Amazon hasn’t offered a Kindle eReader with speakers or a headphone jack since the 2011 Kindle Touch. That was also the last model to support text-to-speech software that could read eBooks aloud to you (although Amazon Fire tablets with color screens and Android-based software do support text-to-speech).

But now Amazon is bringing support for text-to-speech back to the Kindle lineup with the launch of a new Kindle Audio Adapter.

Right now it looks like the only way to get this $20 accessory is to buy a Kindle Paperwhite Blind and Visually Impaired Readers bundle for $140. But that price includes a $20 Amazon credit… and hopefully Amazon will eventually sell the adapter as an accessory for existing Kindle owners.

Update: You can now purchase the Kindle Audio Adapter on its own for $20, but note that it’s only officially compatible with the Kindle Paperwhite (7th gen). Update 2: But it should be unofficially compatible with the Kindle Oasis and Voyage.

kindle audio adapter_01

The Kindle Audio Adapter is a small box with a headphone jack on one end and a short USB cable on the other. Plug the USB connector into the port on your Kindle, connect a set of headphones or speakers, and you can use the new VoiceView feature.

Not only does VoiceView use Amazon’s text-to-speech voices to read eBooks to you, but there are also voice prompts that can help you navigate the device’s menus.

VoiceView supports adjustable reading speeds and it’s based on the IVONA speech tech acquired by Amazon a few years ago, which is, quite frankly, a lot better than the text-to-speech voices available for my aging Kindle Touch eReader.

Generally speaking, eBooks read by text-to-speech software don’t sound as good as those narrated by professional voice actors. But professional narration isn’t available for all eBooks, and audiobooks can be substantially more expensive than text-based eBooks. VoiceView at least gives another option for listening to books rather than reading them.

While Amazon is positioning the new Kindle Audio Adapter and VoiceView system as a bundle for visually impaired readers, I can imagine that the tech will appeal to plenty of other people who would at least occasionally prefer listening over reading. Unfortunately, the audio adapter is really aimed at sight-impaired users, and there’s no way to turn off the audible navigation cues if all you want to use the audio adapter for is listening to eBooks ready aloud.

Update: You can also build your own DIY adapter. I’m not sure I’d recommend going that route unless you already have the necessary components, but you can check out my video to see how VoiceView on the 7th-gen Kindle Paperwhite compares with Text-to-Speech on the Kindle Touch.

via The Kindle Chronicles

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15 replies on “Text-to-speech returns to Amazon Kindle (with Kindle Audio Adapter)”

  1. You do us needing text to speech a disservice. the new kindle does not perform text to speech on books. It is only a screen reader for the blind. I have eye issues and bought the new kindle based on this review and found that it does not meet my needs and it was a waste of money. I cannot afford the audible prices for audio books

  2. My 2011 Kindle Touch reads very well great for in-car use. I like the American voice. It stumbles at homophones saying lives (as in living) and not lives (as in house!) It can also see non-English words in incredible ways – Walter de la Mare can become Walter Delaware Louisiana Mare!!! LOL

  3. I was just searching for something to smooth out my Kindle with its robotic voice. Discovered I lucked out when my son gave me this (Kindle Fire 8″ HD -5th gen) for Christmas a couple years ago because it has an earphone jack, text-to-speech (IVONA TTS) and the option to turn off or on audible navigation cues. One would think that the standard base for all eReaders came with, at least, what my Fire has (or the ability to do so through Apps). Even my older NOOK was capable.

    So, I’m going to stop my quest, not waste any more time, searching for a smoother listening experience and just be grateful for what I have.

  4. It’s for this reason I won’t buy a newer kindle. For the battery life, and reading in bright light, i won’t buy a color kindle. The Kindle Touch was the last that had a headphone jack, so when my last one was lost, i just went to ebay and bought another. You can get them around $30. Will never buy another model unless they bring back audio, along with the digital paper screens. If I wanted to read on a normal screen, I’d just use my tablet. What the hell are they thinking? The whole POINT of a reader is digital paper that you can read in bright light, and I want to listen to music and have the device read to me, if I so choose. Someone is going to come up with a digital paper device that HAS audio, and then Amazon will be screwed. Better to stop pissing us off now, offer the features we WANT and keep us loyal!

    1. I completely agree with you. When I accidentally dropped my first Kindle Touch in the tub, I bought 2 refurbished replacements to ensure that I would always have one. I just wish that I could plug a speaker into the earphone jack so that I could get the volume up a little higher in the car. The newer Kindles do not appeal at all. I could just buy an Ipad if that is what I wanted. You can’t beat free 3G and TTS.

  5. Amazon is probably making this move because eReader
    sales are tanking. Prior Kindle eReader models had
    text-to-speech AND didn’t require a cumbersome external
    brick, the last model to have TTS was the Kindle Touch.
    Then Amazon and other eReader makers petitioned the
    government to exempt eReaders from accessibility requirements.
    Amazon charges $20 for the external brick on top of the pricey
    eReader (mollifying customers by offering a $20 credit
    towards buying something). Ironic that the only model
    to get this bit of accessibility is the smallest one, with a
    6″ display. Since visually impaired users need bigger
    typefaces, how many words do you think a display this
    size can display at a time?

  6. Quote: “there’s no way to turn off the audible navigation cues”

    The last time I checked OS X had that same irritating feature. Everything you did was announced out loud. If you can see well enough to use the UI and just want long texts read to you, that gets tiresome fast. I’m glad that Amazon is doing something for the visually impaired. But these features should be well-designed and built into devices. They shouldn’t be clumsy add-ons. The navigation options could be displayed on a large-text screen.

    Worse still, wIth each new device update, Amazon continues to miss a feature that’d be great for all users and particularly those with mobility issues. Amazon needs to add Bluetooth keyboard and mouse capabilities to their Kindle ereaders. Their WiFi chip can already do Bluetooth. All they need do is enable the capability.

    Everyone who takes notes inside books would be delighted to be able to use a real keyboard. And those with mobility issues could use the buttons on a $10 Bluetooth mouse to change pages. They would not need a $150+ external gadget.

    1. They are doing some of that elsewhere, Alexa has a skill to read your Kindle titles to you.

  7. This is lame. What about the new Kindle, the over-priced one with the so-called cover. I haven’t seen a review yet. Is it out? Can it do T2S?

    1. No the new kindle oasis does not support inbuilt T2S. But it is doubtful if it would be compatible with this new audio adapter.

    2. No it does not have a speaker or headphone jack. It cannot do text to speech. Very disappointing to me.

  8. I just let Siri read me the books on my iPhone while I drive. Sometimes it garbles word pronunciations but it’s close enough to understand. It’s a shame book publishers are being such turds about this feature. Look I get it, you can charge more money for the audio book version of the author reading the book, but why would I want to pay twice for a book when I can just switch back and forth between reading the eBook version and listening to a demonic siri voice read it to me.

    1. How do you do this? Recent books that I’ve bought do not even have text to speech enabled. I’ve subscribed to audible but not all books have this and hate to buy audio versions when I’ve already purchased the non audio books.

      1. Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech, and then turn on the setting for “Speak Screen”.

        Go into the kindle book you want read and swipe down from the top of the screen with 2 fingers and it will start reading the book to you.

    2. I BOUGHT THE PAPERWHITE THINKING IT HAD TTS I WAS NOT CORECTED WHEN I BOUGHT IT.MY KINDLE IS USUALY UNUSED AND I LISTEN TO AUDIO OR TTS ON MY IPHONE.I LIKE THOMAS KELO ,DON’T WAN’T TO BUY ANOTHER BOOK.

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