Thursday, January 8, 2009

Scanner Converts Books Into "Lifelike" Audio Books

A few years ago I started slicing the spines off my pre-pub galleys with a table saw and running them through a high-speed document scanner. I read them on my Tablet PC, where I can mark them up at will, or else load them onto my e-book reader. It's convenient, if a somewhat labor intensive process for eliminating galley clutter. Now, Plustek promises with their new $600 Bookreader scanner, you can scan a book in and get an MP3 out the other end.

I've been a fan of the Audible service for years -- it's dowloadable files have been far more convenient than CDs since it's inception. With a reasonably speced Ipod, you can carry around a small library in your pocket. Is the Plustek scanner something worth considering -- say, for a librarian with a discregard for copywrite who wants to illegally expand their libraries audiobook holdings?

Not likely. After all, the first question such a device raises is what kind of voice will these MP3's be read in? After all, one of the great pleasures of listening to a book as opposed to reading it is the interpretation and skill of the narrator. Plustek promises a "lifelike voice." Unfortunately, no matter how "close" to life the voice may be, it won't suffice.

Reading -- whether done with the eye or the ear -- remains at it's heart about the human interaction. Still, I'm sure there must be a few books out there that might benefit from being interpreted in a "lifelike" voice -- computer manuals, for example. Or a home repair manual -- both might sound better read with an utter lack of enthusiasm in a plodding computer voice.

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