In the evenings, Charles Spurgeon’s wife would sit on a cushion at his feet and read to him. So far, I have been unsuccessful in persuading my wife to do the same for me, but I think I may have found an alternative solution. I now listen to Kindle books on iPhone.
A major part of ministering revolves around reading. We are men of the Word, and men of words. Be it the Scriptures, commentaries for our sermon preparation or theological treatises to sharpen our thinking on certain doctrines, we are readers.
But wouldn’t it be great if we could squeeze in a few more chapters while driving, exercising, or doing housework? Well, you can do just that by listening to Kindle books on your iPhone.
Certainly, audiobooks fill this need to a degree. Between Audible and Christian Audio a decent offering of Christian books can be found. But Kindle’s selection is simply massive. And if you follow Tim Challies‘ blog (which you should), you likely have a prodigious selection of Kindle books you bought on sale for $2.99 but have never read. Plus, most new books release straight to Kindle at the same time the paperback comes out, but an audiobook (if it ever comes) shows up much later to the publishing party.
Enter: iPhone robot voice reading thingy.
Did you know that your iPhone and iPad come with an accessibility feature that will read anything on the screen? It’s true. And it even has the ability to automatically turn the pages on your kindle app! Here’s how to set it up.
Step #1: Download the Kindle App and Set it Up
- Go to the app store. Search “Kindle” (it’s free), and download it.
- Open the app and login or create an Amazon account.
- Insanely, you cannot actually purchase Kindle books via the app (because Apple has a territorial spirit?), but you can use the Safari app to do that, or just buy ’em using your computer.
Step #2: Turn on The Speech Feature
- Open the Settings app—that’s the one with the gears…or are they sprockets? Cogs perhaps?
- Next, click General > Accessibility.
- Now, click the menu item titled “Speech.”
- Finally, turn on the second toggle, “Speak Screen.”
Notice what it says under Speak Screen, “Swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen to hear the content of the screen.” That is how you will activate this feature once you’re back in your Kindle app.
Under the Speech menu, you can also select the voice you want to have read to you. I chose “Samantha (Enhanced)”. Don’t worry about selecting a speaking rate now, you can do this when you’re using the feature.
Step #3: Turn off Auto-Lock
This step is annoying, but currently, it is still not possible for iOS to read Kindle books while the screen is turned off. And since most people have their screen set to time out after 2 minutes, we have to change that. Here’s how to make your screen not turn off so Kindle will keep reading:
- Go back to Settings > General
- Select “Auto-Lock”
- Set it to “Never”
Note: This means you will have to either remember to turn auto-lock back on when you aren’t using this feature, or get into the habit of turning your screen off manually. I just turn it off manually.
Step #4: Download and Open Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Step #5: Open A Book and Swipe Down With Two Fingers
Starting from the top of the screen, swipe down with two fingers. Suddenly you will hear a robot’s voice getting all theological on you. You will also see the speech controls pop up.
You can adjust the rate of speech with tortoise or hare icons (the same guy who made your lawnmower developed this software). You can also pause or skip ahead.
After a few seconds of playing, or if you click the little arrow on the top left of the controls overlay, the controls will minimize to the side. But you can get it back just by clicking the arrow again.
Now You Can Listen to Kindle Books on iPhone!
Congratulations! Your eyes are free.
This is a really handy way to take in more books but use your new power wisely. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the best use of this feature, and so that the robots do not become our overlords.
- You have to keep the screen on! I know… I know… But pray for the grace to accept this burden. This will, however, drain your battery. So, I like to turn the screen brightness waaaay down. You don’t need to see the screen anymore.
- Choose white text on black background, also to save battery life.
- If you turn the screen off, the robot will finish the current page, then stop.
- Use bluetooth headphones if you’re on an iPad. Then you don’t have to carry it around with you.
- You can listen and process information faster than you can read. Science. So try working up to a faster listening speed—sorry, I mean a more rabbits listening speed.
- Only do this with lighter books. Like, don’t have a robot read the works of John Owen to you. Normal reading is still the best way to think through and study heavier volumes.
More information on Apple’s accessibility features.
James White of Alpha & Omega ministries listens to a lot of Kindle books via audio while he circumnavigates the globe via road bike. His method is different than the one outlined here. You can learn about it on his ministry’s website.
Any of the Kindle Fire tablets also do this using a more integrated text-to-speech setup for books that are enabled with that feature. If you want a cheap tablet that can read to you then you can pick up the low-end Kindle Fire for less than $50.
I have been told that the Logos app for iOS can also utilize this speech feature, turn the pages automatically and that it will continue to work even with your screen turned off.
Also, the default iBooks app works with the screen off as well. If I have a PDF I want to listen to I usually send it to iBooks and have it read it to me there. So, check that out.