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vBookz screenshotAfter many years of loyal service, the database built in the Stone Age of the internet (the '80s) by our own esteemed technology advance guardsman, Professor Emeritus Jim Bindon, was retired by necessity. It was built in ColdFusion, essentially the Beta of databases, and was no longer supported. Fortunately, we were able to have it transferred to another server and service and are now up and running again with institutional support. Thank you, Jim, for your technological innovations and many years of maintaining them for our behalf.

In addition to tried and true wonders of technology to streamline our workflow are new innovations. One I've become fond of in 2014 is the vBookz PDF Voice Reader app. This app reads PDFs that have been processed with OCR text recognition software. It comes at a cost of $4.99 from the Apple Store and can be used with a female or male voice. While the voices are a bit robotic and mispronounced some words, it is good enough to make plowing through a pile of papers that need grading, theses and dissertations that need evaluating, or the numerous readings per week for our various classes much easier. I even scan in books to make better use of the time I'm walking the dog, driving to campus, or even so I can walk around campus and enjoy the weather while reading. Listening goes much faster than reading because you don't slow down when your mind wanders (though you may have to rewind occasionally).


vbookzThis new periodic column from the Anthro Dept Tech Committee will share info related to technology we think may help your research, teaching, or scholarship efforts. This first column highlights the vBookz Voice Reader app.

I recall Dr. DeCaro coming into a faculty meeting a few years ago straight off the road from a road trip to discuss student comprehensive exams. He'd been pressed for time, so he'd converted them to PDF, had them read to him by some app, and recorded his comments via voice recorder. It sounded a little nuts at the time (not to mention dangerous potential listening material for sleep-deprived driving), but, since I've now joined the iPhone legion, I recently remembered that incident and tracked down an app to deal with the backlog of PDFs I needed to digest.

I don't know if it's the same one he used, but I found vBookz because of its relatively good ratings on iTunes. As reviews point out, the optional male or female voices are robotic and mispronounce a number of words, but it is good enough to make plowing through a pile of papers much easier. The responsive tech support (via email or Twitter) has also pointed out a few mistakes I made that has improved my listening experience. It costs $4.99 per language, but it has been well worth it. I can listen to articles and papers now while I'm driving, walking the dog, hanging out in my tree (building my treehouse), and riding my bike around town (trying not to get run over by Tuscaloosa drivers). While I use it primarily on my iPhone, you can use it on an iPad as well & follow along on either device, as it has a box that moves along on the word that is being read.

I like to sit with my iPhone reading an article to me while I open the article in a PDF reader on the iPad that will let me take notes and mark it up while I listen. In one week alone, I played through a 300+ page and another 20+ page manuscript I had agreed to review, several large articles I had assigned for classes, an article related to my research, a recently published article by my Tech Committee colleague Jo Weaver, and several papers Jim Bindon had been kind enough to send around that had been piling up in my email.

This app is great for those long articles you need to read for class but waited to read until the last minute---I recommend putting your headphones on and strolling around campus for a few minutes to bang it out. Listening seems to go much faster than reading because you don't slow down when your mind wanders (though you may have to rewind occasionally). It's also great for articles you've assigned for classes that you've read previously and didn't want to read again but know you should freshen yourself up on.

For students who've been assigned a pile of articles and find yourself dozing off while reading them--put them on your iPhone and jump on the treadmill. You'll be enriching your mind and body at the same time! In other words, stop avoiding your schoolwork by productively procrastinating--do both!

And for those papers or chapters that aren't available in PDF, simply scan them in, run Adobe Reader's OCR text recognition, resave, and vBookz will read that for you too. I'm scanning in almost all my books now so I can listen to your publications while I count my steps with the Jawbone UP24 I'll tell you about next time!

So check it out:

And here are some other recent articles to get you started:

Lynn, Pipitone, & Keenan 2014

Kosiba & Bauer 2013

Oths & Groves 2012

Dressler et al. 2013

Blitz and Porth 2013

DeCaro et al. 2012