Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is hurt by the decision of authors and publishers to turn off text-to-speech?
- Isn’t the Kindle 2 inaccessible to the blind?
- Don’t authors and publishers have the right to be paid for their work?
- What's wrong with people with print disabilities having to register to use audio on e-books purchased from Amazon?
- Don’t authors and publishers have the right to license audio rights to their books?
- Can’t readers with print disabilities just purchase or download audio books?
- How many print-disabled people are there in the United States?
- How do you define print-disabled?
- How many e-books are available for the Kindle 2?
- How does the removal of text-to-speech impact people with "learning disabilities?"
People who are blind or have low vision; students who need textbooks in an accessible format; people with dyslexia; people with brain or spinal cord injuries; the elderly who are losing vision; stroke victims; people who are learning to read; people for whom English is a second language; people with a physical disability that makes it difficult or impossible for them to hold a book or maintain a comfortable reading posture; and other people who have processing issues that make it difficult to read print are all examples of people adversely affected by the decision of authors and publishers to “turn off” text-to-speech in Kindle 2 e-books.
The Kindle 2 is currently inaccessible to many blind people, although it can be used by people with low vision and others with print disabilities. However, on March 19, 2009, Amazon announced on its Kindle 2 blog that it will make the menus and controls on the Kindle 2 fully accessible to blind people.
Yes, and disabled readers are perfectly willing to pay to download books from Amazon just like everyone else. However, it is discriminatory for authors and publishers to charge disabled consumers more for an e-book than they charge the rest of the general public. If a person without a disability can purchase an e-book for $10, it is unjust to suggest that a person who cannot read that book visually must pay $12 for exactly the same e-book. The e-book being downloaded by the person with a disability is no different from the e-book being downloaded by the print consumer; the only difference is the method by which the disabled person will read it. There is no additional cost to the author or publisher incurred by making the book available to the disabled reader, and therefore it is unjust for authors and publishers to demand that readers with disabilities pay more for books just because they are disabled.
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.
It is discriminatory for the Authors Guild to ask print-disabled readers to register to use something that they have purchased. Print-disabled readers have the right to read the books they buy, just like everyone else.
Authors and publishers have every right to control the rights to audio performances of their works that are for sale or broadcast. They do not have the right, however, to prevent an individual from having a book read aloud in the privacy of his or her home or office, whether the reading is done by human or machine. Parents have been reading to their children since the first children’s book was published, and the idea that this is now a violation of copyright is purely based on greed and avarice. There is no difference between a person or a machine reading aloud in private.
Some readers may enjoy audio books, but only a tiny fraction of the books published are produced as audio books. Most audio book titles are abridged, so a reader does not get the complete book. Those audio books that are unabridged can be as much as three times more expensive than e-books. For these reasons, audio books do not replace what is available for the Kindle 2.
We estimate that there are about 15 million print-disabled people in the United States.
There are 255,000 e-books currently available for the Kindle 2 and that number will continue to expand.
Removal of the text-to-speech function will impose substantial limitations on the ability of people with learning disabilities (the most common of which is dyslexia) to access the new and exciting world of digital text via the Kindle 2. As Americans with a recognized disability that affects at least 5 percent of the population, people with learning disabilities deserve equal access to digital text for both pleasure and educational purposes.