The Victor Reader Stream by Humanware
As an avid reader, The Victor Reader Stream by Humanware is currently my favourite piece of tech. It’s such a powerful and multi-faceted device that I am still learning to use it. The stream is a portable (about the size of a deck of cards), multi-functional device. It reads books, takes notes, plays podcasts and newspapers, and music. The best part of all is that everything on it is accessible, meaning that through touch or sound you can make it do what you want it to do.
When you first get your Stream, you will receive the machine itself, a pair of earbuds, a USB plug that also plugs into the power adapter, a silicon cover and another cable that you can plug a thumb drive into. The machine has a battery on the back and in a little slot at the top is an 8GB memory card. I’m not a big fan of earbuds generally and the ones that come with the stream aren’t very comfortable so I switched them out for regular and yet collapsible headphones which keep it portable but feel more comfortable for me.
When holding the reader upright with buttons facing you, you will either see or feel a square button on the left-hand side a round button in the middle and a diamond-shaped button on the right-hand side. This will orient you to where the other buttons are.
Turn the device on it’s left side and you will see or feel a round power button at the top and two arrow keys pointing up and down. I think it goes without saying but the power button will turn the reader on and off when you hold it down, don’t simply push and release the button. Everything on the reader has a sound to signify that it’s working so you do have to hold buttons down to get them to work. Wait for the signal and the Stream is either on or turned off. This button also toggles between speed and tone or bass. The arrow keys turn the sound up or down, speeds the reader faster or slower and adjust the tone or bass.
Now turn the reader to the top and you will see or feel the hole to plug in your headphones. I could probably use a more elegant term than hole but you get the point, there are receptacles for things on the Stream that I will be calling holes. There is also a long narrow hole or slot if you prefer, that holds your memory card. If you push down on the memory card it will pop out and you can get several memory cards if you like but unless you plan on carrying an entire library, it shouldn’t be necessary. Because of my love of books, I have treated myself to a 32GB card that will hold hundreds of books, so I should be good for awhile anyway. Seriously though, the 8GB card will be enough for most people but you can always upgrade. If the card is not in the slot/ hole then the Stream will still come on but it will tell you that you have zero media and will suggest you listen to the built-in user’s guide.
On the bottom of the machine is the hole for your USB cable that connects your Stream to either your computer or power.
The mass of buttons on the face of the Stream has many functions and I’ll start by charting them out as best I can. You can change the key function by pressing the button several times, kind of like the old cel phone texting where you would push the 2 key twice to get a “b”.
|Top left square with paper||This is called the “Go To” button and it is responsible for taking you to specific pages or places in books|
|Top, middle circle with WIFI symbol||WIFI, hold to turn airplane mode off and on, also changes from online material and stored books from non-download sources. You’ll know when you’re connected to the net two ways, first there is a little yellow light that comes on beside the WIFI button and secondly the Stream tells you that you are connected|
|Top, right Diamond with checkmark||This is the “bookmark” button and it is responsible for setting bookmarks and recording notes.|
|0||Information, zero, and several grammatical symbols|
|#||Accept or Confirm|
|Oval with moon symbol||“sleep” button, It gives you the date and time and each time you hit the button 15 minutes is added to the sleep time up to 60 minutes.|
|Left arrow key||Rewind|
|Middle rectangle||Play and pause|
|Right arrow key||Fast Forward|
|Power button||Turns power on and off by holding down button and waiting for beeps also if you push it multiple times it toggles between volume, speed and tone or bass|
|Up and Down Arrow Keys||Changes the volume level, speed and tone/pitch for texts or bass/treble for music|
|Numeric keys||1 key gets you to the internal users manual, 7 is also the menu key, 2 and 8 keys move you up and down through the layers in the menu and the 4 and 6 keys move you back and forth. So if you think of the Stream like a library book shelf, 7 gets you to the shelf, 4 and 6 move you back and forth on the shelf and 2 and 8 move you up and down from shelf to shelf.|
The number keys also have alphabetic functions as explained above. The Bookmarks/ diamond shaped button at the top with the check mark also toggles between numeric, upper case and lower case each time you hit the button.
The first thing to realize is that everything is layered in the Stream, so you must go through levels of the menus to get to what you want. Again, it’s an amazing machine that packs a hefty punch. I’ll cover some of the most important aspects of the Stream below and I may revisit the topic in future articles as I learn more and more tricks to using it.
Books, Books, and More Books
So, you just got the Victor Reader Stream but you don’t have anything on it. Where do you get the books? Great question! I am so glad you asked! There are so many sources for books, some will come in the mail and some you can download right from the internet and yet others you can get from your local library. Of course, all of this depends on where you live but there are lots of great sources for books and I will be slowly growing the lists in the resources section of this site. I do ask if you know of a source that I have missed please let me know in the comments and I will add it to the resources section.
CNIB, RNIB and Book Share are three of the places where I get many of my books. CNIB and RNIB have older books but Book Share has a lot of the most recent NYT bestsellers. I recently downloaded Dan Brown’s new book Origin a week after it was published! It is a great resource. And for all you parents of RP kids, Book Share has a huge selection of kid’s books. Most of the book resources are free or very low cost to use, so there is no excuse for giving up reading because the print has gotten to difficult to read.
You can find podcasts when online and they will download and be held until your ready to listen to them. The same goes for other periodicals like newspapers and magazines. You have to get memberships for the periodicals but again it is usually free or low cost.
I haven’t quite figured out how to play music on my stream yet, but I do know it is possible. As soon as I figure it out I will update this article and explain what I did wrong and how to fix it. LOL
The Artificial Voice
Many of the CNIB and RNIB recorded books have wonderful actors reading the text to you and this can be really enjoyable. I recently spent my walking track time listening to a great book called “Plato and a Platypus walk into a Bar. Understanding philosophy through jokes.” by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Kline and narrated by Johnny Hiller. Johnny Hiller is wonderful and does great accents bringing the book to life and making it truly engrossing.
It took me a long time to warm to recorded books. I loved reading my whole life, well from I first could decipher a word, I was in love. I have read voraciously ever since I could read a sentence and it was a very personal thing to me. The voices of the characters were created by my own imagination and the images of the settings were vivid in my mind. When it became difficult to read I soldiered on and still, even though I lose words and have had to slow down considerably, I still do some reading on my own. Some narrators are great, like Johnny Hiller, and others are not so good and could put a person to sleep in a matter of minutes. But you do get used to it.
The artificial voices are another thing. They often make wrong pronunciations or emphasize the wrong part of a sentence, so it doesn’t quite make sense for a second or two. It can be quite disconcerting when you’re trying to get into a story. At first I found it jarring and confusing when the digital voice would say something that didn’t make sense, now I find it funny. I hope someday that I won’t even notice the faux pas as much and can continue enjoying the book.
The big thing is that you must wait for awhile longer to get a book recorded by an actor than to get the digitally read version. If you can wait, that’s great but if you want the latest novel then you will have to get accustomed to the digital voice readers. I enjoy a mix and I encourage you to do the same. You can get the NYT bestseller within a week and then listen to a great recitation of the Sherlock Homes series, through audible, on your stream, read to you by the wonderful Steven Fry.
Summing it up
I only covered a few aspects of the Victor Reader Stream by Humanware, but there is so much more to this tiny yet powerful machine. If you are an avid reader, like to listen to music, or want to keep up on the latest news or podcasts, the Victor Reader Stream is the ticket. I can’t say enough good things about it! I love mine and I encourage you to get one too! For more information about the Stream go to the Humanware company site and scroll down