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How to Read Aloud Kindle and Other Text on iPhone, iPad, and … – Economist Writing Every Day

What if you could get your phone or tablet to read Kindle or other text aloud to you? I have recently come across an easy way to do this. This is an economics blog, so I will note that this approach saves considerable money versus paying for audio books like Audible, or paying for the Narration option on Kindle.  Most of us already have text books we have bought from e.g. Kindle. Also, if you search on the subject, there are various sources for free on-line books, including hundreds of thousands titles available through Libby/Overdrive via your public library. This text-to-voice method should work with all of these e-books.
Directions for iPhone/iPad: A short YouTube video “How to get your iPhone to read Kindle books aloud” by Kyle Oliver tells you all you need to know. The key step is to go to Settings, then Accessibility, then Spoken Content. At that screen, turn on Speak Screen. With Speak Screen ON, whenever you are on a page with text (including Kindle or other e-book), you swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers. That will activate reading of that page of text. Also, a little speech control panel will appear. That panel will allow you to play/pause/jump forward and back. It will also allow you to  you toggle between multiple speeds: 1x, 1.5x, 2x, & 1/2x. 
If you want, while you are in the Spoken Content screen you can also turn on Speak Selection. That will give a Speech option to read aloud just whatever text that you have select, and then stop.
Also, on in the Spoken Content screen there is a Voices link, for selecting what voice you want to hear. You can experiment with various voices. I have found that the male Siri voice (“Siri voice 1”) is preferable. The female Siri is too syrupy sweet listen to for long, and most of the other voices are robotic. I find that if I select a new voice, I have to turn the reading off, then on again to get the new voice to start working. One more tip from that YouTube is to dim your screen, since with continuous reading of Kindle pages, the screen will stay on, and drain the battery quickly if the screen is bright.
Once you do the two-finger swipe down to commence reading, it should keep reading onto following pages as well. For unknown reasons that does not work sometimes. I find that using the jump forward then jump back buttons on the little speech control panel unsticks this functionality.
For Android: The YouTube How to Turn On Text To Speech Read Aloud on Android/Samsung – 2022 by ITJungles has comparable directions for Android. This involves installing the Android Accessibility Suite from the Play Store.  The 2020 video Text To Speech Options On Android – TalkBack, Select To Speak, Voice Assistant, Screen Reader by The Blind Life gives several different options for getting text read aloud on Android phones.
(In this blog post I originally referenced 2017 video Kindle Android Text to Speech . This got rave comments back when it was first put on YouTube, but more recent comments there suggest that Android may have changed so that this approach no longer works well).
There is a harder way to do all the above, which is to download a separate text-to-speech app like Speechify or Voice Dream Reader. These apps will read most text that is on your screen, but NOT Kindle or other e-books that have Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection. For these e-books, you’d have to download yet another app such as Epupor Ultimate on your computer, download your Kindle files onto your computer, then run Epupor on these files to create unprotected versions. Then, I suppose, load these files back onto your phone/tablet where the text-to-speech app can access them to read aloud. This does not seem worth it (compared to the simple method above using built-in iPhone/Android capabilities) unless you want to utilize some extra feature of the outside text-to-speech app.
Note: Under the subject of low cost text to speech, there are apps like Librivox or (using your local library) Overdrive or Libby that offer free audiobooks – see this article by LifeWire. Also, you can find audio versions (which probably violate copyright) of many popular and classic books on YouTube. If a book is already available as an audiobook, it is probably better to use that format for listening to it, rather than downloading it in text form and then using the approach here for listening.
Thanks for linking to my video!
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Thank you
This doesn’t work.
Jess, I assume your comment refers to Android. (I just checked with my iPad and iPhone, and instructions work for them). Thanks to your comment I revisited the original (2017) YouTube I linked for Android. Judging by comments there, it seems like Android has changed since 2017. So I found more recent YouTubes for Android and posted them here. A friend tried the 2022 method on Android and it worked now. Thanks for the feedback, and I hope it works for you now.
Scott Buchanan
Can’t seem to get this to work on my iPhone 13pro with my kindle app. I’ve set everything as instructed, and turned things off and back on again, however when I pull down the two fingers on the open page of the kindle book, my phone says “No speakable content could be found on the screen.” Any thoughts on what I may be missing? Thanks!
Hi Michelle, I just saw your comment. I borrowed a friend’s iPhone 13, and this approach did work with Kindle. It was a little more ticklish to get the two finger swipe just right to start the reader, as opposed to bringing up the phone Control Panel.
A main difference I saw versus my older phone is that with the 13, the little control screen for the text reader does not have an “X” for making itself disappear when you are done. It does tuck away as a little grayed out box on the upper left, with a right angle bracket sign in it, but if I want to completely disappear it, I have to go to Settings, Accessibility, Spoken Content., and there turn OFF Speak Screen.
However, I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for what you observed. Maybe you could get together with a techie friend and look at it together? Good luck…
Thanks so much for your reply! I did in fact figure it out a few days after my comment… it’s that I had my setting within the app to scroll the pages from top to bottom continuously. Once I changed the setting to pages that needed to be flipped each time, it recognized the text. Weird glitch, but, it seems to be working now, and it also automatically turns the page for me, though sometimes (not always) it loses it’s place when the page turns, and rereads prior sections from the prior page. I give up, haha.
I have a book in which each section/sub-section is linked back to the Table O Contents. So all I hear is “link, link, link, link …..”

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