What is your experience when reading ebooks in iBooks with Voiceover?

iOS & iPadOS

Hello fellow Apple users!
I have a question that has been bugging me for a while now.
I love audiobooks. I have a very hefty library of purchased audiobooks. However, a while ago, I realized there are many books that are not available in audio. So I began experimenting with iBooks. I fell in love with the app at once. All of a sudden, I could read books that were previously unavailable to me.
So I have been using iBooks for about two and a half years by now. I find reading with Voiceover like I imagine someone reading with their eyes would. I have been always been rather slow with braille, and packing an extra device with me every time I want to read with my iPhone doesn't really appeal to me.
It has taken me some time and effort to get used to reading with Voiceover. Not because of the voices, but because I have been reading books in audio for as long as I can remember and suddenly being without a narrator who gives life to a book and it's characters has been hard for me to get used to.

I wonder, does any of you read books with iBooks? How does it feel emotionally when you read books in iBooks? Are you able to be thrown into a story and get images in your heads of what's going on in the same way as with audiobooks? And lastly, do you prefer the Siri voices or the Voiceover voices?

I would be very grateful for all your answers!

If you are using other apps when reading with TTS, please tell me of your experiences as well. However, I'm especially interested in iBooks users.

Thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to answer my questions!




Submitted by Maanling on Thursday, January 7, 2016

First discovered e-books in 2011 when i got my first tablet. Back then it was an Android device and i could still see enough to read. I switched to ipad in 2013 and continued enjoying e-books while i could still read. I was 28 when i actually read my first book. Until i discovered e-books, the pain and inefficiency of using a magnifyer or CCTV of any sort made me hate reading. Then 6 months ago, my eyes got to a point where using them to read causes bad headaches. Finally had to admit defeat and start using voiceover. The original siri voice is withstandable for general use, but not something i can concentrate on for long enough to read an e-book with ibooks. The Dutch voices (i live in the Netherlands and prefer to read in Dutch) are even worse and more computerized. So even harder to concentrate. It takes so much energy to pay attention to the voice that a book is not enjoyable and i just cant get into a story. Luckily theres a great adaptive reading service in this country, for a small fee every year i have unlimited access to audio and daisy format. What isnt available in audio, is usually available in daisy. Daisy voices are created by humans and although not quite as good as audio, give a book more feeling and emotion. I hope Apple make siri and voiceover more human sounding in the future, it might make the transition from using eyes to using a screen reader more enjoyable.

Submitted by Leonora Leo on Thursday, January 7, 2016

In reply to by Maanling

That's actually very interesting. I mean, how differently we view the same app. As I said before, I found it hard to get used to the voices. But I tried DAISY and didn't much like those voices at all. Even some human narrators are extremely bad. So I'd rather stick with VoiceOver than a bad live narrator.
I haven't used the Dutch Voiceover. I'm from Sweden and the Swedish voice is actually not that bad.

Submitted by OldBear on Friday, January 8, 2016

I'm fairly new to Apple IOS, though I first started with Braille Edit's speech on Apple IIE back in the eighties. We had to scan books on a Kurzweil Reading Machine back then if we wanted digital books.
I have not read a fiction book with iBooks yet because I've been reading informational type material.
Over the years, I've noticed I do a little better with paying attention to an information book if I go through it line by line or paragraph with a key command: something physical. I can do that with VoiceOver and my finger in the iBook, but I'm still getting used to it.
On the other hand, I sometimes like to read fiction books with computer speech at a very high rate in say all mode. It's a kind of state of mind, I guess, and there's really not a problem with it stimulating my imagination or visualization of the plot. I guess I also turn my daisy player up to a high rate. I don't care for too much of the pausing at punctuation and so on, though.

Submitted by Jen on Friday, January 8, 2016

I'm fairly certain I'm in the minority here, but I have never distinguished a difference between an audio book, or a book using text-to-speech in regard to immersing myself into a story. The voices are certainly filled with more emotion in audio books, but for me, the story is of such importance that everything else pales in comparison. I think my imagination just catapults me into the book.

I prefer the VoiceOver voices over Siri, especially the Australian Karen voice, since it seems to be the most pleasant and human-sounding of the bunch.

I've read books with a lot of text-to-speech apps, and my favorite one by far is VoiceDream. It has some really great voices that sound almost human, and the options for sources of reading material are immense.

Submitted by Clare Page on Friday, January 8, 2016

Hi! Before I got my iPhone, I read braille books for years, then switched to audiobooks for quite a while, but now I'm glad to be able to read books straight from my i-device without needing any extra equipment or having to carry a bulky book around: I have no DAISY player so I never got into reading books in that format. I've been an iBooks user since not long after I got my first iPhone in 2011, and i use it a lot, as well as using Kindle and Voice Dream quite regularly too. I have no problems using TTS to read things on iBooks: which voice I choose to read in iBooks can depend on the origin of the book and what language it's in, so if I reaed a book in French I use the French voice, and if I know that a book in English has an author who is Irish or American or Australian I will use that country's Voice to read it instead of UK English which is my default one. Besides being able to choose voices in VO depending what book I'm reading in iBooks, I like the fact that there is such a wide selection of books available, often more cheaply than commercial audiobooks: also e-books are complete, unlike many audiobooks I have on tape or CD which are abridged. I can understand why so many people prefer real human voices, but the TTS voices on i-devices don't sound robotic to me, and, although some are definitely better than others for pronunciation or inflection, it's still good to have a choice of voices to read with using VoiceOver, especially in English. Another good thing about iBooks is how easy it is to buy a book, with it downloading to my iPhone as soon as I've paid for it: with Kindle I have to place the order for a book on my PC before it downloads to the Kindle app, even though it's probably possible to order kindle books using Safari on an i-device, something I haven't tried yet.

