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Dickens Journals Online wanted to find a way of making our literary treasure trove accessible to the blind and visually-impaired using cutting edge text-to-speech technology, as well as to allow all users to enjoy its contents in a new way. To this end we have teamed up with the Acapela Group, the leading voice experts, to convert all 30 million words in our archive into speech. Acapela creates natural-sounding computer voices which we hope will enhance users' enjoyment of the site. We've still a little way to go in terms of achieving our access aims, but in the meantime, we want to make the audio facility available in protoype form.

How to use Text-to-Speech

Using text-to-speech could not be easier! Simply visit any page in the archive, and, on the right-hand side above the transcript, you will find the text-to-speech player:


The five buttons from left to right are 'Play', 'Pause', 'Player Options', 'Select and Sample Other Voices' and 'Report a Pronunciation Error'.

On pressing 'Play' you will see a 'processing' icon, which tells you that the Player is requesting all the text in the page from Acapela's synthesiser. Each page—about 5 minutes' playing time of audio—takes about 30-40 seconds to load.

Player Options are:

1) Scroll with Player: The page scroll down as the player reads the text.

2) Mark the Current Paragraph: The paragraph being read by the player will be highlighted in yellow.

3) Continue on the Next Page: The player will continue automatically on to the next page. 

How to Report a Pronunciation Error

If the player misreads or mispronounces a word, please let us know. To do this, click on the 'Report a Pronunciation Error' button on the text-to-speech player.  This will take you to an online form in which you can describe the error.

We are continually working with Acapela to improve the quality of the voices we use—so your feedback is very important.


Text-to-Speech Highlights

Below are a small sample of pieces that you might enjoy listening to as well as reading! 

Tale of Two Cities, Part 1      
A preliminary word      
The Woman in White      
Great Expectations      
A Detective Police Party      
A Journey Due North

A Tale of
Two Cities
Week 1

'A Preliminary

The Woman
in White


'A Detective
Police Party'

'A Journey
Due North'

If you are having problems getting the player to work, you may need to install the latest version of Adobe Flashplayer, available here: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

 The text-to-speech feature has been created thanks to funding from the Information Technologists' Company, the City of London's youngest livery company, and some generous private donors.

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