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The difference between audiobooks and text to speech

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If you’re a keen listener rather than a reader, you already know about audiobooks and text to speech. But what sets them apart? Read on to find out.

The difference between audiobooks and text to speech

People who like listening more than reading have many tools at their disposal. Audiobooks have existed for decades, while text to speech (TTS) engines have seen impressive advancements in recent years. Both formats have benefited from digital technologies. The similarity between audiobooks and TTS is obvious: both allow you to hear a text. However, the differences between the two may not be that straightforward. This article will explain everything you need to know about the difference between audiobooks and text to speech.

What are audiobooks?

An audiobook is an audio recording of a book title at varying production levels. If you had the rights to a particular title, you could record the audio of yourself reading the book and publish it as an audiobook. In that regard, audiobooks are similar to podcasts. On the other hand, a professionally made title like those found on Speechify Audiobooks or Audible audiobooks from Amazon can feature high production with an ensemble cast, sound effects, and even accompanying music. Although closer to a radio drama, this would also class as an audiobook. The format is much older than most think. While audiobooks today are associated with digital technologies, the first recordings of a text published as a physical book were made in the 1950s. Regarding the talent behind audiobook readouts, the modern industry usually employs professional voice actors. However, authors themselves can provide the narration, and some services use amateur volunteers for the purpose. Audiobooks are most often commercial copyrighted products. You can purchase an audio version of many fiction and nonfiction titles through online retailers like Amazon’s Kindle Books, iTunes,, Speechify Audiobooks, and others.

What is text to speech?

Text to speech uses computer-generated voices and AI capabilities to read a text aloud. It’s primarily used as an assistive technology with TTS apps helping learners, and those with reading difficulties comprehend written text more easily. Text to speech voices range in how natural they sound, with some like Speechify sounding incredibly lifelike while other TTS apps sound more robotic. Text to speech software can be found as a standalone service in smartphones and other mobile devices and as a feature of specific browsers. Furthermore, many individual web pages have an embedded TTS player. Listening to a TTS voice readout can be invaluable to people who have issues decoding text. Besides improved accessibility, text to speech apps can serve as creative tools. For instance, the technology provides easily made voiceovers for presentations and videos. Also, students can use TTS to listen and read simultaneously, improving information understanding and retention. TTS is intended for broader use. Apps like Speechify are available on different platforms, including the Chrome browser, iOS, and Android devices. On the other hand, certain apps like Voice Dream Reader are built exclusively for mobile devices.

The differences between audiobooks and text to speech

Here’s a brief overview of the critical differences between audiobooks and TTS:

  1. Media type — Audiobooks are live recordings of human voices narrating the text from a book. TTS is software that uses voice generation to read a text aloud.
  2. Voice type — Audiobooks use human narrators exclusively, and you can’t change the voice of the narrator while listening to an audiobook. TTS uses software-generated voices, and you can choose between different voices when using text to speech.
  3. Formats — Audiobooks are made available in various digital audio formats with files that the users can stream or download. TTS is formatted as computer software or an app, often without permanent audio files.
  4. Function — Audiobooks are intended primarily for listening to literary works. TTS is designed as an accessibility solution for people with reading difficulties but may serve other purposes.
  5. Interactivity — Audiobooks are a passive medium that limits the user to standard playback operations, although some audiobook platforms allow you to adjust the reading speed. However, it’s worth mentioning that modern technology aims to make audiobooks more interactive. TTS gives the user greater control over the text and seamless navigation.

Enjoy great stories with Speechify Audiobooks

While Speechify has been known as a leading text to speech app, it also now features one of the best audiobook services to date—Speechify Audiobooks. But don’t get confused, Speechify Audiobooks feature real human narrators to tell the stories of thousands of classic and new books alike. For less than the price of Audible, Speechify Audiobook users enjoy an enormous library of titles with a huge range of genres—including romance, classic literature, sci-fi and fantasy, mystery and suspense, biographies, and so much more. Try Speechify Audiobooks for free today, and unlock a whole new way to enjoy your favorite stories.


Do audiobooks have the same effect as reading a book?

Audiobooks can be just as effective as printed or e-book editions. Listening to a title instead of reading it may be more beneficial for some readers, particularly if they have difficulties following the text.

What are the pros and cons of audiobooks?

Audiobooks can make reading easier for people with learning disabilities like dyslexia. The format also offers greater immersion and facilitates multitasking. On the flip side, audiobooks must be produced and published. Plus, many audiobooks exist in a single version - if you don’t like the pacing, recording quality, or the narrator’s voice, you don’t have an alternative.

Is it possible to listen to audiobooks and text to speech at the same time?

It’s certainly possible to listen to an audiobook and text to speech simultaneously, but the practice wouldn’t be particularly productive. It’s been proven that humans can’t keep full attention on two audio sources for long and won’t retain much information.

Which is better for children, audiobooks or text to speech?

The choice between audiobooks and text to speech for children will depend on the intent. An audiobook will be the better option if you want to play a goodnight story for your kid. But if the child needs to learn proper word pronunciation, TTS could make the learning process much more manageable.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.