When I came back from lunch one day, a patron was waiting for me - she wanted to play an audiobook on her Kindle.
That struck me as odd, and I wasn't even sure if it was possible, so I asked a few follow-up questions to make sure we both understood what was going on.
It turns out, she had the ebook Dreaming in Chinese already on her Kindle. However, it included a lot of Chinese words, both in Chinese characters and in the English-letter spelling. She didn't speak Chinese, and didn't know how to pronounce those words, so she wanted an audiobook version in order to hear how those words were pronounced.
That's understandable, but I still didn't know if Kindles could play audiobooks. I asked her if she knew, and at that point she pulled out an iPod, so we were in business.
But not for long. I searched our Overdrive catalog for Dreaming in Chinese, but it didn't come up - neither audiobook nor ebook. Which surprised me, until she told me the ebook copy she had wasn't a library copy, but one she purchased from Amazon.
Since it wasn't available in Overdrive, and she wasn't adverse to purchasing it, we searched Amazon for the audio version - but still no luck. I didn't even see this title available as a book on CD, so I guess it just isn't available as an audiobook. She was disappointed.
Before we gave up, the last idea I had was to see if we could get Kindle's text-to-speech function working with this book. I've never tried it before on a Kindle, and I think it doesn't work for all ebooks, but it was worth a shot.
Surprisingly, text-to-speech wasn't difficult to find in the Kindle's menus, even though neither of us had used it before. We got it to start playing her book, then waited for a Chinese word in the text.
But again, the victory was short-lived. When Kindle got to a Chinese word, it skipped right over the Chinese characters, and pronounced the English-letter word as if it were an English word - I don't speak Chinese, but even I could tell it couldn't possibly be close to the proper pronunciation.
The patron was disappointed, but I think she appreciated that we pretty much exhausted all our options. The only other thing I could suggest is finding a Chinese person to read those words for her - she didn't like the idea because it'd be awkward to try to read the context at the same time, which is true.
I felt bad that I couldn't find what she wanted, but I think she left knowing more than she did when she came in.