Reading On-the-Go

by Tonia Malone on November 13, 2013

Man walking in a wheel of booksIt’s another busy day and you have five articles to read before you head off to the big departmental meeting. If you are anything like me, you may have a 20 minute commute into work and a lunch date at the gym. So how can you read the five articles and still enjoy your date at the gym?

Convert Text to MP3 Tools

If you are not in a car pool, you shouldn’t read articles in the car. But there is no reason why you can’t listen to them in the car. There are tools you can use to convert your text files into spoken MP3 files to upload to your smart phone or MP3 player.

Windows Users:

Balabolka ( is a free download. Once you install the application on a Windows XP/Vista/7/8 computer, you can open or paste text within Balabolka and save as a WAV, MP3, or WMA file. Users can alter the rate and pitch of the voice. 

Macintosh Users:

iTunes Spoken Track is built into Mac OS 10.6–10.9 . You can turn it on via the System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Services > Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track. Within TextEdit or a browser select text and right-click, choose “Add to iTunes as Spoken Track.” Within the “Text to Audio File” window, pick a “System Voice” (I prefer Alex, Vicki or Victoria). In the “Save As:” text box, type in the name of the file and for the “Where:” choice, select “Music.” Click on the “Continue” button.  The MP3 file will appear in your iTunes Library.


Click to hear an example

Browser Options:

RoboBraille ( is a free website [donations appreciated] that allows you to upload a file (DOC, PDF, RTF, HTML, PPTX and many more) and emails you the URL to the  MP3 (or Braille and eBook) file for download.  There are multiple languages to choose from but the British English is nice sounding for a computer-generated voice.. The MP3 file will display in a browser window. Right-click on the play icon and choose “Save Video as.” Save the MP3 file to your computer where you can add it to your iTunes Library later. 


Click to hear an example

LISTEN ( uses the Google Translate voice-to-text engine. You can copy up to 100 characters into the text box and click on the “Listen” button. The MP3 file will display in a new window. Right-click on the play icon and choose “Save Video as.”  Save the MP3 file to your computer where you can add it to your iTunes Library later. 

Click to hear an example

Having the text converted to MP3 can be very helpful for listening while you’re commuting or multitasking. Most of the text to speech tools use a computer voice and can be hard to listen to. Out of all the tools above, I find RoboBraille easy to use and the British English voice is nice to listen to.

Text to Speech

If you have a mobile device it can be very useful and quicker to use an app to read text instantly without converting the text to an MP3 file. There are many tools available for text to speech, but here is one I recommend.


Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 4.45.47 PM
app (free) – Text to Speech application that can read PDF, DOC, TXT, DropBox files and also web pages. Content can also be copied and pasted into the “input” section and read to you with over 11 English natural speaking voices. On the plus side, it also highlights the text while reading it, it can be used for learning a foreign language, and a helpful proofreading tool. The app is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Androids.


Mobile Reading

Sometimes you are able to read the articles, but want access to multiple articles without printing and killing trees? Many times I find articles online I want to read but just don’t have the time right now. So I use tools on my computer and iPad to allow me to save articles for reading later. In my option, the best tool for the browser, computer and mobile reading is Readability.

Browser / Mobile Options:

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 4.46.12 PM
( is a browser plug-in that cleans up all the advertisements and extra junk off the web article and allows you to save the cleaned version to read later within the browser or on a smart phone (iPhone and Android), iPad or Kindle. Create a free Readability account to store your reading list, organize them, and share them with others (Facebook, Twitter, or email).



Other Benefits

Not only can these tools be used for reading on the go, but also people who have learning disabilities, new readers, and English language learners can use them. Studies have shown that listening and seeing the text at the same time improves comprehension. People have also stated that using these tools not only improved their comprehension, but also allowed them to comprehend faster.

This last year I have been demonstrating tools like these to new college students. The resources students have today are amazing. How wonderful would it have been to have these tools when I was a college student. I hope you find this useful. Happy reading/listening, whichever form you choose.

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