Things aren’t letting up for Amazon. Under recent pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has allowed authors and publishers to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2. Now, no fewer than nine disability organizations are leading a fight to persuade Amazon, authors and publishers to make all books on the Kindle 2 book reader available in audio format to people with sight and reading disabilities.
Brown, Goldstein & Levy, a law firm representing the National Federation for the Blind, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association, and other groups sent a letter to six publishing houses denouncing Amazon’s decision with the Authors Guild. The groups asked Amazon, authors and publishers to turn text-to-speech back on for all books offered on mainstream devices.
While the Authors Guild has long waived copyright fees for audio formats for people who are blind, with the popularity of the Kindle 2 and other e-book readers they don’t want to pass up an opportunity to make money off an audio book. The Guild’s proposed solution to the print-disabled: Pay extra, or submit to a national registry to get approval.
As put nicely by the blog Accessiblepublishing.org: This issue is a Catch 22. People who are unable to read print can download some Braille and audio books from Bookshare.org or from government agencies that will translate print books into audio formats on specialty devices. The real issue, however, is accessibility of information – on mainstream devices — in the digital age. With digital composition, promotion, distribution, and display, mass accessibility really is a possibility, and it’s a topic that’s not going away.
It looks as if publishing houses may be heading towards a discrimination lawsuit from disability groups if they refuse. So far, only Random House has removed text-to-speech options.
In the meantime, the Reading Rights Coalition, comprised of 27 high-profile disability organizations, is holding an informational picket from 12 to 2 p.m. at the New York headquarters of the Authors Guild on Tuesday, April 7, and later this month will appear at the Los Angeles Times Book Fair. The Coalition is also circulating an online petition for equal access to e-books.