Classy ‘Amy’ voice and other new delights now in Voice Dream text-to-speech app—and Amazon is fixing its Amy glitch in HDX tablet firmware

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Voice Dream ReaderWhen Amazon bought out Ivona—home to text-to-speech whizzes—I worried.

Ivona’s almost-human voices might vanish from the offerings of various companies or be AWOL from new products without the K word in their names. So I feared.

I’m in love with Ivona’s “Amy.” She is my favorite TTS voice right now. The close runner-up at the moment is the baritone voice of Acapela’s “Peter,”  U.K. accented like Amy. Both voices are just right for public domain classics. Amy for Austen fans? Peter for Dickens’s?

Later I belatedly discovered Voice Dream Reader, presently my favorite text to speech app for use when exercising. But Voice Dream back then was Amy-less.

Well, glad tidings, Amy fans. The newest release of Voice Dream (alas, iOS only at this point) is out with a bunch of improvements, including the addition of Amy and other new voices. I can’t give you the exact price right now since I simply see “Purchased” where the figure should appear. But I recall it as $5 or under. I’d favor a lower price, but Amy’s charm and vocal talents still make the purchase worth it. Turing would be proud.

Get Voice Dream at the App Store.  At the end of this post, I’ll reproduce the developer’s list of the new wrinkles in Voice Dream 3.0.0.

Meanwhile, sure enough, Amy has become a free option on the Kindle HDX models (I don’t know about others). Go to the TTS possibilities within your pull-down Settings menu, reachable via a downward swipe from the top left of your screen. In other words: Settings > Language & Keyboard > Text to Speech > Download Additional Voices. Then choose Amy with the usual tap, return to Text to Speech, and specify her as the Default Voice.

Amy will not function with some TTS-enabled books due to an apparent technical glitch—you’ll hear another voice instead. But Amazon’s tech support people tell me that programmers are at work on the issue. The next update of the software for the the HDX machines will supposedly appear in a few weeks and squish the bug. I bet I’ve single-handedly generated more support tickets on this topic than has any other Amazon customer.

While Amazon isn’t always benign—observe the lack of TTS in the Paperwhites, as well as the buyout and subsequence disappearance of Stanza, the wonderful iOS app for e-books—I’m delighted to give it credit when earned. 

In the case of Amy, Voice Dream and the HDX series, the entire accessibility community should do the same, from exercisers to people with disabilities. The series’ TTS interface could be slicker and offer more features. But at least text to speech is there.

Just please, Jeff, don’t buy out and kill off Voice Dream. Luckily, Winston Chen, the brain behind the program, has told me he’s in this for the public interest and wants to keep control. Great!

As for Amazon, it’s smart to make Amy and other goodies available in Voice Dream and on Android machines. That’s one of many ways to reduce the risk of anti-trust action in the future. What’s more, everything will help Amazon’s relations with the library world. More than a few patrons rely on Kindle tablets for reading Amazon books.

Now, for the convenience of LibraryCity fans reading this post in one swoop via RSS, here are the new goodies in Voice Dream (direct quote):

–Ivona voices

–PDF reading in original layout

–Support for all variants of DAISY

–Improved performance loading DAISY and EPUB books

–Web browser can reliably download DAISY, EPUB, and PDF files

–Improved URL handling and browsing history for built-in browser

–Option to show text highlighting directly on the text

–Light and dark color themes are customizable

–Customizable margin width, line height and character spacing or kerning

–Support for Open In… for MP3, M4A and MP4 files

–VoiceOver users can use 3-finger swipes to move or expand text selection by sentence

–Improved Braille Display support

–Many minor improvements and bug fixes

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