One of the Amazon Kindle’s really cool features is the built-in text to voice service, which allows people to consume the books they’ve purchased in situations where they can’t read. One group that is particularly interested in this feature is the blind, which benefit from greater access to books.
However, the Author’s Guild has opposed this technology under the theory that this could cut into the sales of audio books. To me, this sounds ridiculous because the quality of a computer reading a book is in no way comparable to an audio book production.
Regardless, Amazon caved to the Author’s Guild request by allowing publishers to make their Kindle formatted books inaccessible to the blind by disabling the built-in text to speech technology.
Now, the National Federation of the Blind is reacting to the Author’s Guild’s position.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB – the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the US) and its partners in the Reading Right Coalition (made up of over 25 organizations, representing 15 million Americans who cannot read print because of blindness, dyslexia, spinal cord injury and other print disabilities) will gather outside the offices of the Authors Guild in hopes to reverse the Guild’s threat to disable text-to-speech from e-books for the Kindle 2, which had promised for the first time easy and mainstream access to over 255,000 books.
It’s generally not a good thing for content creators to turn their fans into enemies. Hasn’t the Author’s Guild learned anything from the RIAA on this topic?
Hopefully the Author’s Guild will come to their senses and realize that it’s in the best interest of authors to allow the blind to legally purchase copies of books in Amazon Kindle format for the Kindle 2, and then consume those legally purchased books using the Kindle’s text to speech technology.