Hello guys. I am back after a very very extended break from blogging. 😀
Last you heard from me, I was dying from stress and most likely buried under piles and piles of papers. Well, I’m still drowning in papers, but Peanuts will very sourly remind me/us that I have still be checking out other people’s blogs and catching a couple episodes of drama (although in all truth, it was more of skimming recaps and watching highlights).
Having said all that, I did manage to find some time to listen to a few books (usually while I’m driving or doing some mindless administrative task at work). More about that later, because I will be posting some reviews.
But today, would just like to recommend to all those who are looking for a text-to-speech app to read their chinese e-books: SVOX. This is a handy solution for those who are chinese-illiterate and are using Google Translate to read e-books that have not been produced as audiobooks.
Click cut to read more about TTS apps and SVOX.
What is a Text-to-Speech App?
A Text-to-Speech (TTS) app basically reads the selected text to you. It is not new technology, but the problem lies in finding one that you can stomach listening to for hours. Basically – you would want a more natural sounding app.
There are quite a few web-based TTS applications around, Google Translate being one of the most notable among them. Purpleculture has got a pretty good one – more natural sounding and better intonation in general. Alas, there is a 500 character limit and they don’t appear to have it in an app form.
SVOX is one of the better TTS apps I have seen and heard so far. To be honest, I have recently tried Google Translate again, and its really not bad. The only advantage of using SVOX is that it can read entire documents (when used with a compatible reader app), which is something I haven’t been able to do with Google Translate. So its the convenience factor.
How does SVOX compare with Google Translate?
To be honest, I haven’t used Google Translate enough to be able to give any constructive comparisons. But I must say, Google Translate has improved a lot recently (as opposed to the robotic voice in earlier years).
SVOX is not 100% on accurate on its pronunciation, but I find that its natural-sounding enough for me to listen entire audiobooks on it. So in that sense, it does serve its purpose. To date, I have listened to two volumes of the Legend of Ru Yi (which is the sequel to the uber famous Legend of Zhen Huan) as well as a couple of modern fluffy romances.
Do I have to pay?
Unfortunately yes. The Classic TTS app for SVOX is free to install, but each “voice” is USD2.99. The “mandarin-chinese” voice is “Yun”. For those who remain unsure, there is a trial version that you can try out.
You will typically need a compatible app to open the ebook document and set SVOX to “read” it to you. A list of compatible apps can be found here. Personally, I am using PDF to Speech. I think I paid a couple of bucks for it as well. It’s not the most stable of apps, but it gets the job done. Working together with SVOX, I pretty much just open the book (either in MS word .doc or PDF) and press play. However, it must be noted that if you are trying to read a big book, you should split the book into two or three documents. It tends to get an error reading after a while when you try to make it open a big document.
These apps really pay for itself, considering that there are many great chinese ebooks out there that will probably never be produced as an e-book or radiodrama. I think its not more than 8 bucks altogether, but I have gotten hours of enjoyment from it already.
How do I install it?
Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating how SVOX works:
The installation instructions are in the description box to the video. He’s using Moon+ Reader Pro. I have this app too (which I use to read English e-books) but I couldn’t get it to work properly with my files – hence I use PDF to Speech for my chinese e-books.
Really – Is this the only way I can get my Android Device to read Chinese ebooks to me?
Errr… probably not? Some websites I have visited seem to suggest that your Android Device most likely already supports Chinese, but it would involve meddling/changing your language preferences. I have opted to install the SVOX and PDF to Speech apps because I do not want to meddle with my device’s language settings.
I have had a horrible experience in the past where my friend installed a chinese-based program for me on my laptop, and in the process changed my laptop’s default language. It meant that after the reboot required to complete the installation of the program, my laptop would not accept password (because it now reads my keyboard inputs in Chinese, and therefore does not match my original password). That’s why I have opted for an alternative that does not involve me messing with the language settings of the devices.
Recap: Why should I consider this again?
Its a pretty cheap investment if you consider the number of chinese e-books you can access with it. What I paid for is the convenience of not having to keep copying sections into Google Translate or other web-based TTS applications.