An Unnecessary Barrier

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Earlier this year, Amazon released the Kindle 2, a small portable device that lets you download e-books, magazines, newspapers and more using wireless and read at your leisure.  This new release also can read content aloud using text to speech technology.  Of course this is handy for people with any degree of print disability.  It can also be used by anyone wanting to multitask and listen to news or content while doing other things.

As a totally blind person, Amazon’s Kindle is not yet fully accessible to me, but they are working toward that end.  They may make the same adjustments that Apple has done with their IPod Nano, giving you the option to have menus and other items spoken by the unit.  So while I personally do not yet own or use the Kindle, many others with a variety of disabilities benefit from this device and the text to speech enhancement that is now offered.

For whatever reason, some authors took issue with the text to speech feature on the Kindle, not wanting to allow their books to be spoken.  In response, Amazon established the option for authors and publishers to disable text to speech in their books, preventing the Kendal from reading them aloud.  The question I have is why.  When you write a book, don’t you want as many readers as possible to have access to your work?  Is it within an author or publishers rights to only allow access to those who can read print?  And it isn’t like the text to speech is going to give you a quality performance of a book.  If I have the choice between being read to by a person or a machine, I’d choose the human being any day.  But if the choice is not there and I simply want the story or information, text to speech is definitely a very viable option.

There is an on-line petition going around that will be submitted to Amazon to try to keep them from giving the authors the option to disable text to speech in their books.  They are at over 5,000 signatures and their goal is 10,000.  Please sign the petition and possibly help to enable many people with varying print disabilities to have continued access to thousands of e-books through the Kendal reader!

5 thoughts on “An Unnecessary Barrier”

  1. Well, from an accessibility standpoint, requiring readability makes perfect sense. But from a copyright standpoint, some people could argue that Amazon is creating a derivative work by selling readings of the books.

    So Amazon could get sued for violating ADA. And they could get sued for copyright violation.

    IMHO, both lawsuits would fail (as Amazon isn’t a brick-and-mortar, and they aren’t technically selling readings but rather selling technology that people can use to create readings). But Amazon probably wants to avoid lawsuits on both sides. Since the copyright crowd is probably more litigious than the accessibility crowd (by a hair), Amazon will probably err on the side of copyright protection.

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