National Federation Of The Blind Mounts Protest Over Kindle 2 Restrictions

When the Authors Guild successfully agitated for the right to selectively remove the text-to-speech feature from books read on Amazon’s Kindle 2, they alienated an entire group of potential consumers: people who have trouble reading normal printed works. Now a group called the Reading Rights Coalition is going to storm the Authors Guild’s NYC office tomorrow at noon to protest.

The NFB and the Reading Rights Coalition point out that the Kindle 2 “promised for the first time easy and mainstream access to over 255,000 books” not just for the blind, but for anyone who would benefit from text-to-speech—for instance stroke victims, people with spinal cord injuries, people with dyslexia, people with learning disabilities, and seniors who are losing their vision.

The president of the NFB says the Authors Guild is guilty of promoting discrimination:

The blind and print-disabled have for years utilized text-to-speech technology to read and access information. As technology advances and more books move from hard-copy print to electronic formats, people with print disabilities have for the first time in history the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print. Authors and publishers who elect to disable text-to-speech for their e-books on the Kindle 2 prevent people who are blind or have other print disabilities from reading these e-books. This is blatant discrimination and we will not tolerate it.

While the Kindle requires vision to operate, it’s not unthinkable that in the near future there will be other reading devices that offer voice-prompt navigation, so the text-to-speech issue is larger than just the Kindle 2.

Click here to find out more about the Reading Rights Coalition or to sign their petition.


In case you’ve forgotten the text to speech controversy from earlier this year, here’s a recap:

When Amazon released the Kindle 2 in February the company announced that the device would be able to read e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Under pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has announced that it will give authors and publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2. When the [National Federation of the Blind (NFB)] requested the Guild reconsider, the Guild told them that to read books with text-to-speech, print-disabled persons must either submit to a burdensome special registration system and prove their disabilities or pay extra for the text-to-speech version.

“Informational Protest” [Reading Rights]