The Best AI Reading Companion
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The Best AI Reading Companion

The Best AI Reading Companion

Updated
Published
May 29, 2024

Speechify is my top choice for AI tools that can read aloud for you, but there’s two other decent, more affordable alternatives that can also make your reading more effective.

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DALL-E
Digital nomad and AI enthusiast

Ranked: Best AI Readers

| Tool | The good & the bad | Best for | Pricing | |-----------------------------------------------------|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|----------------------------------|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | Speechify | ➕ Delightful to use
➕ Standard and premium voices sound amazing
➕ Free plan is enough for basic reading
➕ 3 days free trial with advanced features
➖ Non-English voices can sound unnatural | Boosting productivity and learning | Free 100 minutes of listening/month; $139 a year for unlimited listening | | Natural Reader | ➕ Generous free access
➕ Simple to use
➕ Has AI text filtering
➖ Free voices sound robotic | Best alternative to Speechify | Free access to basic features; $9.99/month for unlimited listening | | @Voice Aloud Reader | ➕ Free access to most features
➕ Auto detects language
➖ Ads and tutorials are annoying
➖ Clunky interface
➖ Only available for Android | Android users | Free access to most features with ads; Premium is $9.95/month |

As a content writer, I spent a lot of time reading articles, ebooks, and journals. The sheer volume of information was overwhelming, prompting me to look for ways to make the process more efficient. My search led me to AI readers, and I was curious if they could actually make my reading experience more efficient and allow me to do other things while reading.

As it turns out – they can! And a lot of people are using these tools to consume text as audio on a daily basis. Imagine being able to just press play on any text you see in your browser: your email, articles, messages, etc. This can not only take strain off from your eyes by reading the text aloud, it also allows you to obtain the information faster as you can easily control the speed. Students, professionals, those with compromised eyesight, or just anyone with a long reading list could probably get some benefits from these tools.

How I picked these tools

In scouting the market for AI reading tools, there were surprisingly few big, well-established options. I was looking for tools that had some customer reviews, a decent amount of web traffic and in general looked legitimate. There was  quite a lot of general text to speech generators, where you can copy paste a text and it will read it back to you. However, what I was really looking for here was tools that integrate with your mobile or desktop environment and can are designed to conveniently allow you to read aloud from different sources.

There’s some very popular tools out there like Eleven Labs, Veed.io and TTS reader. These are probably good options if you’re looking to simply give voice to some specific piece of text. As a versatile text to speech reader that works seamlessly with your other apps though, not so much.

I ended up with a list of three tools, out of which Speechify is by far the most well-known, and is very much designed specifically for reading. The other two are relatively close in the type of use they are intended for (as an aloud voice reader).

How I tested these tools

I primarily tested these AI readers on mobile devices to reflect the growing trend of learning things on the go. Also, since there was one tool that was only available on mobile, I chose this device type as my primary test to make things more comparable. Rest assured, I also tried  the desktop and browser extensions of the other two when evaluating them. For consistency in my testing, I used the article “Advantages and Disadvantages of Artificial Intelligence [AI]” from simplilearn.com for all tools in this list.  

The main language I used for testing was English. However, I also gave each tool a whirl in Filipino, as it’s my native tongue and I wanted to check how the voices sounded in other languages.

Key considerations

Value +

I’m considering how much value you get for free with these tools (e.g. how many listening minutes, how good the free voices are, and so on) and what you have to pay for. The higher the price, the more awed I need to be by the tool, and the more productive I need to feel using it.

Voice quality +

One of the most important considerations. How nice are those AI voices to listen to, really? Ideally, they should sound natural, like I shouldn’t notice that it’s an AI voice at all (we’re in 2024 already, are we not?).

Ease of Use +

The tools need to be well-integrated with other apps, so you can seamlessly read from whatever platform you’re using. I’d also like to have easy control of things like speed of the voices. They should also have easy options for uploading files, converting text to audio, and adjusting settings.

Languages +

To meet the different reading and learning needs, it would be great if the AI reader supported a variety of languages. And of course, the AI voices in whatever language you use sound natural and native-like.

Platforms +

Most readers will have a variety of devices they use for reading: phone, tablet, desktop, physical books. If the tools support different platforms, that’s convenient and a big plus.

Supported Inputs +

The AI reader should be capable of supporting a wide range of document types. PDFs, Word documents, ebooks, and online articles. Text comes in a wide variety of formats and the more of these the tools can accommodate, the better.

1. Speechify

Best for boosting productivity and learning

Speechify on mobile lets you import text from various sources, including web pages – no copy-pasting involved.

The Good
User-friendly design makes it easy to navigate and use
Free plan inclusions feel enough for most users
3-day free trial for the premium plan which includes tons of advanced features and personalization
Standard and premium voices sound excellent
The Bad
AI voices for non-English languages can sound a bit unnatural
Pricing
Free: 100 minutes of listening per month (10 standard reading voices)
Premium: $139/year of unlimited listening (30+ high-quality voices, adjustable speed up to 5x, 20+ different languages, and more)

Simply put, Speechify stood out from the others in a very positive way. Not simply because they have Snoop Dogg and Gwyneth Paltrow as options for voices to use (although that’s pretty darn cool), but for their intuitive design and ease of use. I’m not surprised their site has 7 million web visits per month. 

