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Maili’s Rant on the Author’s Guild Text to Speech Position

Earlier today I read this report Photos and Video From the National Federation of The Blind’s Kindle 2 Protest at the technology news blog, Gizmodo, about a street protest held by members of the National Federation of the Blind against the Author’s Guild.

As Gizmodo reports:

"Basically the story is this: the Author’s Guild raised issue with the Kindle 2’s new robotic text-to-speech feature, which can read any Kindle book aloud in a synthesized voice-‘naturally, a feature that would be an absolute delight for the vision impaired. The Author’s Guild, however, saw things differently, stating that eBooks are not sold with “performance” rights and that the Kindle’s read-aloud feature would cut into the sales of audio books. And last month, Amazon caved to the Guild, giving individual publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech reader for specific books."

I have an issue with the Guild for classifying the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech feature as "performance". There’s a world’s difference between an audio book and a text-to-speech feature of an ebook. The key difference is there’s no voice actor in the text-to-speech feature. It’s deprived of emotions, accents and other nuances. It’s a flat, unemotional robotic voice. It doesn’t give a performance of any kind. It’s a very basic function. Just like having a vacuum cleaner that does what it can do, instead of a floor cleaner who pays close attention to details and the quality of work.

It’s some responses to the article that I have a serious issue with, such as these:

Ebone: "Sometimes there just no pleasing people. You can get unabridged audiobook versions of just about every book on the market. Does EVERY product have to tailor itself to the needs of every special interest group? Maybe some of the protesters would like to be 747 pilots. Is Boeing supposed to develop a special 747 that the blind can fly too?"

Hello Mister Wishbone: "I’m all for blind people rights, but isn’t it a bit ridiculous to protest the lack of features on a commercial product? Shouldn’t it be up to Amazon or the authors to decide if they care about the blind people market? It’s like yelling at Apple because iPods do not have braille buttons. At some point, it just doesn’t make sense."

Morgan Breden: "I honestly don’t see how they have the right to complain. The books are available in audio format already, so why don’t they just buy those instead of an ebook? It’s not like the ebook has any other functionality to a blind person.

Call me a jackass, but it just sounds like another case of “I’m disabled so I should get free shit that everyone else has to pay for”. Last time I checked, in America, everyone was supposed to be equal."

This kind of attitude completely pisses me off.

Equal? You want to talk about equal? It’s an unequal world for people with disabilities. Always has been and still is now. The rights of people with disabilities are part of the civil rights and yet, people with disabilities are still second-class citizens. The quality of their lives is absolutely crap. What makes it more insulting, they sometimes have to pay for access to whatever is easily available – and free – to everyone else.

I don’t know where this person gets the idea that all things are "free" for blind people. I suspect this person and I have different ideas of what defines "free".

We all were born into a world that doesn’t cater to our special needs. If he could see or hear, it’s always free. If he couldn’t, it’s certainly not free, and rarely available. It’s up to the society to adapt to all needs, but due to various people’s ideas and beliefs, the society refuses to adapt. It’s either "shut up and put up with whatever we feel like offering" or "pay up and shut up" with this strong view that making the society fully accessible to all citizen is too expensive and time-wasting.

In my ideal world, every YouTube video would have a function that could enable subtitles for deaf users and audio descriptions for blind users. Every ebook device would have a text-to-voice function for blind readers without further charges. Every cinema in every town would have a daily accessible offering of all current releases for deaf and blind viewers. Every web site would be well designed and fully accessible. Every video would have removable subtitles. Every image with a description tag for an audio reader to latch on. Every online shop would be fully accessible for its disabled customers. No web site would dare to inflict its autoplay music on its visitors (because screen readers for blind users tend to malfunction, trying to read the autoplay device, which forces blind users avoiding certain web sites because of this kind of thing).

Until then, people with disabilities have to rely on whatever is available. If they truly want it, they have to go out of their way to get it and they oft have to pay for it.

In blind readers’ case, a typical price for an audio book is approximately  £10 while a paperback is around  £3.99. If there is an out-of-print book they would like to read, they oft can’t buy it because the audio book version simply isn’t available.

Get a professional reader? Tell me, when you stumble across a positive review of a foreign novel or film that hasn’t yet been translated to English, do you dig in your pocket to hire a translator to translate the foreign novel or film? If not, why should blind people hire professional readers to read books that aren’t accessible to them? Especially if it’s accessible to everyone but them?

