This story was originally published and last updated .
The internet is filled with great written content, but sometimes, you just don't have the time to read everything yourself. That's where a handy but rather hidden Google Assistant feature comes in. When you invoke the Assistant while looking at an article and say something like "Read it," "Read this page," or "Read it to me," it will give you an audiobook version of the content you're seeing. You can even try that with the text right here.
While the voice command is all you need to know if you want to jump into the feature real quick, there are a few things you should be aware of if you're interested in using Read It extensively.
When you say the command, you're thrown into a custom browser built specifically for the reading feature. In it, you'll see the article in the top two thirds of the interface and playback controls at the bottom. The website automatically scrolls along as it's being read to you by default. You can jump back and forth via the rewind buttons next to the play button or by tapping the paragraph you want to listen to. It's also possible to adjust the reading speed down to a tempo of 0.5x or up to 3.0x. I personally think 1.2x is the sweet spot, but that comes down to your preference.
When you tap the three-dot overflow menu in the top right corner, you're presented with a few more options. You have a broad selection of alternative voices, and it's also possible to turn off text sync if you don't want the article to scroll along as it's being read. And if you come across foreign text or you'd prefer to listen to an English article in your native language, you can use the third entry to translate text into or from dozens of languages. With recent advances in Google Translate, you could almost think whatever you're being read was translated by a professional.
Media controls with skipping backward and forward option.
Read It becomes especially magical once you turn off your display or open another app while it's reading your article. Like with any audio player, you can pause, stop, and skip back and forth via a notification. When you tap it, you can also return to the text itself, should you want to follow along with what's currently being read.
There are also some limitations. The feature only reliably works in Chrome — if Firefox is your preferred app for surfing, you'll need to copy and paste URLs over to Chrome. It also looks like a bug that we first ran into a year ago still prevents you from invoking the Assistant in some Chromium-based browsers like Vivaldi and Brave, so Read It doesn't work there.
Similarly, Read It doesn't work for all apps. I tried it on the New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, Medium.com, and Feedly, but they all aren't compatible — you'll need to open the respective websites in Chrome to get going. That's because developers have to add some extra code to support the feature, and apparently, nobody seems to be too interested in it. Since the implementation doesn't seem to be that complicated, the demand likely just isn't there. At least it works with Google News and Google's new custom Search browser.
Left & Middle: No ads thanks to Scroll, which doesn't carry over to Read It. Right: No luck at all with NYT, for example.
Paywalls are also a problem for Read It. That's because it's basically a separate browser with its own cookies, logins, and history, so even when you're logged into a website like the New York Times in Chrome, Assistant will tell you that it can't read text from websites that require a subscription. The same is true for Scroll, the service that removes ads from some websites like ours for a small monthly fee. You'll have to endure ads while the article is read to you. Similarly, you'll see cookie privacy notices, even if you've already agreed or disagreed in your default browser.
There you have it — while Read It is a joy to use when it works, there are some rather odd limitations, even a year after it first launched. If Google wants the feature to be more widely available, it needs to do a better job at making it easily discoverable for users and make it desirable to add for developers. Let's hope the company does that sooner rather than later.