The fracas between the Authors’s Guild and Amazon over the Kindle 2 e-book reader’s text-to-speech feature has prompted advocates for the blind and reading-disabled to remind the guild that blind people use technology too.
In a protest outside of the guild’s Manhattan office today, demonstrators urged the guild to cease its campaign to remove text-to-speech from the Kindle. The guild maintains that it goes beyond the publishing rights that Amazon has acquired, and could impact audio book sales.
Amazon has yielded to the guild’s demands, and is permitting the feature to be turned off on a per-title basis. To its credit, the guild has worked out an agreement for the voice feature to always be an option for people with disabilities.
“Authors want everyone to read their books. We’ve been strongly supportive of the rights of the blind and disabled to obtain books…We know how to balance the interests, to make sure there is special access to books for people who need it but still protect markets that authors depend on. Audio-books is one of those markets,” Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told News.com.
My feeling is that text-to-speech should be broadly available as part of an accessibility pack. While I take Mr. Aiken at his word, today’s protest served to remind the guild that it has an obligation to the blind that transcends its sales and the exercise of its intellectual property rights.