There are libraries, of course, but some branches are struggling with budget cut-backs, resulting with limited offerings for its disabled patrons. It’s an insult that books for people with disabilities should be seen as a luxury. It’s certainly a luxury for people who don’t have sight problems, but it’s a necessity for blind people.

Equal? Bull.

At leas with the Kindle 2 and other ebook readers that have text-to-speech function, blind readers can now be equal to other people as well as feeling independent. You know, feeling as if they are finally ordinary customers.

They buy ebooks they probably won’t read, but at least through the text-to-speech function, they can experience instant gratification that many others enjoy. Sure, it doesn’t offer what audio books can offer, but at least the option is there. It should be every reader’s right to choose. A typical reader can choose to buy a hardback, a paperback, an ebook, or an audiobook. A blind reader doesn’t have these choices, but they could at least choose between an audio book and a basic text-to-speech function.

Do you know how many academic text books have the audio version? Very few. Do you have any idea how much blind college students have to pay just to gain access to many text books required for their courses? Of course there are discounts, but it still takes away their independence. They can’t sit in their room and study books whenever they like. Their lives revolve around their professional readers’ schedules that are restricted to week days and between nine to five.

How about blind readers who simply want to have a right to the privacy of what they read? Such as a guide book to sex, a book on divorce, or just plainly dirty books? The audio version isn’t always available for these. If there was, do you really think blind patrons enjoy going to a library or bookshop where they have to ask for assistance to locate and purchase the audio version of this kind of books? Some authorised audio book sellers online don’t sell these because you know, blind people are supposed to be asexual. If ordinary people can buy them off the internet in private, why can’t blind people?

And some blind readers just want to sit back and enjoy a story any time they want. They don’t want to go out there and track down an audio book that may or may not be available. Some audio books become available months after a hardback or paperback is released. They don’t want the hassle.

They simply want to be in a situation where late at night, they think, "Yeah, I’m in mood for a romantic suspense novel," and purchase an ebook through their ebook device on spot, and then kick back with the text-to-speech reader reading the story out through the night.

To the person who said "I’m all for blind people rights, but isn’t it a bit ridiculous to protest the lack of features on a commercial product?"

Did you hear that repetitive sound? That was my head hitting a wall.

What, are you saying that blind people can’t be recognised as customers? You know, people who have the money to spend? Companies that don’t recognize people with disabilities as potential customers are a real bunch of short-sighted idiots.

It’s just so wrong of the Author’s Guild to control what blind people can buy. A text-to-speech reader is not even a performer, for goodness sake.

25 Comments

  1. Nonny
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 11:25:18

    Speaking as an author, not a reader….

    Whoever’s saying that audio books exist for almost any book must read a completely different genre than I do, because I certainly don’t see many for any but the most popular (read: bestselling) romance and fantasy authors. Add to that, the audiobook isn’t usually immediately available. I’ve seen them commonly released a year or more after the print copy comes out.

    Add to that, I’ve yet to see an audiobook version of works that are erotic in nature. If someone would like to correct me on this, that’d be awesome, but from what I’ve found looking around — there don’t seem to be many available at all. (Which goes back to how people think of the disabled. OMG, you’re disabled, how can you THINK of being a sexually active human being!? Grr.)

    That’s not even touching works that are primarily available as e-books.

  2. Robin
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 11:29:48

    Great rant, Maili!

    AG’s pathetic response to this issue just exposes the depth of the willful blindness on *their* part, IMO. Of course, they have *chosen* this disability, while those whose rights are *really* being infringed cannot. The AG can open their eyes and see that the so-called rights they are claiming on behalf of their authors do not become real merely by repeating them OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

    And while I understand how our current corporate environment might make it seem as if profitability can substitute for sound legal principles, I think we can all see how well that substitution has served the markets.

  3. Kimber Chin
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 12:17:49

    Ummm… they’re buying the eBook, aren’t they?
    So they’re not getting it for free.

    Plus…
    all the blind people I know already have programs to do this.
    (I use a program to convert speech to text)
    What they’re asking for is
    to make this process EASIER,
    more streamlined.

