Making Kindle Books Work With VoiceOver on the iPhone and iPad

***UPDATE*** kindle for iOS now supports VoiceOver! and it works fantastically well.  I have left the instructions in place below as they may be applicable for OS X Mavericks and iBooks if Amazon do not relase a VoiceOver compliant version of Kindle for Mac.

 

Being blind access to books is difficult. In an age of digital content you would of thought it would be easy, but no. it is increasing difficult thanks to things like DRM and odd restrictions imposed by eBook retailers.

There are a number of options below that I have broken down by company.

Amazon

Audible
Has a wide rang of audiobooks with a great monthly price. If the book is available as an audiobook this is a fantastic option and I cant recommend it enough.

Kindle

The books are only truly accessible in two scenarios
1. Kindle app for Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.
2. Kindle for PC with accessibility plugin.

Both of these options support text-to-speech. However that is very limiting as it restricts you to Amazons hardware and the PC version only works with specific text-to-speech applications.

The Kindle app for iOS and all other Android devices does not support text-to-speech.

Apple

iBooks

All of the iBooks support text-to-speech using the built in VoiceOver which is featured on all Apple products.

iTunes Store

The iTunes store has a range of audiobooks available, which are just as good as Audible.

What if?

What if you own an iPhone or iPad and want to buy a book that is available on the Kindle store but not the iBooks store. That is the problem this guide solves. It will allow you to purchase any book from the Kindle store and use text-to-speech through VoiceOver on your iPhon and iPad using VoiceOver and iBooks.

Essentially this guide allows any Kindle book to work with VoiceOver on your iPhone or iPad.

Below is my guide to using text-to-speech on kindle books on a iPhone using VoiceOver and iBooks. While the guide is for Mac OS X, it should be relatively easy to configure for windows.

Configuration

You will need a few things to make this work:

1. The latest version of calibre. Available here.
2. The latest version of DeDRM tools. Available here.
3. The latest version of the Kindle app for OS X. Available through the AppStore.
4. A book you have purchased on the Kindle store.

Download all the above files and remember their locations for later.

Installation

Install both Kindle for Mac and Calibre. Both are straight forward installs and should not provide much of a problem.

Configuring Calibre

In order to be able to convert the books to a format iBooks can read we need to strip the DRM. We will do this by installing DeDRM as a Calibra plugin.

1. Open calibre. From the Preferences menu select “Change calibre behaviour”.
2. Click on Plugins (under “Advanced”).
3. Click on the large “Load plugin from file” button.
4. Navigate to the DeDRM tools folder created after downloading DeDRM.
5. Open the “DeDRM_calibre_plugin” folder.
6. Select the DeDRM_plugin.zip file in that folder.
7. Click on the “Add” (sometimes “Open”) button.
8. Click on the “Yes” button in the “Are you sure?” warning dialog that appears. A “Success” dialog will appear, saying that the plug-in has been installed. Click on “OK”.

(above instructions are from: here )

Configuring Kindle for Mac

In order to make it easier to locate the books you have purchased on the Kindle Store we need to change the location for stored books.

1. Open the Kindle app.
2. Under preferences edit the “content folder” option.
3. Edit the location to somewhere easy to locate such as Documents/Kindle.

Converting a Kindle book

There are a few steps needed to convert the book to a DRM free accessible format.

In the Kindle app

1. Open the book you would like to convert.

This will download the book and store it locally to the location you configured from above.

In Calibre

1. Click add book from single directory.
2. Navigate to the Kindle folder you configured above.
3. List the contents by date.
4. The last file you opened should be at the top.
5. Open the .azw3 version.

The book will now be imported into Calibre and the DRM automatically removed.

To convert the book:

1. Right click the book you just imported.
2. Click on “convert books” → “convert individually”.
3. Make sure “output format” is set to ePub.
4. Click “OK”

Syncing the book to your iPhone/iPad

1. Right click the required book in Calibre.
2. Click “open contraining folder”.
3. Drag and drop the .epub format into iTunes under the book section.
4. Sync your iPhone/iPad.

Enjoy your book

You can now convert any Kindle book to work with text-to-speech (VoiceOver) on your iPhone or iPad. I do this all the time to make books accessible. It has allowed me to read the essential material for my degree. I only wish the Kindle app did this as standard under iOS.

6 thoughts on “Making Kindle Books Work With VoiceOver on the iPhone and iPad

  1. It’s crazy to have to go through this process just to listen to a digital book.

    It’s unfair. You know what you are doing, have access to a mac and are very tech savvy… but what about others?

  2. I totally agree it is unfair. The books should not have DRM and you should be able to goose which format you download them in. But unfortunately the publishing world just doesn’t seem to care.

    Thats why I wrote this post to try and point out it is possible. It does take a bit of fiddling to setup but once sorted it works like a dream!

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