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People who have difficulty reading—because they’re blind or dyslexic, or they access large sites using small mobile devices—have difficulty using the Internet. ReadSpeaker has been providing a hosted service to European sites so that users can click on a button and have a Web page (or a portion of it) read out loud. I met with the ReadSpeaker team today.

ReadSpeaker uses other folks’ text-to-speech renderers, running it on their servers. Today they work in 12 languages (the European ones, plus Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese), and have 600 customers. Some are sites aiming at providing accessibility (including the British Museum and Vodaphone) and some are Big Content companies (Herald Tribune, Handelsblatt) that have commercial reasons for making their text more widely read. The accessibility sites pay a fee to ReadSpeaker (about €5000/year) while the content sites use an advertising model. For sites they render, ReadSpeaker can also render the text and layout to meet accessibility guidelines. (The lead developer is blind, by the way.) ReadSpeaker claims to have 25M users per year. Now they want to make inroads in the US, and are reaching out to the blogosphere.

For blogs, they will have two offerings, perhaps later this month. One is a small aggregator that lets you add three feeds of your choice, for free. You can play them, add them to iTunes, or retrieve them on a mobile browser through a compact html page they generate. Second, you can provide your readers with a link that takes them to a ReadSpeaker page that links to the spoken version of your posts, or subscribes them to a podcast version of your feed, generated automatically. ReadSpeaker is offering this for free. At some point, they may offer an advanced version that comes with advertising.

Users can submit suggestions for correcting pronunciations, which is a nice feature.

You can subscribe to the audible version of the Joho RSS feed here or listen to posts here. The audo rendering seems good and it’s a service some people may want or need. So, why wouldn’t I—and you—offer it on our blogs? [Tags: ]

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