ePub App for Beta-Readers

So, I wrote a novel or two. I found myself some beta readers who lovingly and generously agreed to read the story and give me feedback. To make their lives easier, I set out to find an app that are easy to use, allows bulk export of annotations, and most importantly, built-in text-to-speech functionality–for it enables me to receive feedback from fellow dyslexics and those who prefer to listen to their books.

This is my favourite so far.

This post is not sponsored by the app. It started as an instruction for my own beta readers.

PocketBook Reader

Free ePub reader with both audio (text-to-speech) and easily exportable annotations, which also happens to be easy for readers to make while reading.

Advantages

  • Free
  • Available on multiple platforms (Android, iOS, web, etc):
    • If readers use multiple devices to read, their notes/places/bookmarks persist across devices, but I believe they have to create an account to do this.
    • One sets of instructions for your readers, even if some prefer Android phones/tablets, while others prefer iPhones/iPads.
    • Readers have a uniform experience, so differences in feedback won’t be attributable to their reader-app choice.
  • Audio for ePub via a text-to-speech function (a poor-author’s audiobook)
    • Some of my beta-readers are people who prefer to listen to their books. This feature enables me to receive feedback from more diverse readers (with dyslexia, if there isn’t text-to-speech, I won’t be writing novels at all!)
    • The free version uses the native OS’s accessibility-speech functionality, the paid version has (allegedly) better voices
  • The annotations (note making) function is very easy to use.
  • Annotations can be exported in a more intuitive manner than Kindle, native eBook apps in Mac/iOS and Android.
  • Allegedly, this works with all sorts of file formats (from .txt to .docx to .mobi), but I have only tried it with .epub out of habit.
  • Did I mention it’s free?

Set-up Instructions for Beta Readers (the most awesome people in the world)

1. Install the app: Android and iOS.

2. Give the app permission to open your files

3. (Optional) Make an account. This is useful if you want to read in multiple devices. Else you can just hit “Skip Authentication.”

4. Download the eBook for beta-reading to the device (if using multiple devices, this step only happens once).
Find it in your system. It is usually in the download folder (left screenshot).
Once you located the file, use the “open with” option to open it with PocketBook Reader (middle screenshot).
The book should then open up in the reader (right screenshot).

Using Audio ePub (text-to-speech, poor-author’s audiobook)

Text-to-speech (read aloud) can be accessed using the TTS buton (Blue Arrow, left screenshot).

This uses your system’s default TTS setting by, um, default. But you can modify voice/speed/pitch for this app specifically (left screenshot). If you want to do system-wide changes, click on the System TTS Setting bottom, and this cool little app will take you there.

My books generally read best with an British English voice. In Mac/iOS, my favourite is Oliver (Enhanced).

Annotation (Leaving notes for your author friend)

To make notes, select several words, and hit the annotation button (Purple Arrows, left screebshot).
Then type your notes, and hit the check mark. Don’t forget this step, otherwise it won’t save (middle).
Comments appears as little speech bubbles on the page (right).

Please highlight/select multiple words (or even entire sentences) when you want to make a note.
E.g., say, I wrote “Here is a apple,” and you want to tell me there is a typo.
Please select “Here is a apple.”
If you select only the error, “a”, and make a note, I won’t be able to find the error instance out of the whole book/chapter by searching for “a”!

Exporting Notes + Sending to Author Friend

Congratulations to both you and your author friend. You have read the book and made your notes! Now it is time to export and send the notes to them.

Follow the Red Arrows. Click on the table-of-content button (left screenshot), then go to the annotation tab (middle), click on export (right).

Now the instructions diverges for iOS and Android.

iOS:

Incidentally, your export button is different, so I am showing it here (left).

Then clock on “Export notes” (2nd image), then “Save to files” (3rd image) — select a location you know where to find (lol) and hit save (right).

Then find the file in the location you promised me you knew where to find, find it, and send it to your writer friend!

Android:

Clicking the export button automatically saves the notes as an html file. You just have to find it and send it to your author friend.

In your Files app, go to Documents > PocketBook (far left screenshot).
You will see the exported file there (mid left), click on it.
Once it opens, click on its hamburger menu (mid right), and hit send file (far right) to email the file to your writer friend.

All done.

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