National Federation of the Blind
Protests Kindle E-reader's Read-Aloud Limits
By RACHEL METZ
NEW YORK (AP) April 9, 2009
A group representing the blind
and other people with disabilities protested limitations to the new read-aloud
feature on Amazon.com Inc.'s latest Kindle electronic reader Tuesday,
arguing that the restrictions unfairly limit their access to e-books.
The feature, which reads text
in a stiff-sounding electronic voice, is still available for all books
on the new Kindle, which was unveiled in February. But the Authors Guild
has expressed concern that the feature will hurt sales of audio books,
so Amazon plans to give publishers and authors the ability to silence
the text-to-speech function for their books.
That is what prompted the newly
formed Reading Rights Coalition, whose supporters include the National
Federation of the Blind and the American Association of People with Disabilities,
to stage what it called an "informational protest" outside the
office of the Authors Guild in New York.
The protesters shouted "We
want access sooner" and "Stop the greed, we want to read."
Marc Maurer, president of the
National Federation of the Blind, said the protest was the first of several
to come around the country, in the hopes that Amazon will change its stance.
The group started with the Authors Guild because it "caused the trouble"
with the text-to-speech feature, Maurer said.
The number of books Amazon
has made available for the Kindle, more than 260,000 so far is "huge"
compared to the 50,000 to 60,000 books generally available through libraries
for the blind, he said. It is not known how many of these Kindle books
now have the text-to-speech feature disabled.
Maurer said he doesn't buy
the notion that the feature could hurt sales of audio books. He said the
function might even help audio book sales because "if you get a taste
of it, you might want the other version," he said.
In a statement, the Authors
Guild called the protest "unfortunate and unnecessary." The
group reiterated an earlier suggestion that the Federation of the Blind
take advantage of an exception to the Copyright Act that lets visually
impaired people access audio versions of copyrighted books.
"Technology makes this
step easy: Certified users of existing Kindles could activate their devices
online to enable access to voice-output versions of all e-books. This
process could be ready to go within weeks," the Guild said.
Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener
said the company had no comment.
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|Updated December 11, 2009|