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Apple today pushed out an update to its iBooks application for iOS devices [App Store], bringing several improvements including a new "read-aloud" narrator to select children's books.

iBooks 1.3 adds several new features and improvements:

- Help your children learn to read with the new read-aloud feature included in select children's books from the iBookstore.
The read-aloud feature uses a real narrator to read the book to you, and in some books, it will even highlight the words as you read along.
- Enhanced books can now automatically play audio or video included with the book.
- Makes iBooks more responsive when opening very long books.
- Addresses an issue where some books may display the same page twice.

It is possible that the text-to-speech aspect of the new read-aloud functionality is based on technology from Nuance that has been rumored to be making its way into iOS 5, but Apple has not specifically disclosed the basis for the new feature.

We have not been able to track down any books compatible with the new read-aloud feature yet, so it will be interesting to see how quickly and how widely it is adopted by authors and publishers.

Apple's new iTunes 10.3 offers access to the iBookstore from the desktop for the first time, although an iOS device is still required to read the books.

Top Rated Comments

notjustjay Avatar
135 months ago
While I think this is a great feature to have, and is also quite a technical feat on Apple's part, it worries me that kids might be growing up listening to their iDevice narrate stories to them instead of their parents doing this. Story Time was an important part of bonding and learning with my parents when I was growing up, and this will give busy parents an easy way to outsource this part of parenting to a device.

One of my friends has a son who hangs out with me sometimes. We started bonding when we realized that we were both Calvin & Hobbes nuts. One of the things he loves to do is to sit down with someone (his parents, his older sister, sometimes me) with one of his C&H books and read the strips out loud.

The little guy is 14 now, and the other day he lamented to me that his family just doesn't have the time that they used to, to sit and read with him!

Read with your kids, folks. They will love it and remember it for a lot longer than you think!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spillproof Avatar
136 months ago
Neat feature.

While I think this is a great feature to have, and is also quite a technical feat on Apple's part, it worries me that kids might be growing up listening to their iDevice narrate stories to them instead of their parents doing this. Story Time was an important part of bonding and learning with my parents when I was growing up, and this will give busy parents an easy way to outsource this part of parenting to a device.

And imagine if kids started to read and speak like the text-to-speech voice because that's how they learned.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MauiBoy Avatar
136 months ago
I only found one book with the read-aloud functionality:

Dragon's Alphabet Soup: Learn ABC with Eric the Dragon (ENHANCED EDITION: Read-Aloud Audio Option) (http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dragons-alphabet-soup-learn/id417558473?mt=11)

Raggedy Ann & Andy (http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/raggedy-ann-andy/id429767605?mt=11) also came up with a search, but it does not indicate the "ENHANCED EDITION", as above.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mdorazio Avatar
136 months ago
Great feature, but might be misused by parents

While I think this is a great feature to have, and is also quite a technical feat on Apple's part, it worries me that kids might be growing up listening to their iDevice narrate stories to them instead of their parents doing this. Story Time was an important part of bonding and learning with my parents when I was growing up, and this will give busy parents an easy way to outsource this part of parenting to a device.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
milo Avatar
136 months ago
Is it a real narrator or text to speech? Because those are entirely different things.

Definitely need a book reader for computers, it's weird they didn't ship one from the start of the book store.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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