Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Cent Tuesdays: Speed Reading for Dummies

This year I've read a lot of books, which is easier to do when you aren't WRITING books.  At the start of the year I set my goal on Goodreads to 50 books, but I've had to increase that now because I've read a lot of books, to this date 84.  (OK, a couple are graphic novels or short stories.  So what?)  Want to know my secret?  It's not some speed-reading class I took on the Internet.

No, it's the Text-to-Speech function on the Kindle.  I knew that feature was on the Kindle, but I hadn't used it until early this year.  I was going home and traffic was really slow.  So I thought, "Man, I wish I could read on my Kindle."  And then I remembered the text-to-speech thing.  And then I remembered I had a cord already hooked into the car stereo so I could plug in my MP3 player.  It works on the Kindle too!  Just plug it into the headphone jack and the text-to-speech comes out through the car speakers.  At first I really had to crank the speakers to hear it but lately that hasn't been necessary.  I don't know why that is.

Over the next week or so I read the entire Tek series by Bill Shatner that way. Then before you knew it, my 50 book To Be Read list had dwindled to 10!  And those 10 were mostly really long ones I didn't want to read all that much like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the complete Jane Austen.  (Incidentally if you want cheap books other than mine those old collections of Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Frank Baum, etc. are quite a deal.  Others like Moby-Dick you can get for FREE--not that it's worth it.)

Anyway, I know the drawbacks to this.  The text-to-speech voices are really annoying.  But it's like drinking diet soda, tea, or alcohol, where the first couple of times I was like, "Yuck, this is terrible!  I can't drink this shit!"  But after a while I got a tolerance for it.  So it is that after a while you get used to the stupid thing saying "Yay" for "Yeah" or "Lung-ed" instead of "Lunged" (a guh sound instead of a juh sound on the G) or how it always says "Shut up!" as an exclamation even when it's not.

That pretty much doubled or tripled my reading output right there because on my 45-60 minute commute (or one day going home took 3 freaking hours, during which I "read" 45% of Tek Vengeance by Bill Shatner) I can listen to the book.  Also at lunch when I walk around I can plug in some headphones and listen to a book as I walk.  That's not as convenient as an MP3 player, but it's better than nothing.

And then at home I can listen to a book while I do other stuff, like play old PS2 video games or paint action figures or whatever other stupid shit I feel like doing.  It's really gotten to the point where I hardly want to read with my own eyes anymore.  The machine is taking over!!!  And it really pissed me off to find out a couple of my Kindle books had that feature disabled.  WTF?  Look dumbasses, I bought the fucking book and I bought the fucking Kindle so I should be able to do that if I want.  Asshole publishers.  If they think that will prompt me to spend big bucks on their audiobook version, think again.  Mostly it just makes me return the book to Amazon and move on to something else.  I did realize Amazon lists on the product page whether that feature is enabled; I just have to remember to check it before I buy the book.

This feature did also come in handy when I was editing books.  There were a couple of times where I might have overlooked where I was missing a word or had the wrong word with my eyes but hearing it aloud I thought, "What the hell?" and then saw my mistake.

The disadvantage over regular audiobooks is that the narration sucks.  The advantage is not having to juggle a bunch of CDs in the car or at home.  I'm not sure how big MP3 books are or whether I could put them on my crappy MP3 players.  Those are probably more expensive anyway than buying a regular version of the book.

So there you go, if you want to do more reading and you have a Kindle (I don't know if it's on Nooks or Kobos or what have you) there's how you can increase your reading output.  I've recently had to buy more books just to meet the demand.  So if you're one of those people who whines you don't have time to read your TBR pile (looking at Andrew Leon), this is a good way to do it.

Then you can buy and read all of MY books.  And remember, the Scarlet Knight ones are all 99 cents apiece this month, so that's a cheap way to fill up your ereader to employ this strategy.  Just a thought.


  1. I haven't used text-to-speech, but I do a lot of listening to audiobooks. The New Yorker has a fiction podcast that's free on iTunes, and I also listen to Clarkesworld's podcast for sci-fi. That's where I get a lot of short stories.

    Through our library system, we can 'rent' audiobooks free. I am currently working my way through the audiobook of "Vampires In The Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell. It's a collection of short stories, too. I find those work better for me: the plots are easier to follow.

    Of course, my commute isn't so bad as it used to be. Before we moved our offices last year, my commute was 30-45 minutes per day, all stop-and-go traffic. Now it's maybe 20, on a bad day. I can't imagine how you do an hour a day, except that the books no doubt help. Back when I was a lowly clerk and worked in Baraboo, 45 minutes away, I'd go to the library there every week or so and check out a new book on tape to listen to in my Ford Festiva, driving back and forth.

    So I'm with you on this. But the only way I want to hear Scarlet Knight on audio is if it's read by the author. I want that grumpiness right in my face.

    Or you could get Scarlett Johannsen to read it. In person. Seems like a natural.

  2. I listen to a lot of books, but I haven't used the kindle feature before. A good narrarator can bring something special to a book that might otherwise have been less than perfect.

    But with me working from home more, it's hard listen to a 40 hour production during commute time. I still have a ton of podcasts I listen to as well. I should be a truck driver or something. Then I wouldn't have this problem.

  3. What a great idea Pat. Audio books are great for long commutes and I had no idea that feature was on the Kindle. I don't have one, but I'm sure I can come up with an alternative.

  4. I had actually noticed that you've been reading a lot of books lately and was wondering how you were managing that. That's pretty cool.
    Unfortunately, I don't have a Kindle. I'll have to see if the computer app has that function. If it does, I haven't noticed it.
    One thing I can say is that I have not enjoyed trying to listen to books on tape in the past. My mind tends to wander after a while or I'll be thinking about something that was read and realize I just missed two pages. If the app has that function, though, I may give it a try.

  5. Thanks for the tip, Patrick. I shall investigate my nook tonight for such wonders.

  6. Hi, I'm a new follower. I'm glad I found your blog. I learned something new, today. I've always heard of the text to speech option, but really had no idea if it would work and how good or poor the sound quality would be. I'm a huge audio book fan, because I'm in my car, alone, quite a bit.

    Did I read correctly? Did you say that you can return your Kindle books if your are unsatisfied? I had no idea. Maybe I read that wrong.

    Thanks for sharing and I will be back to read more,

  7. I've read one William Shatner book and I found it to be surprisingly good.



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