  4. PSwift
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 12:54:07

    I have to agree with Kimber. It’s not like they’re asking for the audio version for free…they still have to buy the ebook to hear it read to them. What’s next, are they going to start busting into people’s homes for reading books aloud to their children?

    Seriously, the Author’s Guild should be ashamed of themselves. At a time when the sales of books as a whole (excluding romance, of course) are contracting they should be glad people are still buying books.

  5. DS
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 12:55:06

    I think some people must have similar misconceptions to what I did before I went out and read the exception to copyright granted to people who are visually impaired or unable to manipulate a book. It’s a bit of an eye opener.

  6. HeatherP
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 13:16:41

    This all is such a non-issue in the Author’s Rights world, I just can’t understand that side of it.

    I mean, audiobooks are their own artform in my opinion. It’s a performance art that, when done well, can add more to a novel than any movie ever could.

    Voice robotica is never going to be the same. Never.

    And not to sound crass, but you’d think a visually-based industry would be relieved that without any added work or expense on their part, more of the visually-impaired will be buying their product.

  7. ReacherFan
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 13:17:23

    I think, in this specific instance, the Author’s Guild is seriously wrong. Text to speech is not a performance with technology as it is today. (Remember that caveat.) Audio books, when then are available, are twice the price of the print books. which would make 4 to 6 times the price of an ebook in many cases.

    Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. Overall, I think the AG does have legitimate concerns about the rights of authors needing to be maintained. Perhaps text to speech need definition or limitations and that would satisfy the ‘performance’ element. I’m sure all of us see in the not very distant future where ‘text to speech’ will come closer and closer performance, with inflection and nuances. Will it ever rival live actors? Who can say? But that it will get close is beyond doubt.

    While I do not pretend to agree with the poorly considered statements by authors above, I can see future issues as inevitable. If they do not take a stand and, if necessary, get new legal limits established, then 5 years down the road, audio books might end up obsolete and they will, in reality, lose that revenue.

    Intellectual property work is entitled to make money as much as any other type of work. It’s just far harder to calculate and gather the revenue. Most authors don’t get rich and they really need any and all revenue streams just to make ends meet. Do I think right now they’re wrong? Yes. Do I see where in the future this will be a big concern? Yes again. Maybe now is a good time to find a compromise of some sort so everyone’s rights are protected, not just today, but further down the road as the technology evolves.

    Then annihilate DRM which infringes on simple ownership rights.

    Just a thought.

    ReacherFan (aka Tourmaline)

  8. TerryS
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 13:30:36

    It’s such a maddening situation. The Author’s Guild is just plain wrong in their stance. 100% wrong.

    While I may not be visually impaired, I can still vote with my dollars. Trust me, I consider it permission given to shop only for used rather than new books when any author publicly takes this stance. I rarely buy used books simply because I want authors to be paid for their work. Authors who don’t have that same respect for ALL their readers, whether or not said readers are visually impaired, do not deserve my dollars. I can enjoy their work without them receiving a penny.

    And I don’t want to hear about all the positive things the AG has done for authors. It takes only one egregious action to undo everything positive and for the AG this is it. I’d really like to know why there aren’t more authors being vocal in their disagreement with the AG’s stance.

  9. DS
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 14:59:55

    Regarding erotic audiobooks– Audible has a selection– about 400 titles in fiction– including I’ve Been a Naughty Nurse: Vital Signs, Book 1 and Knight Moves. Whatever one might think about Ravenous, they are certainly getting their books out in the public view.

  10. MCHalliday
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 15:02:38

    As a past specialist working with children with mulitple disabilites and providing respite in my home for anyone with a disability, the stance AG took with text-to-speech made me sad and more, very angry.

    All economic ventures desire a black position in a Profit and Loss Statement but without equality and compassion in the equation, no amount of black can cancel out the red of loss, comprised of sheer ignorance and lack of empathy. PSwift had it right:

    …the Author's Guild should be ashamed of themselves.

    The Author’s Guild are concerned about audio and performance misuse but should be more concerned that all readers have access to books they desire. If I am not mistaken, it is in the American Constitution that all be allowed the pursuit of happiness and for many, that includes the joy gained from reading.

  11. Kalen Hughes
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 15:05:38

    I think, in this specific instance, the Author's Guild is seriously wrong. Text to speech is not a performance with technology as it is today. (Remember that caveat.) . . . I can see future issues as inevitable. If they do not take a stand and, if necessary, get new legal limits established, then 5 years down the road, audio books might end up obsolete and they will, in reality, lose that revenue.