I first tested the free plan, which had basic text-to-speech features and 10 “standard” voices. While these voices weren’t perfect, they certainly weren’t terrible, and I consider them good enough for casual reading. They certainly helped me get through articles faster. The monthly listening time of 100 minutes, which does make this tool actually useful without paying anything at all.

However, the premium plan offers some serious upgrades. It gave me the option to adjust my reading speed, which can help digest text a lot quicker, and the 30+ premium voice you get were also much better and natural-sounding (hello, Snoop Dogg!). Then there was the feature of snapping a photo to import text from other sources, like physical books. So you’re eniter collection of dusty softbacks are now audible – nice! The only major drawback I’d say, and this might be just the case for Filipino (I didn’t test the other languages), is that the voice wasn't as natural-sounding as the English one. The premium subscription will set you back $139 a year, but gives you higher-quality voices, more languages, speed control, physical text scanning with your camera and other smaller features.

Overall, I definitely recommend Speechify to anyone trying to improve their reading speed and comprehension. You can get it from their website.

2. Natural Reader

Best alternative to Speechify

Natural Reader’s simple interface makes it easy to navigate and use

The Good
Generous free access with unlimited listening with free voices and 20 minutes daily listening with Premium voices
AI text filtering skips distracting and unwanted texts like URLs and texts within brackets
The Bad
Free voices sound pretty unnatural and robotic
Pricing
Free plan: basic features (includes unlimited listening with Free voices, 20 minutes listening with Premium voices)
Premium plan: $9.99 with advanced features (includes unlimited listening with Premium voices)
Plus plan: $19 per month with advanced features (includes unlimited listening with Premium voices and 500k characters/day listening with Plus voices)

Natural Reader is another app like Speechify, but has a more generous free plan. Its cheapest plans don't match Speechify’s life-like voices, but the free unlimited listening time is a big plus.

Using the free voices, the productivity boost you get from having the content read aloud to you feels similar to when using Speechify. However, it is drastically less pleasant, as the voices are unapologetically robotic. However, the free tier gives you 20 minutes of “non-AI” voices per day, which are a good middle-ground between the annoying free voices on Natural Reader and the life-like but pricey Speechify voices.

There wasn’t a Filipino voice option, but the Philippine English accent did a surprisingly good job in capturing our accent. Natural Reader also has a unique AI filtering tool that allows users to skip unwanted content, albeit I didn’t find it particularly helpful in this test. But it would probably come to use if you’re dealing with technical docs or something with non-text characters.

Natural Reader’s strongest suit is its free plan with unlimited listening for (annoying) free voices and 20 minutes of listening with relatively pleasant premium voices. For $9.99 per month you unlock unlimited access to the premium voices, and for $19 per month you also get access to human-like voices that approach Speechify’s high-quality voices in terms of how natural they sound.

Natural Reader is available as a mobile app, on your desktop, and as a browser extension. If you ask me which is best, Natural Reader vs Speechify, I’ll say it depends on your budget. Natural Reader is the best if you’re looking for the most affordable option, and can live with some less-than-lifelike voices. You can try it out on the App Store, Google Play, or their website.

3. @Voice Aloud Reader

Best for Android users

@Voice Aloud Reader lets you save web pages in the app’s reading list

The Good
Free access to most features (with ads)
Auto-detects language of the text you’re reading and uses the appropriate voice in your mobile device
Premium license is a one-time purchase, not a subscription
The Bad
Ads and tutorial pop-ups are disruptive
Interface isn’t very intuitive and needs time to learn its controls
Only available as an Android app
Pricing
Free plan: offers access to most features (includes speed and pitch control; has ads)
Premium license: one-time purchase at $9.95; separate app @Voice Premium License (includes basic and advanced features)

@Voice Aloud Reader is a free AI reader app only available for Android devices. It’s a popular one though, with over 10 million downloads and a 4.4 rating in the Google Play store. While it's more limited than feature-rich options like Speechify and Natural Reader, it's still a viable option for Android users looking for a free text-to-speech reader.

I liked the app's simplicity which required no sign-ups and was ready to use immediately upon download. One noteworthy feature was its ability to detect the language of text and select the appropriate voice from your phone's engine. This was a useful feature I didn’t find in any of the other AI readers I tested.

However, the free version does have certain drawbacks that might give you a bad experience. Pop-up video ads were annoying during my testing, and the confusing user interface with unlabeled controls made it challenging to navigate compared to Speechify and Natural Reader.

@Voice Aloud Reader offers a free plan with access to most functions, including speed and pitch adjustment, although it does include bothersome ads. A great thing, though, is that their premium license at $9.95 is a one-off expense that removes advertising.

If you're an Android user on a tight budget who doesn't mind seeing ads, @Voice Aloud Reader is a worthwhile option. It's available through Google Play.

Updated
May 29, 2024
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