Everything about Tools of Change focuses on looking ahead to the future, in this case, the future of publishing. The TOC conference is a place for forward-thinking entities involved in some arm of publishing to not only showcase what they can do, but to also highlight where they plan to take the future of books.
One of the futures that has long been anticipated for digital publishing is an increased accessibility for visually impaired, learning disabled, or low-literacy level individuals, but that future has been slow to become a reality. Many companies work diligently on the technology behind greater access to printed or digitally formatted words, and are spreading the adoption of this technology every day.
Holland-based ReadSpeaker is a text-to-speech service provider that publishers can subscribe to that will enable readers to simply click a button to listen to the content. The publishers who subscribe are from various fields, including reference articles from around the world, news features, and ebooks.
“This has become so easy for everyone to use,” said ReadSpeaker’s Joop Heijenrath in an interview with GoodEReader at TOC, “not just blind people, but all the segments in the market who want to use this service, it means about 15 to 20 percent of readers in the Western world.”
One of the potentially overlooked benefits to using a seamless tool like ReadSpeaker’s is to be found in the educational setting. Not only can the visually and learning impaired students benefit from the read-aloud feature in textbooks and reference materials, it also fosters a bimodal learning experience for any learner. Listening to the text while watching the highlighted feature on the screen allows learners to engage more strongly with the material and utilize two of their four learning styles at the same time.
The days of opening every page of material on the web or tapping a button on the screen of any ebook and hearing the text are not here, but as more users and publishers take advantage of the obvious benefits, the reach of text-to-speech capabilities will continue to grow.