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How to Convert an eBook to an Audiobook

Updated on November 12, 2009

Learn how to turn an ebook into an audiobook so you can listen to it on the go with an iPod or MP3 player

Audiobooks are great for times when it's impractical or dangerous to read. For example, listening to audiobooks can be a great way to pass time when driving, especially if you have a long, daily commute. The beauty of an audiobook is it leaves your eyes free for other activities. You can also enjoy audiobooks when out walking or running, working out at the gym or doing repetitive tasks around the home such as cleaning (except perhaps vacuuming), gardening, painting, etc.

This lens shows you how to use the text to speech program, Text2Go, to turn an ebook into an audiobook.

What is an eBook?

An ebook is an electronic book that represents the text of a book in digital format. You can read an  ebook at your PC or download it and transfer it to a portable device such as a dedicated ebook reader, an iPod, iPhone or a myriad array of other portable electronic devices.

eBooks come in many different file formats. Each format has strengths and weaknesses.

Many formats are locked with some form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. DRM is designed to stop you sharing your ebook with others or distributing it illegally. Unfortunately DRM often severely restricts the legitimate uses of an ebook by honest customers such as printing a copy, listening to an ebook using text to speech, making a backup copy or reading the ebook on any device owned by the customer.

Wherever possible try to choose DRM-free ebooks.

Here is a list of some of the most popular ebook formats.

  • ePub - The open ebook standard which is rapidly becoming the preferred ebook format. ePub supports reflowable text making it easy to read on screens of varying sizes. ePub is built on existing web standards such as html, css, and zip compression. In its pure form, ePub is DRM-free, but recently Adobe have begun releasing so called 'ePub' titles which they have wrapped in DRM.
  • Html - Some ebooks are available for reading directly on the web as a single html page or a series of page. Html pages can be downloaded and read offline but this can become fiddly when an ebook is

    spread over multiple pages. ePub gives you the same benefits of html but packages them in a single, compressed file.

  • PDF - The ubiquitous Portable Document Format created by Adobe and viewable using their free Adobe Reader software. PDF format documents provide an excellent on screen representation of a printed document. The PDF format was made an open standard a few years ago. PDF documents are not reflowable making them difficult to view on portable devices with small screens. Not all portable devices have reader software that will display PDF. Due to the internal structure of many PDF documents, they don't lend themselves well to text to speech.
  • MobiPocket - The .mobi format is supported by a wide range of mobile devices such as PDAs, phones and communicators. Readers are available on Windows, Linux and MacOS X operating systems. Amazon's Kindle uses a very slightly modified version of this format.

There is a good comparison of ebook formats on Wikipedia if you want further information.

What is an Audiobook?

An audiobook is an audio recording of a reading or narration of a book. Such recordings are sometimes referred to as Spoken Audio. In the past audiobooks  were commonly distributed on a series of cassette tapes or CDs.

Now an audiobook can be downloaded directly from the Internet and listened to on your computer, iPod, phone or MP3 player.

Why would I want to listen to an audiobook?

Audiobooks are great for times when it's impractical or dangerous to read. For example, listening to audiobooks can be a great way to pass time when driving, especially if you have a long, daily commute. The beauty of an audiobook is it leaves your eyes free for other activities. You can also enjoy audiobooks when out walking or running, working out at the gym or doing repetitive tasks around the home such as cleaning (except perhaps vacuuming), gardening, painting, etc.

Sometimes it's nice just to be able to listen to an audiobook at the end of the day, when you eyes are tired from staring at a computer screen all day.

Many people are better at retaining information aurally rather than visually. If you're one of these people,  you may find you have better success retaining information listening to an audiobook.

Finally, audiobooks are a great resource for the visually impaired.

How do I convert an ebook to an audiobook?

You can easily convert an ebook to an audiobook using the text to speech on your PC. Text to speech (TTS) refers to the technology that uses a computerized or synthetic voice to turn electronic text to spoken audio. You can

use text to speech to have your PC read from the screen out loud. Alternatively you can save the speech to an audio file which can then be played back at a later time on an iPod or other device capable of playing MP3 files.

