What is a “text-to-speech” ebook?

Among the many but little-known advantages that an ebook can offer is text-to-speech, also known as TTS.

TTS uses a computer-generated voice to read text aloud. It is available in most smartphones, tablets and laptops; for older hardware lacking TTS, third-party apps usually are available. TTS sometimes is referred to as voice-to-speech. It initially was created so the visually impaired could enjoy the ebook. Typically the sales page for Kindle ebooks will indicate if TTS is available for a title on various devices.

Be aware that TTS is not the same as an audiobook. An audiobook involves recording a real person reading the text, so an interpretation of the rhythm and emotion that the author intends to convey often is delivered to listeners. In contrast, TTS will sound mechanical and stilted, though software is improving with each passing year. Indeed, sometimes listeners are able to change the quality of TTS so that it reads the text slower or faster as preferred. In a few instances, listeners even can choose between a male or a female voice.

Further, because an indie author must pay for services to have a book recorded, few titles are available as audiobooks. This is not the case with TTS, as anyone with the software on their smartphone, tablet or laptop can utilize it and have the book read aloud to them.

Despite that TTS and audiobooks are different, they are similar enough that controversy has arisen over the former’s use. Ebook creators, such as Amazon’s Kindle, believe that TTS is a part of its ebook rights and so can be sold without the author’s permission. The Authors Guild, however, argues that TTS is an audio right, and so ebook creators should not be able to offer it without the writer’s (or copyright holder’s) permission. Be aware that enabling Digital Rights Management (DRM) on your ebook sometimes can prevent TTS from reading the ebook.