    I think this is the main issue/concern, but that the AG is not expressing it very well. It seems to me that there has to be a logical/practical middle ground. None of the authors I know want their books to be inaccessible to potential readers of any kind, but they also don't want to give up a revenue-making right that 5 years from now is going to come back and bite them in the ass.

    Seems to me that this could all be easily solved with a simple compromise: anyone with a certified visual impairment registers with Amazon; Amazon turns on the text to speech function in their Kindles (and only their Kindles). Right protected; ADA needs met. When I come to power (as they say on Top Gear), so shall it be done.

  12. Bree
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 15:27:42

    Seems to me that this could all be easily solved with a simple compromise: anyone with a certified visual impairment registers with Amazon;

    How are they going to stop people from having their laptop, miniPC and desktop computers utilize text-to-speech capabilities, then? Because either it’s a universal problem that must be stamped out in all incarnations or…

    Well, honestly I don’t know what the alternative is. Except the frightening possibility that the Author’s Guild is so out of touch that they don’t realize this is not a new phenomenon, in which case I have a hard time taking their opinion on the matter seriously.

  13. Beth
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 15:31:47

    Wil Wheaton has spoken quite eloquently about this and put his trusty Mac to the text-to-speech test to make the point. here.

  14. hapax
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 15:32:28

    While I agree one hundred percent with this rant, I think it’s worth making reference to the National Library for the Blind (http://www.loc.gov/nls/) ‘s FREE program for U.S. residents, which distributes hundreds of thousands of audiobooks (plus music, e-books, and Braille) BY MAIL to any eligible person. The catalog includes many many romances, and even some erotica-to, tons of textbooks and magazines, and other hard-to-find audio material.

    True, these are not usually the most recent releases and, in many cases, audio performances up to par with the readers hired by the BBC or Recorded Books, etc., but they are fairly good readings by real live people, and light years ahead of machine generated voices. The recordings play at a special speed, and are only playable on devices supplied by the NLB (also by mail) so they can’t be commercially sold.

    Still, this is a wonderful resource, and a great example of “your tax dollars at work.” Best of all, all you have to do to sign up is fill out a form (available at all public libraries or online) and have it signed by someone authorized to declare that, for whatever reason, you are unable to read or use “standard printed material”; all physicians and public librarians are authorized to sign these forms.

    Excuse me for piggy-backing on this thread, but this is a sadly under-utilized service, and I count on y’all to spread the word.

  15. DS
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 16:58:54

    The visually impaired are leading this issue but there’s also a constituency of people who have learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to read. They are not covered by the copyright exception like individuals who cannot physically hold and manipulate a book or who are visually impaired so they are not eligible for the National Library for the Blind.

    Plus, the requirements for legal blindness are quite strict. One person I knew had a 30 degree area of vision, down and to the right, that was 20/70 rather than the 20/200 the rest of his visual field was and a government body wanted to way that he was not legally blind despite the fact that the definition was that central acuity had to be best corrected to 20/200. And macular degeneration can affect the ability to read before ever the individual reaches the diagnosis of legal blindness.

    Then there are things like ocular neuritis and glaucoma that can cause pain in the eye as well as conditions that cause the eye lid to droop and obscure vision and ocular migraines which are intermittent but can result in a temporary partial or complete vision loss or psychodelic visual affects. I’m not sure where these individuals would fall in a registry of individuals with disability. Is someone who has an occular migraine (no pain just vision affect) for two days out of a month
    (capable of reading the other 28 days) disabled enough to be allowed to use TTS on their Kindle 2?

  16. hapax
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 19:55:07

    Can’t speak as to copyright law, but any of those conditions listed by DS would absolutely make you eligible for the NLB’s Talking Books program.

    I have personally certified people for (for example) neurological conditions which make them too dizzy to focus on text and for carpal tunnel syndrome which makes it difficult for them to hold a book.

