By Lettie Y. Conrad
From the time I was a child, I’ve enjoyed listening to people read aloud — from parents and teachers reading storybooks to spoken-word nights at college to audiobooks on long journeys. There’s something quite soothing and somewhat magical about the written word coming to life with voice. While I listen, my eyes are free to look up and gaze out a window, my hands are available to tinker with a puzzle or pet a cat.
Now, with ReadSpeaker, I enjoy listening to the manuscripts I encounter in my doctoral research and I always smile when I spot the “Listen” icon near the full text in ProQuest databases and other platforms.
Using their text-to-speech technology, I’m liberated from my chair-shaped position in front of the computer and can carry on with my reading while I stand up and stretch my legs. Although I am an able-bodied, fully sighted reader, I have the usual aches and pains of a middle-aged, desk-bound professional + part-time PhD student. So, I welcome innovations like ReadSpeaker, that allow me to work in 20 minutes of yoga while not disrupting my busy schedule.
I am also an advocate for accessible research and publishing, and I work with publishers to increase usability and compliance with accessibility standards as well as integration with technologies like ReadSpeaker. But, I am also a regular user of the tool myself and encourage everyone to give it a try. Give the eyes a break once in a while and employ another one of your six senses. And the audio download feature means I can bring my reading along with me — in fact, it’s time for a walk!