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Bookshare for Smart Speaker

Making the Bookshare Reader available with popular smart speakers so users with blindness, low-vision, and learning differences can listen to their favorite books.

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The Scenario

Bookshare is a digital library that uses text-to-speech technology to bring millions of books to users for whom reading a print book is difficult – people with blindness, low-vision, learning challenges, and physical limitations. With the popularity of smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google, it became increasingly important for Bookshare Reader to be available on a voice platform. 

What I Explored

After attending a Project Voice conference, I learned how to design voice conversations to make the speech match the mood and encourage the desired user behavior.  It’s also important in voice to always prompt the user and not allow for too many open-ended answers.

For example, a British airline focused on business travel might choose a older male voice like the butler on Downton Abbey to convey dependability and attention to detail.  If you had an upstart airline focused on young vacationers, you might choose a more casual female Millennial voice.


  • "Good afternoon, how may I assist you with your travel plans today?"

  • "Hey friends, it's vacation time!  Where are you headed to?"


For a book reading app focused on students, as well as adults who many be unfamiliar with voice interfaces, we wanted to project helpfulness without being condescending.

  • “Welcome to Bookshare Reader.What book can I read to you today?” (too parental)

  • “Welcome to Bookshare Reader.What do you want to read? (not helpful)

The Solution

"Let's read something together" elicits a sense of helpfulness while allowing the reader to feel that they are in control. 

The Future

  • Easier access to recommendations

  • Fine-tuned book controls (limited controls with the standard book reader being used)

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