I’m not sure how many Android users have ever taken advantage of their OS’s Text-to-speech feature. I certainly haven’t. Yes, Google does list using “Google Play Books to ‘Read Aloud’ your favourite book” as one of the many ways the feature can be used “to read the text on your screen aloud,” but I’ve never used it for that purpose. Now, however, it’s received an update as of March 23rd to Version 4.0, with a new, far more natural voice. Listen to the above YouTube.

Google Text-to-speech is designed to power other apps, so in theory you might find it implemented on all kinds of Android ebook reading apps. However, on the Google Play Help page at least, I can only find Google Play Books and Google Play Newsstand listed. As of 2014 at least, the Amazon Kindle Android app didn’t utilize Text-to-speech. Add-ons are available, though, for Firefox and Chrome which will allow Text-to-speech to read web pages aloud.

I did a before-and-after test with the new version of Text-to-speech on my Android tablet. The new version definitely sounds less stilted and mechanical, less like a Lloyd droid and closer to at least some Librivox audiobook recordings I’ve listened to. I don’t expect to be using it much in the future, but for those who do have a Google Play Books library, or who anticipate using Google’s proposed rival to the Amazon Echo, it could be an option. Happy listening, folks.

Publisher’s note: Post updated at 2:48 p.m. with YouTube added. By the way, in line with Paul’s hunch, I suspect the new Google Voice will work with Moon+ Reader Pro and other apps. But I have not tested it on them. – D.R.


  1. Play Books comes with some public domain works built in. Since I’m still waiting for the new voice and the rollout is supposedly slow, I would be very interested in hearing a sample of the updated voice reading Frankenstein (or whatever).

  2. I use the Google Play Books Read Aloud with the option checked for improved voice. This improved voice will only play while you are connected via wi-fi, so presumably its a big data drag. This was before 23rd March and the voice is passable but most trade published books block read aloud to stop you getting an audiobook on the cheap. Of course the voice gets the emphasis of sentences wrong in the way in which a narrator would not and gets confused over the difference between wound and wound. It also has the annoying habit to spelling out words it has not been programmed to pronounce, which is frustrating if it is the name of an oft-named character.

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