Submitted by splyt on Friday, January 8, 2016

Give me the information, I create the emotions.

Human voices are slow and I do not need someone interpreting the thing to me .. perhaps because I wass bourn blind I am so used with TTS, eloquebnce (not on iOS) being my prefered engine and the voiceover voices on iBooks I do not have patience enough to listen to human readingg and if I remember books I have read with sinthezized voices I can listen to them with my own voice reading.

One has to lear how to listen to information and interpret it, as sighted people have no external interpreters reading when they use the eyes we should not have interpreters when listenning to ebooks neither I think.

Submitted by Michael Feir on Friday, January 8, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

I've been reading ebooks since I discovered Project Gutenberg in my late teens. I'm 41 now. It feels like being liberated from prison being able to use Audible, Voice Dream Reader, Direct to player for Daisy books from CNIB Digital Library, Kindle and iBOOKS. No longer do we have to wait well past when everyone else has read a good book to read it ourselves. I obtain many books about games and game design. That frankly would have been impossible for me if not for recent developments such as the Kindle app becoming accessible. If a book is inacessible in one format, there are now usually other options which prove accessible. That still absolutely staggers me. We have come in a few short years from where there was no way to read many books unless you were willing to scan them page by page to where we can complain that a book is inaccessible in a preferred format and vote with our wallets where it is accessible.

Synthetic speech as never bothered me in the slightest. It has certainly gotten better over the years. I use the Alex voice with iBOOKS and as my main Voiceover voice. I have numerous voices for Voice Dream Reader. I have a good imagination and don't even consciously think about what given people or events sound like. they simply unfold as I hear the story. For many books, a human narrator is preferred which is where the CNIB Digital library and Audible come to my rescue more often than not. I'm just so grateful to be able to read without carrying around volumes in Braille everywhere. Now, I can carry over a thousand unabridged books in my pocket and not even sweat how much memory they take up.

Over the years, I have purchased a lot of text books in PDF format. I struggle with reading them using Preview and Voiceover. Is there any way iBooks can help me reading these eBooks? My hearing is bad and I have to resort to interacting with the books using Voiceover. How do I import these books to iBooks? Also any other suggestions on how best I can read these PDF books will be helpful. Thank you.

Submitted by Leonora Leo on Friday, January 8, 2016

Thank you all for your insightful answers!
It was very interesting to read about all of your opinions. :D
I have never used VoiceDream or any other DAISY app for that matter. Oh, I forgot Legimus, which is a Swedish DAISY app. But I didn't like that one much either. I have used Kindle but thought it wasn't as good as iBooks. Especially the fact that I can't purchase my books through the app really bothered me. I like something that is easy to use and Kindle didn't really seem that way to me.
So I only use iBooks for ebooks these days.
For audiobooks i buy them from the site and import them into iTunes. But that's the only web based book shopping I do.
I don't like Amazon that much

Do you own a Mac or PC?
If you use a Mac, you can just import the PDF into iBooks on the Mac.
If you want to import the file into iBooks on your iPhone there is one way I know of.
If your PDF is available anywhere online, you just go to the page where it's located and open the file. When you have clicked on the PDF it should say: Open in iBooks. When you click that button the PDF is immediately imported into iBooks.

If you want to sync from a PC to your iPhone I have no idea how to do that. I haven't used Windows in years so I don't know how it's done.

Submitted by Leonora Leo on Sunday, January 10, 2016

I have one question. With some books in iBooks, Voiceover reads punctuation when it's only set to read some punctuation. e.g. where there are apostrophes it says apostrophe.
However, where there are quotation marks it doesn't read them.
This is a feature or bug (whatever you like to call it) that is really annoying since it says apostrophe after every quote. This is not with all books. I believe this is only a problem with books that use apostrophes instead of quotation marks.

So when I set Voiceover to read no punctuation, it does this:
If it says "Doesn't" in the text, Voiceover reads it as "Does NT".

I emailed accessibility@apple.com and the only answer I got back was how to switch between punctuation and no punctuation in the rotor. Which I already knew, and in any case, that was not even my problem.

Does anyone have any idea if there is any way of tweaking the settings so that the problems written above don't occur?
Has anyone else had the same problem?
And lastly, I know there probably isn't a simple solution to this problem and that Apple probably have more pressing matters in regards to accessibility issues. And I'm not asking for any miracles or anything. :) But whatever input you have, it's greatly appreciated!

Should I submit this question as new content or just leave it in the comments?

Submitted by Steve on Thursday, January 14, 2016

I use voiceover to read Ebooks on the kindle app and I absolutely love it. like others, I don't worry about the voice and just get swept up in the story. the only thing is that in the last couple of kindle app updates, VO has now started separating some words when reading them. so for example it will read the word repeats as re peats. This also appears on my Braille Display so clearly an issue with the apps performance with VO. Its not a big deal for me as the freedom to be able to read whatever I want trumps the slight annoyance, but I'd be interested to know why it is doing it.

Submitted by Aaron Linson on Thursday, January 14, 2016

I use the iBooks and Kindle apps to read my material. If I have something that is college related I will throw it into Voice Dream Reader and read it with Brian. Having used computers since I was a teenager and learning how to use JAWS for Windows. Using text to speech does not bother me. I also have the BARD mobile app for NLS but I rarely use it. I love the ability to be able to purchase books as soon as they come out with either the Kindle or iBooks app. Although I got to admit that I will open up the Kindle app more often than the iBooks app as I find a lot of my books for college in the Kindle app.

I'm having an issue trying to select and highlight text if anybody can help me with this I'd greatly appreciate it.