  17. Shannon C.
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 21:20:18

    Maili, this was well-said. Thank you. Please allow me, on behalf of the blind community living in my house, to offer to have your Internet babies. :D

    What I want, and what I gather the NFB wants, are options. If I want to buy an ebook and read it on the Kindle–something I can’t actually, practically do at this point as my understanding is that the Kindle II is not actually all that accessible aside from the TTS function–I should have that right. I should also have the right to use the NLS library services. I should also have the right to buy a paperback, scan it into my computer, or have someone read it out loud. I should have all these rights the same way that sighted people have the right to buy a paperback, buy the ebook, or go to the library. I should not have to feel like my money isn’t good enough. I shouldn’t have to defend my reading formats to anyone, and I for damn sure shouldn’t feel like people think I’m uppity because I don’t think that the NLS is going to suit my every need.

    Also, as a point of interest, I genuinely prefer TTS over audiobooks. The voice on my computer is robotic, which means that I can put my own interpretation on what I’m reading. I also read faster using TTS than I do when listening to an audio book because I can speed up the speech rate without it sounding funky, which I can’t do with audiobooks.

  18. This and that | Flight into Fantasy
    Apr 09, 2009 @ 22:25:46

    […] the Internet, there is a lovely rant over at Dear Author about the author’s Guild’s completely fucked-up position regarding text to speech. Maili said everything I would have said, except with less bitchy defensiveness. The thing is, I […]

  19. Anita C.
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 05:42:46

    Sorry, Jaili, I think I’ll have to come down on the side of #7 Reacher Fan, who’s playing Devil’s Advocate on this. For my part, there’s too much “I want, I demand, I should have, I have a right to,” in this thread, to make me comfortable. And we’re talking about technologies that have not even been completely worked out yet.

    There are still such huge copyright and infringement and author royalty issues to be worked out with regard to the Web, let alone wireless devices and God knows what other technology toys are right around the corner, that we’re going to have to think a lot more about who has a “right” to what, once we have a better grasp on what some of these tools can do, and who should profit from them.

    Your article says: “It's just so wrong of the Author's Guild to control what blind people can buy.” For my part, I’m sorry, but that kind of inaccurate accusatory statement, which demonizes the AG, really takes the wind out of your arguments, as far as I’m concerned. In what I see as DA’s standard approach on issues like this, I expected cogent arguments, not sentimental appeal.

  20. Maili
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 06:37:51

    @Anita C.
    I admit I wrote the rant while my head was on fire. I should have waited to calm down enough to write with care. Don’t associate my hot temper with Dear Author’s usual high standards, please. :D Now I’m calm, I’ll clarify my side.

    The Author’s Guild’s argument is a text-to-speech reader falls under Performance and that the Kindle 2 isn’t designed to be used by blind readers, hence the pressure on Amazon and the Kindle 2.

    My response to that argument:

    1) The text-to-speech reader is nowhere near an audio book in terms of quality and performance.

    3) Is a text-to-speech reader the replacement of a professional reader? No. And probably won’t be for a few more years.

    4) When you buy an ebook, what’s the difference between having an ebook read and having it read out? As far as I can see, zero. The author still gets paid either way.

    S) When you read an ebook out to a friend, does an author profit from this performance? No. Is it an act of copyright infringement? Perhaps. What does the Author’s Guild do about this? Nothing. Why not? Reading it out to a friend or a child is part of the reading culture. Always has been. Whether it is a good thing in today’s world is something to think about.

    6) Who really needs the text-to-speech function? There is a very wide range of needs; from complete blind readers to people with certain learning or physical disabilities. I’m one of those who fall under the category of people with learning disabilities. I use the text-to-speech function quite a bit. Audio books don’t work. I want to understand some concepts from a novel or text book and only a consistently flat, mono voice helps me to achieve that.

    7) Not all blind readers are completely blind (or rather, legally blind). Some could see enough to use something like the Kindle 2 without aid. The Author’s Guild says it’s not designed for blind readers. They are right. It isn’t. Then again, a cell phone isn’t designed for deaf people either, but every deaf person I know owns a mobile phone because it has SMS and email functions. They rarely use the voice function. They don’t buy ring tones. And yet they still have to pay for a package that includes voice calls. They put up with it because that’s a price they’re willing to pay in order to use SMS and email functions. It’s same for blind people who might find a use in something like an ebook device.

    8) my concern is if this action of putting a stop to text-to-speech function in an ebook device is acceptable, will other companies stop using it in their ebook devices? Will it go far enough to put a stop to text-to-speech software? Paranoid of me? Perhaps, but I think it’s worth be concerned about.

