Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Text to speech: making a book on tape on a mac for free

Picture 2.pngI love Bill M0HBR's regular podcast SolderSmoke, the ongoing story of a home brewing ham radio enthusiast who is currently on the air from a flat in Italy using an end fed long wire antenna.

In SolderSmoke82 Bill mentioned a book by Henry David Thoreau called Walden that is about his observations while living as simply for more than two years in a crude cabin in the woods. I wanted to read the book, which is freely available as text at Project Gutenberg here.

As I mostly listen to stuff on an iPod to ease the noisy bus and train trip I endure, I wanted to try turning it in to a book on tape. Turns out it's easy and free on a mac, and it sounds reasonably good.

Download the text file, open a terminal and do this:

$ say <walden.txt -o walden.aiff

It's pretty quick, then drag the .aiff file into iTunes and right click to choose "Convert Selection to AAC".

I don't know what those warnings it spits out, but the file seems fine.

Update: Incidentally, I found a really great use for the "Speech - Start Speaking Text" item in the Services menu. Often when making a payment I have to transcribe a long series of digits from the bill to a payment web form. After entering the digits, select the text and choose "start speaking text" to have the system read back the digits for easy checking.

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