digital media and accessibility, the kindle 2

I don’t have a Kindle. That said, I accept the inevitability of the idea that more and more of our reading content is going to be delivered digitally. That’s why I think it’s important to understand these tools even if they offer limited utility for us or our patrons at the time. The Kindle has “accessibility” features built into it that allow a book to be read out loud via the Kindle. This is great news — and probably also legally necessary — for people with various reading disabilities ranging from visual disabilities to text-based learning disabilities. However, the Kindle also allows publishers to remotely disable text-to-speech (TTS) options in books that you may already have on your Kindle. And publishers are doing this, a little, at the urging of the Authors Guild.

The Authors Guild, for their part, has issued this statement about the situation which, on first reading, does make a certain amount of sense. As a librarian I’m more concerned about the overarching issues of digital rights management and the notion that even though you’ve nominally purchased a book (perhaps at a loss for Amazon) you still have an item that is, in part, controlled by its creator who can alter the item according to the license terms you agreed to. A little more about this on Slashdot.

3 thoughts on “digital media and accessibility, the kindle 2

  1. It’s bizarre to me that the authors guild thinks anyone can take their claim seriously that even the best Text to Speech can credibly be called a ‘performance’. The only people who would sit through hours and hours of computer voice churning through text are ones who find doing the equivalent amount of reading so difficult that they the choice becomes welcome to them.

  2. what alexander says.

    and another thing. with text to speech, we *still only get one copy* of the item purchased. if we were getting both an audiobook and the text version out of the deal, i could listen in the living room and my spouse could read in the den — that’s not how it works. it is *completely analogous* to having someone read to you while you’re using your eyes and hands for something else.

    and — why aren’t publishers screaming about the loss of sales of large-print editions, too? not that i want them to, but publishers *are* aware, are they not, that kindle owners can customize their font sizes? if i needed large print, i’d *definitely* spend the $ on a kindle, because the benefits would so profoundly outweigh the costs through its expansion of the universe of readable material.

    i am a kindle owner; and yes, i’ve lived in the tech world long enough to know better than to think that it, and my content, will work forever. [i love the device without reservation. i just look at amazon’s current business model with a jaundiced eye.]

  3. I like the article.

    I do believe the Kindle will be unimportant and not very useful to libraries in my area. I live in South Carolina, and the patrons in my library hardly know how to use a computer. These are poor rural counties here in South Carolina and while we may have many computers available for public use, their use is limited to job searching and MySpace (unfortunately). I even asked patrons for a couple of hours as an experiment if they have heard of the Kindle. None of them had.

    Maybe in the far future they will become relevant but I just don’t see it.

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