    I do understand the Author’s Guild’s concern as it’s their job to protect authors’ rights. I just feel they have mishandled the matter and that the fact that they didn’t consider ALL disabled people’s needs is somewhat upsetting. I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel.

    I feel the Author’s Guild could have communicated with the organisations that represent people with disabilities while still be able to protect their members’ interests and rights. Although I’m sorry my response is so long, I hope this clarifies my stand a little better.

  21. Anita C.
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 07:52:34

    Yes, it does, thank you. Although it now strikes me that it’s the ACTORS GUILD who should be out there protecting their members’ rights, not just the Authors Guild!

    As to turning off the text to speech functions, I can’t see the industry permanently giving up such a technological goodie, especially if they fine-tune it to the point where it fairly replicates a human’s voice – although we’re then back to square one – the voice actors will be pissed and you won’t be able to get a mono voice you prefer.

    I find that fascinating, by the way – that you absorb and learn material better when it’s read that way. Can you explain why? I’m currently reading “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks. He’s a neurologist who often writes in the New Yorker about neurological matters and this book is about people who hear auditory hallucinations – usually after hearing loss or an accident or stroke, or aging. It’s a fascinating but still unexplained mystery of the brain about where these melodies come from (some of it’s totally original music).

    Do you find it easier to conceptualize when your brain isn’t clogged with the drama and diction a voice actor injects into his/her voice? Does that make it too distracting?

    I realize these are personal questions and you don’t have to respond, of course. But I do appreciate your clarifying some of the points from your original post.

  22. Caffey
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 14:21:43

    I’m deaf and its been a few years of me writing to A&E asking them over and over to close caption or put English subtitles on Pride & Prejudice with Colvin Firth. They have alot captioned but not this. Even when they re-released and re-packaged it recently for their anniversary of this they still didn’t close caption it. They say that the law doesn’t say they have to. But we as deaf, want to watch it! But we can’t. Its not the only one but its one example that has so disappointed and has be so frustrated still.

    So I understand those who are blind asking to just make this accessible. Don’t talk about what law says we should do or we don’t have to with what kind of agency we are and so on and on. Just do it because its right. Do it because we want to be able to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ it just like everyone else does. We should get the joy from it too.

    I hope some day I’ll figure out how to do something more, but so far my efforts to communicate with them requesting this has been ignored. And so sad to hear about this now.

  23. Maili
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 15:10:56

    @Anita C.
    I’m happy to explain, but I’m quite tired at the moment. This means my ability to write (somewhat) coherently tend to go straight to the dogs. :D I hope you won’t mind if I postpone it to tomorrow?

    @Caffey

    There are H.I. subtitles on A&E’s Blu-Ray DVD version of Pride & Prejudice.

    Release Date: 4/14/2009 /// link to Amazon.

    If you don’t have a Blu-ray DVD player, please let me know. :)

  24. Betsy C.
    Apr 10, 2009 @ 17:08:14

    I’m legally blind. I access books in any way I can, but for the most part I am dependent upon government agencies like NLS (http://loc.gov/nls) or charitable organizations like Bookshare.org.

    I resent the attitude that I would be trying to get things for free that everyone else has to pay for. On the contrary, in the case of the Kindle, it’s more a matter of having the right to pay for content and make my own choices. I don’t think most people would like it very much if their only reading options were books specially selected by a government agency or a charity.

    In addition to the problem of choice, there is also the problem of time. It can take months or years for a book to make it into an accessible format. Often, a book has passed out of popularity by the time it’s available to people with disabilities. Like many other parts of society, discussing current literature is out of reach for people who don’t have to means to make books accessible on their own, such as through scanning (which is tricky and error-prone) or hiring a reader (which is expensive unless you are reading a short chapbook).

    Yes, there are already devices that turn electronic text into synthesized speech. Unfortunately, because of DRM, this option is not available. Amazon is not the first ebook seller to switch off the text-to-speech option. PDF and Microsoft Reader (.lit) books also have a “blind people not allowed” switch.

  25. Marianne LaCroix » Blog Archive » Kindle 2 text to speech controversy
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 14:22:33

    […] you need to see what the fuss is about, read about it on the AG site here and check out Dear Author here. Wanna see the CNN iReport report? Check it […]

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