Kindle 2, Authors Guild and Reading Rights

Just a quick update. Some of you may be aware that there is a protest that took place on Tuesday, April 7 outside the offices of the Authors Guild.

The reason for the protest is with regard to Amazon’s e-book reader, the Kindle. The latest version of the Kindle, which was unveiled in February has a text-to-speech feature which basically reads aloud the book’s text in an electronic voice. However, because of complaints from the Authors Guild that this was copyright infringement, and concern that the feature would hurt sales of audio books, Amazon gave publishers and authors the ability to remove the text-to-speech function for their books.

The protesters, part of the Reading Rights Coalition, argue that people with print disabilities who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability deserve the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print. Disabling the text-to-speech function and requiring that people with disabilities submit to “certification” or “registration” is not an acceptable compromise. The Reading Rights Coalition is a joint effort made up of 28 organizations representing upwards of 15 million Americans who are blind or otherwise unable to readily use traditional print.

Their perspective is quite compelling: “The water company does not charge separate rates for the use of water depending on whether the consumer is drinking it or using it to wash dishes; it simply charges for the amount of water used. By the same token, an e-book is not inherently visual or aural, and to claim that reading it either visually or aurally should cost a different price is discriminatory.”

Amazon has remained mostly on the sidelines so far. However, in a statement the company insisted that text-to-speech is not copyrights infringement. “No copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given.”

Mika Pyyhkala from the National Federation of the Blind offers some comments as he heads out on a plane from Boston to New York for the protest.

Audio File:  Mika Pyyhkala on his way to the Kindle Protest

I hope to have some additional audio on the event soon (thank you, Mika) and will do my best to provide a transcript soon after.  Check out the links below for more information.


Reading Rights Coalition

National Federation of the Blind Press Release  – Quotes a variety of organizations supporting Kindle accessibility.

Authors Guild Article on Kindle Accessibility – Includes Authors Guild suggestion of “disability certification.”

Association of Blind Citizens