To convert an ebook to an audiobook you will need a program that can open your ebook and use text to speech to save it as an audiobook. Ideally it will recognise the chapters of the original ebook and insert corresponding chapter marks in the resulting audiobook. This will make it easy to navigate your audiobook during playback. If you have a Windows PC, you can use the popular program Text2Go.

Download and Install Text2Go Now

Text2Go provides an easy means of converting ebooks to audiobooks. Text2Go supports ebooks in the open ebook format know as ePub (.epub), html (.htm or .html) and plain text files (.txt). The ePub format is preferred.

Choosing a destination for your audiobook

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to create an audiobook for your iPod or some other MP3 player. If you're creating an audiobook for your iPod, you need to select an iTunes playlist to store your audiobook. The natural playlist for audiobooks is obviously Audiobooks. However iTunes hides this playlist by default. If you go to Edit -> Preferences in iTunes you can show the Audiobooks playlist.

Once the Audiobooks playlist is visible in iTunes you can select it as a destination in Text2Go. If you click on the Text2Go icon in the system tray, you can select a playlist from the popup menu.

To save an audiobook as an MP3 file, select a playlist from the bottom list. MP3 files don't support chapters, so each chapter will be saved as a separate MP3 files. These files will be numbered so they will appear in the correct order when sorted by name.

Opening an ebook in Text2Go

There are a number of ways you can open an ebook in Text2Go using the Open command.

  • Open File... will open an ebook on your computer.

  • Open From the Internet... lets you enter the address of an ebook or page on the Internet. Text2Go will download the ebook for you.

  • Open (Url in Clipboard) is a more convenient way of downloading an ebook from the Internet. Simply browse to the ebook location on the Internet with your web browser and copy the address or link to the ebook to the clipboard. Then select this command and Text2Go will download the ebook for you.

Once Text2Go has loaded the ebook, it will open the View & Edit window to show you a preview of the ebook. This window lets you perform any necessary clean up of the ebook prior to conversion to speech.

The View and Edit window has 4 main sections. Starting at the top left and proceeding clockwise you have.

  1. Information about the ebook, such as title and author. You can use the Playlist combo box to select a destination playlist in iTunes and the Voice combo box to select the voice used to narrate the text.

  2. The Artwork picture box shows the image used for the ebook cover or current chapter. You can use the associated combo box to change the current image. Each chapter can have its own image. If the audiobook doesn't have a cover image, you can import an image from your PC or paste an image from the clipboard (an easy way of using an image from the web).

  3. A list of chapters. This list will be hidden if the ebook or document you're viewing contains only a single chapter. In this case, you can click on the

button to reveal the chapter list. Below the chapter list are a number of controls for combining, splitting and deleting chapters.

The Contents text box. You can use this to edit the text prior to conversion to speech. Below the text box are controls to read the text, check the pronunciation of the entire document, revert (undo) all changes you have made and proceed with or cancel the text to speech conversion.

Splitting a document into chapters

Text2Go tries to identify chapters within an ebook. This allows Text2Go to add the equivalent of a bookmark for each chapter to the resulting audiobook. These chapter bookmarks make it easy to navigate around an audiobook during playback.

If Text2Go cannot automatically locate chapters in an ebook (most likely due to the fact the ebook was not organised into chapters in the first place), there are a number of ways of manually splitting an ebook into chapters.

  • You can manually split a chapter in two by positioning the cursor at the desired point in the text and then clicking the Split at Cursor button.

  • Every 500 words. Text2Go will count 500 words into the document, find the end of the current paragraph and split the document at the point. It will repeat this until the end of the document is reached. Note you can change the number of words used per chapter on the eBook tab of the Text2Go Options window.

  • If the ebook has section names, such as Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc, use the By Section names option to automatically locate and split the document at these points.

  • At every heading. A heading is defined as two blank lines, a line of heading text, followed by a further blank line.

Editing the chapter names

If you need to change the name of a chapter, click once to select the chapter in the list. Then click again in the same location and an edit box will appear, allowing you to update the chapter name.

Combining multiple chapters into a single chapter

Sometimes you may want to combine two or more chapters into a single chapter. To do this select the chapters to combine and click on the Combine button. To select more than one chapter at a time, hold down the Ctrl or Shift key while clicking on chapters.

