to that voice….

How do I love thee, Kindle Text-to-Speech? Let me count the ways.

Tip: How to Set Up a Text "Slideshow" to Allow Automatic Page Turns and Hands-Free Reading with the Kindle

Want to read a book on your Kindle without having to use your hands to turn the pages?

This feature exists with a straightforward “slideshow” command or shortcut on the Kindle 1: you just press ALT+0 to enable the slideshow, then press ALT+1 to start it and ALT+2 to stop it.

The feature was abandoned for the latest-generation Kindle (Kindle 2) and the Kindle DX, but there’s an easy work-around involving the Text-to-Speech feature. Since text-to-speech is involved, this will work only on books and documents for which Text-to-Speech is enabled, but here are the steps:

  1. Open the book or document for which you want to enable hands-free reading.
  2. Press the font key marked “Aa” just to the right of the spacebar on your Kindle keyboard.
  3. Select “turn on” Text-to-Speech, and after a few seconds the book’s pages will begin turning to keep up with the Text-to-Speech feature.
  4. Use the volume control on the upper right edge of the Kindle to turn the volume all the way down, unless you prefer to listen to Text-to-Speech as you read.
  5. Press the font key marked “Aa” again and use the “Speech Rate” control to control the speed of the page turns.
  6. When you are ready to stop the automatic page turns, just press the font key marked “Aa” again and select “turn off” Text-to-Speech.

This feature works especially well with a bookstand such as the M-Edge Platform series.

Please note: regardless of volume level, the Text-to-Speech feature and other audio features make intensive use of Kindle battery power, so be prepared to recharge your Kindle battery more frequently if you are using such features.

Waiting for the iPad: What’s the Real Scoop on iBooks and VoiceOver?

Early Saturday morning I pre-ordered an iPad, which will arrive here at my home on April 3. I went back and forth for a week about whether to hold out for the far more expensive 3G version that does not ship until late April, but finally decided that since 95 percent of my iPad use would likely occur in locations with wifi, I could go the “economy” route. (I’ll have a little more to say tomorrow about the expense of iPad ownership.)

I expect to get a lot of use out of the iPad, from occasionally writing Kindle Nation Daily posts and other material to enjoying music and film to using the Kindle for iPad app to read of the hundreds of ebooks that I have purchased, and will continue to purchase, from the Kindle Store.

I have plenty of questions about the iPad, many of which I probably won’t be able to answer to my own satisfaction until I have it in my hands. But for now the two questions that are foremost on my mind concern specific functionality issues with the Kindle for iPad app and with Apple’s new “iBooks on iPad” ebook store and reading software:

  • First, will the Kindle for iPad app be more like the Kindle for iPhone app or like the Kindle for Mac app? The Kindle for iPhone app allows me to make my own notes and highlights in a Kindle document, which is nice, but those features are supposed to be in the works for the Kindle for Mac app. Frankly, I would prefer that the Kindle for iPad app come with the Kindle for Mac’s capacity to allow me to maintain and read any Kindle-compatible books and documents that I can download from sources such as the Internet Archive, the Project Gutenberg Magic Catalog, Instapaper, Calibre, or (through Amazon’s conversion service) my own sources. While much of what has been written about the iPad makes it out to be a supersized iPod Touch, I’m hoping to find that, consistent with its apparent capacity to work like a tablet computer with iWorks files and other files, it might be more of an undersized Mac. We’ll see, and in the process we’ll see what it can do with a Kindle app.
  • Second, I’m very curious to find out whether the iPad’s VoiceOver actually works like the Kindle’s text-to-speech, as some reports have suggested based on this sentence from the iBooks page in the Apple Store: “iBooks works with VoiceOver, the screen reader in iPad, so it can read you the contents of any page.” That sounds interesting, but frankly it does not sound like the Kindle’s text-to-speech, which can read me the contents of any book, except, of course, for the many books on which publishers have disabled text-to-speech. There’s a big difference, whether you are listening to a book being read aloud on a long drive or as you drift off to sleep, between a reading-aloud process that keeps reading page after page and one that has to be re-set for each page. I have to assume that if VoiceOver could read an entire book aloud, Apple’s marketing staff would have been up to the task of sharing that information a bit more explicitly. On the other hand, if VoiceOver is really just a one-page-at-a-time deal, I wonder if Apple’s copywriters have somehow been trying to fudge that performance issue in something like the way Barnes & Noble copywriters overstated the Nook’s ebook lending feature and understated its weight back in late 2009. Either way, I hope Apple can clear it up right away.

There are other questions about VoiceOver, of course, and the two most prominent for me right now are:

  • Will VoiceOver be uniformly enabled by all iBooks publishers, or will it be blocked by the same publishers who have disabled text-to-speech on their Kindle ebooks?
  • Is VoiceOver a universal feature on the iPad and thus one that we might expect to be able to use while reading with the Kindle for iPad app?

Just a few questions while I wait for a shiny new toy that I am convinced will also help me work more efficiently.

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: How long does it take for text-to-speech to activate?

Thanks to Kindle Nation citizen Carter A. for this question about the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature:

Dear Mr. Windwalker,
Sometimes it seems to me that my Kindle takes a long time to boot or to start the text to speech feature. What is the standard amount of seconds it should take to load a book and start the T2S feature?
thank you,
Carter A.
Carter, although Kindle’s documentation offers no guidance on this question, here’s my empirical experience from having listened to hundreds of books and other documents on my Kindle:
  • Generally the text-to-speech feature kicks in and begins reading aloud about 5-6 seconds after I activate it by pressing the [Aa] key and using the 5-way to select “turn on” on the Text-to-Speech line of the ensuing pop-up display.
  • However, if I use the alternative approach to activate text-to-speech — holding down the [UP ARROW] key and the [SYM] key simultaneously — it ordinarily takes 12 to 15 seconds for the feature to kick in and begin reading aloud.
  • If I re-activate the text-to-speech by pressing the space bar after I have paused it by pressing the space bar, it ordinarily kicks back in within a second or two.
If text-to-speech doesn’t begin reading to you within 15 seconds, it’s worth troubleshooting:
  • Make sure that the book you are reading has text-to-speech enabled. You can check this on any book’s product detail page either on your computer or in your Kindle’s gateway to the Kindle Store.
  • Make sure that your Kindle volume is turned up by pressing the [Volume Up] button on the Kindle’s right edge.
You may also notice that, whenever your Kindle’s text-to-speech is active, almost all other Kindle features are either suppressed or very slow. If you want to speed it up, you’ll need to turn off text-to-speech.

All of this, of course, applies to the Kindle 2, Kindle Global, or Kindle DX, since there is no text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 1.

Hope this helps!

Results from April’s 1st-Ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

Over 1,200 subscribers and other e-book enthusiasts have participated in April’s first-ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, and the results provide fascinating insights into who just who is participating in the e-book revolution and what we think the issues and the future of e-reading. The survey will remain open through April, so you can still click here to participate if you have not done so already, but you can also check the current results here. Once the survey is closed we will summarize the results here in Kindle Nation and share the summary with Amazon’s Kindle Group.