In a pinch, your phone can read to you

Back in May, all of a sudden, I was going to be spending about 12 hours on the road every week shuttling between Oregon and Washington to care for my parents.  Add to that, the daily commutes between homes, appointments, and errands.

What better use of the time than to listen to books.

But I didn’t have Audible, didn’t have time to look up books, and didn’t have unlimited funds. AND I had a teetering pile of ebooks that I hadn’t read. Hmm…

Can I have my antique, cracked iPhone read to me?

The answer was YES.

The Pros:

1. I “read” a bunch of books that were languishing in my Kindle file.

2. A book doesn’t need to be an audiobook to listen to it.

3. I accessed the books through the Kindle App on the phone.

4. It’s easy to do (mostly).

5. The reading speed is adjustable.

6. Now I can listen to books while making dinner or weeding the garden or exercising. So, I’m “reading” more.

7. It doesn’t cost anything.


The Cons:

1. According to author/blogger Andrew Joyce, he wouldn’t wish the phone’s “robot voice” on his worst enemy.   iPhones don’t read with any inflection. It is, indeed, Siri reading to you in her droning monotone. I’ll admit, the first couple of books were tough, but my brain eventually compensated and started focusing on the story and characters despite robot-voice.

2. Siri messes up some words. “Putting” is pronounced like the golf stroke. “Tasting” rhymes with “lasting.” Forget hyphenated words – Siri doesn’t understand hyphens.

3. Siri doesn’t transition well through chapter or scene changes. She just barrels through them, which can be disorienting.

4. Poetry is impossible. Don’t even try it.

5. The iPhone has a problem activating the speech function, and it can take a lot of tries. It will also occasionally decide that it’s done after one page instead of flipping to the next.  Apparently, these issues have been a problem for years and Apple doesn’t care. I occasionally need to hard-reset or restart my phone, or both, to get it to read.


How to set up your iPhone for speech:

(If you don’t have an iPhone, I can’t help you, but the internet might! This is part of the accessibility function for visually impaired phone users, so I think most brands will have something similar.)

Click on the System icon.

Select General.

Select Accessibility.

Turn on Speech.

Open your Kindle app and select your book. Go to the first page you want to “read.”

Swipe down on the phone with two fingers (possibly multiple times, like 30).

If it works right, the phone will start reading to you, including flipping your pages.

If it doesn’t work, do a hard reset of your phone, restart your phone, or both. This is totally annoying but worth it in the end.

And don’t wrestle with any of this while driving. Pull over, please. 🙂

Happy Listening!

The parental saga continues.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to blogging full-time but I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I’m reading with Siri. ❤

178 thoughts on “In a pinch, your phone can read to you

  1. acflory says:

    Gah…I know the human mind can get used to just about anything, but…this sounds like /my/ personal worst nightmare. I don’t even like proper audio books. Commiserations. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have gotten used to it Andrea and it’s increased my reading three-fold. At the same time, I agree with you on the challenge with audio books. I prefer a straight read versus someone trying to do the voices – which may be why the monotone Siri voice sort of works for me. Anyway… when you’re in a pinch… Lol
      Have a great day, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah says:

    So glad you’ve found a way to make those long drives more pleasant, Diana! I don’t have an iPhone but I listen to a lot of audio books that I borrow from the library and then put on my mp3 player for later use. It’s perfect for me whilst drawing or painting or working on my different pottery projects. Music however doesn’t work at all because I always end up singing along and dropping my project. 😄
    Hope all is well with you and your parents! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I moved my parents about 12 days ago, and already things are so much calmer and easier. Yay. I like audiobooks too, Sarah, but I had so many unread kindle books and this was a way to catch up – once I got over robot voice. 🙂 I can totally relate to the joy of listening to stories while involved in other tasks. Happy Listening!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ecopoet says:

    Just have to get past “the voice”
    & poetry – too choppy, with zero emotion

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    I keep meaning to set this up on Android for my drives too. I only remember, though, once I’m on the road…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Vivian Zems says:

    I had no idea that Siri could do this! I’ve just tried and… nada. I’ll try the hard reset. Great post- and thank also for visiting my interview with Khaya 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this post. I will find out if I could do something similar with an Android.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine you can, Andrew. The text to speech function is for visually impaired phone users, so most phones probably have something similar. Just be prepared for robot voice. 🙂 Thanks for the visit and Happy Reading!


  7. Jina Bazzar says:

    The magic of text to speech. My screen reader, although robotic (by preference btw), reads punctuation – not the symbols, but it actually exclaims, questions and pauses briefly when there are commas. It also has inflection, dialects and as i learned a few days ago, more personality than an audio book I listened to a few days ago. Now, one can actually change the voice of the screen reader to make it more lifelike, but when I’m editing and typing, I needed it to be precise, so now I’m used to the robotic one. And you’re definitely right, Diana, you can read so much more when you’re just listening. I suggested it once to a friend who suffered from tbi and she uses it when she can’t stare at a screen for long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit, Jina. I would love a little more inflection in Siri, and for her to acknowledge when a sentence is a question, for example. But I have gotten used to her and I focus on the story instead of her monotone. I listen to Word read my books when in the last stages of editing. It’s amazing what I hear that I couldn’t see. I’m not surprised that text to speech is a big part of your writing process. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Joanne Sisco says:

    So many people in my life recently have commented about listening to books while they are busy doing something else. I admit that having the flexibility to listen to a book that’s already in my e-library sounds appealing.

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great way to catch up on that TBR list! I get audiobooks from the library on CD, then rip them to MP3 to listen to while I’m on the treadmill or running. I haven’t used Siri for anything, really, but I use the text-to-speech in Word to proof my stuff. Jacquie said she changed Siri’s voice to Australian? Hmmm, I’ll have to check that out. It would almost be like my Muse is reading to me 😀

    Glad to hear your parents are moving even closer soon. Much easier to manage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your muse probably doesn’t use robot-voice, Julie. Lol. Siri is actually worse than Word-voice, but she serves in a pinch. And you do get used to it. I “read” about 30 books from my Kindle TBR pile while driving. Yay!
      So, if ever you can’t get to the library….
      Have a great week, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello there. You know, smart phones are miraculous. Their capabilities are seemingly infinite. No wonder that it took no time at all for half the human population to become addicted to them.

    Take care. Enjoy the weekend.

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually didn’t use my phone much until I discovered that it could read to me. Even despite robot-voice, it was a godsend during my hours and hours on the highway. I probably polished off 30 books. 😀 Thanks for stopping by to check out my discovery. Have a great week.


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