Voice Dream Reader: the best reading app ever developed for a mobile platform

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

If the title of the article sounds flatulent -- something like a slogan borrowed from the Madison Avenue, I encourage you to take a look at Voice Dream Reader on the App Store -- its AppleVis entry is also here. In short, many ebook readers come and go, many apps of that sort are born and quickly vanish into the thin air, many of them are released and then take ages to get a second, minor update, but Voice Dream Reader belongs to a premium league of its own. Show me a more feature-rich iOS, Symbian or Android accessible ebook reader and I'll retract the title.

What makes VDR so interesting?

Let's take a stab at the question.

A multitude of features at an affordable price

At $9.99, Voice Dream Reader comes with a free Acapela voice and a whole host of features. Epub/PDF/DAISY/RTF/DOC support, Bookshare and Gutenberg integration, bookmarks, table of contents, Dropbox and Google Drive support, and a slew of audiobook-oriented features are just some of the notable highlights.

Voices, voices, voices!

Voice Dream Reader offers a good number of highly affordable voices ($1.99 and $2.99 per voice) from Acapela and, much to my own surprise, NeoSpeech. Do you enjoy NeoSpeech Paul on Windows? No problem -- with VDR it's just one in-app purchase away. Also, it's quite likely that we'll get some Ivona voices in the upcoming release! The developer, Winston Chen, is now talking about taking a look at Nuance Vocalizer Expressive voices on the app's Twitter page. Which reading application has ever done that?

Frequent updates

Some argue that updating apps is the most important duty of developers -- something which users also love to see. While I have nothing against it, I'm wondering why so far no reading-oriented apps have been updated as frequently as VDR. It gets updated on a monthly basis and each release saturates us with a long list of major features, enhancements and bug fixes. VDR also is updated with VoiceOver in mind and the developer has manifested his commitment to accessibility several times.

Want further proof? The upcoming release is packed with features

Note that I'm not divulging secrets here -- the developer has posted them in a scattered fashion on Twitter and I'm organizing the new features in the upcoming release with his permission. It'll hit the App Store in 10 days or so.

  • Personal pronunciation dictionary. This is very cool! Change how a word is pronounced or skip any text. If you dare, use RegEx pattern matching to substitute or skip text. Access in Voice Settings and General Settings.
  • Adjust speech rate, pitch and volume for each voice. Access in Voice Settings, with a button next to each voice. You will also find it from "Settings-Manage My Voices."
  • Save individual speech rate for each article or book. If you change speech rate in Voice Settings, it would be saved with the article.
  • Set rewind and fast forward navigation unit to sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, highlights, bookmarks, 15, 30, and 60 seconds. You can access this either by pressing the rewind or fast forward button and hold, or by tapping the Navigation Unit on the footer.
  • Footer to indicate page, percentage, chapter, and navigation unit. All of them are actually buttons that you can tap!
  • Sort by Add Date, Title, Author and Size for each folder. The sort order button is at the bottom.
  • Option to scroll page by page for visual reading. Set the "Scrolling" mode to "Page" as opposed to "Free" in Text Settings.
  • Saving the visual location in addition to the speech cursor.
  • Option to turn off word and line highlighting. Access in Text Settings.
  • Two finger double-tap on the text to play or pause.

Another cool VoiceOver-oriented feature is the ability to highlight and select text and utilize the long-tap option for dictionary access. It won't be in the upcoming release, but will be added to a subsequent one. With that amenity, Voice Dream Reader will truly surpass the rest of the reading apps on the App Store by leaps and bounds.

And what else?

I just tried to demonstrate why I'm so excited about Voice Dream Reader and its bright future. If you want to try it yourself, get Voice Dream Reader Lite here. Do you share the same optimism with me? Are you using VDR? If you ask me, I think more app developers need such a fantastic sabbatical for inspirational ideas!

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