[Note: Updated for iPhone 3.0 @ Accessing Audiobook Speed on iPhone 3.0]
Speeding up a recording used to make it sound like Alvin & the Chipmunks. Growing up, I had a cassette player for the blind that had a variable speed playback control. Being a kid, I used it mainly for entertainment value. Fun was had with friends making the narrators sound silly. Slide the bar up to get the fast, high-pitched tones of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Slide it down and you get slow, sonorous speech. I never used the cassette player much. It was more of a novelty. My sight was still good enough to read books without glasses even though I had to do it close up and with lots of eye strain and headaches. Those days are long over.
Now I rely much more on audio books. I have never learned to get along well with the cassette players designed for the blind. Instead, I listen mostly to books that I get from audible.com. In the early days, I listen to these books on a variety of MP3 players. At some point, though, I settled on and have stuck with Apple’s iPods. I had an early U2 iPod, then a succession of iPod nanos,and now I have the iPod Touch.
Apple has built their version of variable speed playback into their devices.Apple’s implementation, despite limited speed choice, has a great advantage over the older approach. Variable speed playback on the iPod does not have the Alvin and the chipmunks affect. There is no change in pitch when you change the speed. Increasing playback speed still takes some getting used to but it’s no longer quite so annoying.
The main limitation is the choice of speed. Apple only offers a choice of slower, normal and faster. Apparently, with enough time to acclimate yourself, you can get used to much higher speeds than what the iPod offers. Since I have to buy my audio books, this limitation is probably good for my budget.
Changing playback speeds is not as easy as it should be. Apple has buried the menu in the Music section of the iPod settings. Once you have navigated to the playback speed menu, it is quite easy to select your desired speed. However the choice is not book-specific nor is it easy to change on the fly. some books are more difficult than others at faster speeds. When I find myself wishing back and forth between different books, I often find myself having to switch their speeds as well.
All in all, it’s a great feature. It may take a few minutes to get used to, but you will soon be reading five books in the time you used to take you to read four.If you find this post useful or interesting, please consider buying me a cup of coffee.