Here’s the thing about audiobooks: they’re great, especially since you can’t always be holding or looking at a book, or eBook. But they take up a lot of space, and are often irritatingly expensive. Enter vBookz: a text-to-speech app for the iPad that takes the Project Gutenburg library of over 30,000 freely available titles (mostly classics) and makes them all available for your listening pleasure.
Text-to-speech is an imperfect process, too, but you can’t beat it for sheer convenience. Because vBookz reads the books aloud using text-to-speech, it doesn’t need to store massive audio files or convert the eBooks. Instead, it simply stores the eBooks and reads them aloud, providing a handy magnifying-glass cursor that tracks the current locations—leaving you free to just listen, or to read along. Mindex International, developer of vBookz, suggests that it’s especially useful for those learning a different language or for children learning to read.
The vBookz app currently costs $4.99 for the US English version, with other languages unlockable for an additional fee of $4.99 per language. The current library includes the classic suspects: Dracula, Huckleberry Finn, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and so on. Given vBookz’s text-to-speech capabilities, I am disappointed by the inability to import your own files, but Project Gutenburg’s archives are extensive enough. If you want to dive into some classic literature but want or need audio versions, vBookz is an interesting option. I mean, honestly—Steve Jobs’ “magical” tablet reading to us. Whatever will we have next?
The folks over at Mindex International say they’re working on iPhone and iPod Touch versions of vBookz, too, but for now vBookz is only for the iPad owners.