Talk to me, e-mail: Messages that can be heard

The International Herald Tribune, amongst others, is reporting on a service being delivered by mail.com and developed by outblaze that will allow emails to be converted from text-to-speech and delivered by podcast to be listened to when away from the PC.

Whilst I can see the benefits of this for people with particularly disabilities, I don’t think that this is particularly beneficial to most email users. My reasons are as follows

  • when listening via podcast to an email you will not be able to actually respond to the email or forward it on. So unless the email is simply an FYI, you’ll still need to retrieve it
  • people can read much faster than listen. Hence, unless you’ve got lots of time on your hands away from the PC when you can just listen to your emails, when will this be used. Moreover, if you get lots of emails and are away from the PC, why not get a blackberry or other mobile device that can receive your emails. The one obvious example where it might be useful will be for drivers with long car journeys, but see bullet one.
  • much of what you listen to isn’t fully absorbed. As it is, I find it easy to be distracted when listening to audio books, hence I’ve not gotten into them at all.
  • you’ll still have to scan the text version of your inbox to clean up the emails you’ve “read”, so now you’re spending even more time on email.

The same doesn’t hold true for “listening” to newspapers or magazine articles – no action is required or subsequent maintenance. That’s why otodio’s service could take-off.

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