Text-to-Speech Programs and Continuous Medical Education

Can anybody read the latest NEJM articles for me? The answer is yes, just use a text-to-speech program. Check the AT&T demo here.

What Is the Idea?

Let's see, you want to read this pile of the New England Journal of Medicine articles, or may be some part of Harrison's or UpToDate but it seems like you can never find the time for it. At the same time, have you ever thought how many hours per week you spend in the car commuting to work? Here is a suggestion: why don't you listen to those NEJM articles while driving?

What Is Text-to-Speech?

Your computer can talk to you and it can read whatever you want. Text-to-speech (TTS) programs convert text or web documents to human speech. And you can choose between the voices of Mike, Sam, Sally, Pierre, Juan or Ludwig, because most programs can speak foreign languages. Have you ever wondered how to say something in Spanish? The right program can be an invaluable tool in practicing Spanish, French, German or may be Portuguese...

Does it sound like a human voice? Not really, it is a computer-generated voice but it is as close to human as it can get. You can adjust the speed: "Talk slowly please". You can repeat: "Say that again", or change the pitch of the voice, if you like bass versus tenor or soprano.

Which Text-to-Speech Program to Choose?

There are several text-to-speech programs on the web. Just go to Google and type in the search field "text-to-speech". Among the programs I have tested, the best one seems to be "2nd Speech Center." It has a free trial version which can be explored for a month (the full version costs $25).

Download the program on the desktop, not in the jungles of the windows directory, so that you know where it is, and then just unzip, and click "setup".

Now the biggest question -- how to use a text-to-speech program? It is really simple. Just open the program and the article you want to read. Then select the text and press "Ctrl + C", or right click and choose "Copy". The idea is to copy the text in the clipboard. The program will start reading automatically.

Take Your Reading With You

Text-to-speech programs can make MP3 files (or regular CD files) from the articles. You can listen to them on your iPod or the car CD player. It is useful, simple and fun. You can easily catch up on your reading of journal articles, NYTimes, Washington Post, Time, you name it...

Self-Made CME

Continuous medical education does not have to be limited to pre-recorded cassettes or CDs. With a text-to-speech program, you can assemble your own curriculum of topics you want to read.

Our TTS Demo Speaks Your Text. AT&T Labs.
Two Ways to Take iPod on the Road. Washington Post 5/05.
Audio eBooks, both human-read and computer-generated from Project Gutenberg.
University of Michigan Dental School to deliver podcasts of lectures to students via iTunes.
Total Recorder ($ 12) records streaming audio, mic input, line-in input, as well as CDs and DVDs
Reuters Audio News as TTS podcasts.
Listening to MS Office. PC Magazine 6/05.
6 Ways to Link iPods and Car Radios. PC Mag 10/05.
Call for Help: Podcast to transcript? Lifehacker.com.
Google Book Search is More Accessible Through TTS-friendly Plain Text. Google Operating System, 07/2007.
Nature Clinical Practice: Audio Articles. DavidRothman.net, 08/2007.
How To: Convert text to spoken audio. LifeHacker.com. 08/2007.
Overclock Your Audio Learning. Steve Pavlina, 08/2007.
eBooks and eAudio Books - Downloadable Digital Collection. Cuyahogalibrary.org.
New Context Menus in Google Docs. Export TTS in the right-click context menu of Google Docs? Google Operating System, 08/2007.
Speak Clipboard. SpeakTools.com, 2009.
Speak Clipboard Reads Your Clipboard's Content Out Loud. LifeHacker, 2009.
Text-to-Speech in Pocket app (formerly “Read Later”) http://goo.gl/ikFNN
Image sources: morguefile.com, en.wikipedia.org
Updated: 11/23/2009


  1. If you read www.medpagetoday.com, you get all the medical news plus cme.

    MedPagetoday is far less complicated and labor intensive. They also have video on some stories and audio.

  2. You missed the point. The key is portability. With MedPageToday, Medscape, etc. you have to sit in front of the computer to get the information. With text-to-MP3, you can take the information everywhere. You can listen to the articles while exercising or driving. It's better than podcasting because you choose the exact content. MedPage does not cover NYTimes or Washington Post, I think... :-). We are not talking about short snippets of the latest medical news. You can put a whole book on your iPod with the text-to-speech program.

  3. Excellent information on the 'Text to Speech' program. This way we can make use of driving time for academic purposes.It is really amazing how present day 'Information revolution' is helping us to learn Medicine.

  4. Text2Go is designed specifically for capturing text, converting it to speech and transferring it to your iPod. The software runs on Windows PCs and integrates with Internet Explorer and iTunes. It's currently in beta and I'd love some people to give it a try. For more information visit http://www.text2go.com

    ps - Please excuse me if this seems too much like spam.

  5. The Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader application will read your documents out loud in one of its many high quality voices. You can get the absolutely free version at http://www.zabaware.com/reader/. Why spend money when you can get things done for free! But of course, you get better voices if you are ready to pay.

  6. I've tried ReadTheWords (http://www.readthewords.com), and it's a great web-based text-to-speech service. Very Web 2.0.

  7. I have tried Robo talk Iphone app & it is great free app to do text to speech.

  8. Re: "I have tried Robo talk Iphone app & it is great free app to do text to speech."

    Good to know. I'll give it a try. Thanks.