Putting Tar Heel Reader books into iBooks - with Speech!

I am a HUGE fan of Tar Heel Reader - and have blogged about it before.  However, Tar Heel Reader has had a big upgrade and has some great changes that I am going to write about over a few blog posts.  Today, I'm going to focus specifically on the ability to put your Tar Heel Reader books into iBooks with speech support as I think this is the most useful new feature!

If you aren't familiar with Tar Heel Reader then I will quickly explain! The site was created as a collaboration between the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and the department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The aim was to create a free online resource that gave users access to a number of easy-to-read, accessible books.  And they have now added an easy way to import these into iBooks on your iPad - with optional speech support.

A user can go into Tar Heel Reader and search for a book on a wide range of topics. I was working in a classroom today that is doing a theme on "People Who Help Us". The teacher, Christina, was actually using a Tar Heel Reader book to introduce the topic so I am going to use this as my example and take you through the steps to get this book into iBooks.

To find a book to import into iBooks, it is easiest if you do the search directly on your iPad. Please note: before doing this, you need to make sure that you have iBooks installed on your iPad. If you don't have it installed, then click on this link to go to the App Store and download it.  iBooks is a free eBook reader from Apple.

Once you are sure that you have iBooks installed, then use the Safari web browser on your iPad go to www.tarheelreader.org and select the large button that says "Find a book".

You then need to type a topic into the search box - e.g. "People who help us", as in the screenshot below - and Tar Heel Reader will then generate a list of books that meet your search criteria.

Once you have found the book you want, you need to decide if you want the user to have access to speech support when reading the book in iBooks. If you do, then you need to turn speech on before downloading the book. To do this, you need to go into Settings. The Settings wheel for each book is located on the title page of each book, in the top right corner. If you want to download the book into iBooks and have speech available it is important that you do this before downloading the book.

So - if you want speech go to the Settings button and select "Speech" and then select a voice - man, woman or child.

Now that you have selected your voice (or not) you are ready to download the book into iBooks. Once again you need to go to the Settings button, but this time you need to select Download and then ePub to download it in the format compatible with iTunes.

Once you have selected ePub, you might need to wait for a short while during which the download is prepared. After this short wait, a further window opens asking you where to open the ePub book. You should select "Open in iBooks".

The ePub book will then open up in the iBooks app. You can now browse it just like any other eBook. If you selected a voice before downloading, then there is a sound bar for each page where you can press play to have the text read out to you!

I hope you've found this helpful. Once you have imported a few books, you will find that it is really quick and easy to do.  And if you know Tar Heel Reader you'll realise that this gives you a potential library of thousands of easy to read books (with speech support) in iBooks.  Yay!!


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Comments (24)

  1. I really like that a reader has total control over pausing, rewinding and restarting the audio file. Let's hope that quality TTS engines can be incorporated sooner rather than later.

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  3. Hindie Becker Dershowitz


    Thanks, this is great and simple.

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  5. Dinell Stuckey

    Yes! Yes! YES!! Perfect solution for so many of our kids! Thanks for the detailed directions on how to do it!!

    • Thanks Dinell!! It really is very cool - I have been using it so much. Love it! Jane

  6. How is a blind reader able to access the reading bar? If VoiceOver is turned on, you get way too much information. Without VoiceOver, you can't find the reading bar.

    • Hi Bonnie - way do you mean by the reading bar? Is this different to other books you've installed into iBooks? Jane

      • Jane, I am referring to the reading bar on the book itself. The one to play the text in speech. I have discussed this with Gary and he says another TVI has said that it works fine. I disagree.

        • HI Bonnie,
          My personal experience is that I showed this to a group of teachers for the visually impaired a couple of weeks ago when I was working at a school with a number of students with are visually impaired. We downloaded books and then we used them with the students. The students managed just fine. Best to continue talking to Gary though if you are having specific problems with a student - maybe demonstrating the issues with a video would help to see if he can find a work around - although he may not be able to as developers don't have much control of VoiceOver. Jane

  7. Thanks so much Jane! This is awesome. Do you know if I can create more than one bookshelf on the ipad? I'd like to have separate bookshelves for both my girls, and also for me.

      • Hi Sue -glad you've figured it out :). I don't know there's a limit to collections/bookshelves - I seem to have around 50. So useful for organising my books. Jane

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  10. Jill de Kock

    Thank you, Jane. This is an awesome resource to have on the iPad.

  11. Pingback: Putting Tar Heel Reader Books into iBooks – with Speech! | OT's with Apps

  12. Roxanne Richardson

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am new to Tar Heel Books. I am hoping that I can browse to see what's available without having a specific title/category.

    • Hi Roxanne,

      Just select Find a Book and then hit search without typing or selecting anything. The whole library of reviewed Tar Heel Readers will come up and you can browse through them.


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