Is your RSS reader overflowing? Are the choice pieces you saved to Instapaper to read later, unread? Have a dozen or more brower tabs open with interesting blog posts that you’ll “definitely” get to today?
Yes, yes, and yes. Maybe converting the blog posts to audio could help.
Since rejoining the gym, I’ve been looking for ways to keep toiling on the eliptical, treadmill, or the particularly tedious stationary bike. Rocking out to music is fine, but even that’s insufficient after 15 minutes or so and boredom sets in. The ensuing minutes seem agonizingly longer.
On the other hand, I’ve become a digital hoarder of blog posts and articles. So I started exploring ways to use the time at the gym (and subway rides) to consume the information that’s piling up at home. I ruled out printing and reading the posts at the gym, since first of all, I don’t have a printer (paperless office and all), and more importantly, I don’t want to risk injury by slipping off the treadmill when consumed with a particularly interesting post.
Back to the idea of converting blog posts to audio files on my smartphone.
There are quite a few good audio to text options out there, like the ubiquitous Dragon app, but not as many for the reverse.
If you have a Mac (I do), this function is built into the operating system. Click on the Keyboard panel in System Preferences, then click on Keyboard Shortcuts and select Services from the menu on the left side. Scroll down and click on the checkbox next to Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track.
To use the feature, highlight a block of text then control-click and select the Add to iTunes as Spoken Track option from the pop-up window. The text will be saved as a spoken audio track in your iTunes folder.
I’ve tried this and the choppy default voice results are just OK and even less so for longer blog posts. However you can change to another voice option and see if that helps.
Apparently, PCs have similar native functionality. A quick search returned instructions for How to configure and use Text-to-Speech in Windows XP and in Windows Vista.
Next up, I’ll be testing out a few apps like TypeIt ReadIt and Read4Me. Again, not too many affordable options out there. If you’ve tried an app and recommend it I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.