Deleting Chapters

You will often find ebooks contain chapters you don't want to listen to as part of your audiobook. Common candidates include acknowledgements, copyright notices, etc. To delete a chapter, select the chapter in the list and click on the Delete button. You can select multiple chapters at a time and delete them with a single click. Just hold down the Ctrl or Shift key to select more than one chapter at a time.

Checking Pronunciation

Text2Go has an efficient way of identifying and correcting mispronunciations in an ebook or document. If you click the Check button you will be presented with a list of words used in the ebook. The most likely candidates to be mispronounced appear at the top of the list. You can listen to each word in turn to check for a mispronunciation. If you hear a word is mispronounced, you can flag it as such so you can come back later and correct it. One of the big advantages of this approach is none of the story will be given away while checking pronunciation.

Beginning the ebook to audiobook conversion

Once you're happy with the layout and content of your ebook, click Ok to begin the text to speech conversion. This can take some time, especially for long ebooks. If you are planning on converting multiple ebooks, you can open and edit the next ebook before the first conversion has completed. Text2Go will queue up multiple conversion tasks and process each in turn.

eBook Options

There are a few options associated with ebook to audiobook conversion. You can change these on the eBooks tab of the Options window.

The Text2Go eBook Folder is the folder that Text2Go will store ebooks it downloads from the Internet. By default this is a subfolder called Text2Go eBooks in your Documents folder. You can change this to any other folder on your PC.

By default Text2Go will always display the View and Edit window when you open an eBook. However you may find this becomes an unnecessary step for the majority of ebooks. You can change this so it's never displayed, only when chapters cannot be identified or when either chapters or a cover image cannot be identified.

Finally you can split an ebook into chapters by word count.

What are some good sources of ebooks?

The following is a list of reputable sources of DRM-free ebooks.

  • Smashwords.com - A great source of contemporary works by independent authors and publishers. New titles are added daily, many are free and most are reasonably priced at under $5.
  • ePubBooks.com - A nice source of handcrafted ebooks in the ePub format. All are free, public domain classics. A number are illustrated.
  • Project Gutenberg - The original source of public domain ebooks, Project Gutenberg has possibly the most extensive collection around.
  • Finding Free eBooks - A useful site that searches out free ebooks as they are published on the Internet.
  • eBooks Just Published - A site that announces DRM-free ebooks as they're released. All ebooks announced on this site are either free or very reasonably priced.

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    • profile image

      SoniaGL 4 years ago

      Thank you so much, very informative! In addition to text2go, I would recommend another free tool (will be a good alternative), TTSReader, which is easy-to-use and converts txt to mp3 fast.

      Here is where I got it: www.epubor.com/how-to-convert-text-to-speech.html

    • SpicyCabbage profile image

      SpicyCabbage 5 years ago

      This is very useful information especially for those with vision problems or dyslexia. Thanks.

    • publicdomain lm profile image

      publicdomain lm 5 years ago

      I tend to use the text-to-speech function on my Kindle for this purpose, though I find that I won't listen to much of a book this way. There's no substitute for a real narrator. But if I'm reading and need to do something with my hands (or eyes), switching to audio mode for a few minutes lets me continue the flow of the book while I'm otherwise occupied.

    • profile image

      usarticles 5 years ago

      Nice lens about eBook to an Audiobook conversion, it's such a valuable information.

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    • Fanstanding LM profile image

      Fanstanding LM 5 years ago

      Thank you for the tips!

    • profile image

      wendy9018 6 years ago

      This is very helpful information. My company used this eBook conversion company to have my audio books converted. It was great because we didn't have to hassle with it myself, and they did a wonderful job for us.

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 6 years ago

      informative lens... thanks for sharing :)

    • profile image

      emillyr00y 6 years ago

      There are a lot of learning management systems about converting an ebook to audio book in wich is helpful for your study

    • profile image

      laef 6 years ago

      The idea of converting an ebook to an audiobook sound to be very attractive especially when the book is the kind of story or novel, so I prefer to listen to the narration more than reading it...Great lens ...I like it

      Laef

      Free Online PDF Converter

    • profile image

      laef 6 years ago

      The idea of converting an ebook to an audiobook sound to be very attractive especially when the book is the kind of story or novel, so I prefer to listen to the narration more than reading it...Great lens ...I like it

      Laef

      Free Online PDF Converter