Too much to read, not enough time? Ever wish someone (or something) could just read articles, abstracts and books to you? I do. That’s why I was very excited to hear about SoundGecko. And I was right to be excited.
Simply install the browser plugin, go to any article on the web and click the SoundGecko button. It then sends you an MP3 voice transcription of the article via email, Dropbox or Google Drive. You can listen to it on your iPod, iPhone, Droid, off-market MP3 player, iPad, computer – whatever you use to listen to music and podcasts.
A few caveats.
By ‘article on the web’ I mean strictly HTML. This is not a PDF reader. When you search for an article say, on beer allergies in Allergy magazine, you’ll see that reading as HTML or as PDF are often together as file format options. Choose PDF to save articles for focused reading, but this app can’t read those types of files to you.
What it can do is scan the HTML version of the article, record an MP3 of the text, and send it to you. The text of the article doesn’t travel with the sound file.
As for the quality of the reading, it’s pretty darn good. The voice is male, using an American English accent. He sounds fairly human, and doesn’t seem to stumble too terribly on complex terms.
While the techincal terminology doesn’t exactly read like poetry — “A 45 year-old man hypersensitive to grass pollen, cat dander and Alternaria tenuis with a history of urticaria and dyspnoea after drinking beer and a weak skin reactivity to commercial corn extract was studied” — I still found it entirely understandable.
I recommend this app for quickly skimming a stack of articles to see which ones you’d truly like to read. Record a few dozen abstracts, take them to the gym as MP3s, and boom, you’ve done some work while working out. This app is also great for anyone (like me) who wants to read the whole internet every day but who also has work to do. I can now save New York Times aricles or blog posts and listen to them on the way home.
PDF readers are a whole other ball of wax, and we’re taking a look at them too. Because they operate on your device, directly reading files to you (rather than recording them), the picture is fragmented by platform. I’m taking a look at ezPDF Reader Pro and Moon+ Reader Pro for Android so far.
If other PDF reader apps out there seem interesting, let us know and we’ll consider them in the mix.