So I lost my copy of Her Privates We (also known as The Middle Parts of Fortune), Frederic Manning‘s (highly factual) fictional account of life in the trenches during World War I. It’ll probably turn up but, to be frank, I didn’t much fancy actually sitting down and reading it. I knew it would provide invaluable background for my new novel, but I have so much research to get through that as soon as I remembered that I had it somewhere I started trying to think of research shortcuts (i.e. ways of avoiding reading it!)
And, sure enough, one occurred to me — a fairly considerable one.
First, I took a look at Project Guttenberg to see if it was available as a free ebook, which, as it turned out, it was, along with lots of other books that could be highly relevant. So, I downloaded it as a plain text document and then, to save my poor old eyes, I sat back and, using the “Read This” function on my voice recognition software, listened to the opening chapter.
Now, it isn’t a perfect system. It has a number of “voices” but my voice of choice sounds very much like Stephen Hawking. Which is fine by me. The idea of having Hawking reading to me tickles me. However, I probably wouldn’t use it in any situation other than research. I wouldn’t read a book for relaxation this way because, well, the mechanical tone would quite possibly spoil it (although it isn’t half as bad as you’d probably imagine it to be.)
For this purpose, though, the combination of the Project Guttenberg texts and the voice recognition “Read This” function is pretty much perfect. I can even have it reading to me in the background whilst I do something else.
Ain’t technology brilliant?