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Text to speech is AWOL from Amazon’s beautiful Paperwhite Kindles, and LibraryCity’s complaint made a stir, complete with a link at The Verge, a major tech site.

Keep your related comments coming. I especially like those from David Goldfield, a blind Philadelphian who is an accessibility expert and activist. Please sign the Reading Rights Coalition’s petition he pointed me to—one against the loathsome practice of TTS blocking. Shame, shame, shame on the Authors Guild and the like-minded. Just plain wrong. And I speak as a writer, too, not just a reader—since so many time-strapped people these days want to enjoy books while commuting or exercising but don’t need human narration. The machine kind is improving. But the most devoted audio-books fans will still buy the human versions.

Blind-hostile apps from Amazon?

Wait; there’s more! Over at the Mac-cessibility Network, Josh de Lioncourt writes of “Amazon’s seemingly stubborn insistence to keep accessibility out of their Kindle apps on Apple platforms. Baking in VoiceOver support in iOS would entail a fraction of the costs involved in including speakers and TTS in Kindle devices.” Josh obviously wishes I’d raised the VoiceOver issue. Done! Of course, in fairness to Amazon, is it possible that Apple deliberately introduced some technical complications to make it harder for the iOS Kindle apps to offer VoiceOver?

I’d welcome related comments from David G. and others, not just on the Kindle iOS app but also on those in other operating systems. Believe me, this is worth the trouble. Amazon is PR- and image-conscious, and if enough people speak out, then we may well see some changes. On a separate matter, Amazon has already backed down from its insistence on inflicting ads on all buyers of the Fire series, even those willing to pay for their disappearance.

Could Amazon show similar flexibility about TTS and related essentials?

I fervently believe that all Amazon e-reading products should be blind-friendly at no extra cost, just as iPads are with VoiceOver; and TTS should be standard in all Amazon hardware. But the next best thing would be for Jeff Bezos & friends to let us, as an option, pay just a little extra for Paperwhite Kindles or Fires with TTS. Ideally the voices would be of Ivona quality, and if Amy, my fave, is among the choices, then so much the better. “Us” should include both sighted and blind people, of course. Along the way, Jeff, strive for optimal audio guidance to help the blind navigate through the Paperwhite and Fire menus. Think of the good-karma potential here. Consideration of the blind, the dyslectic, and others with reading challenges—the blind are hardly the only disabled people benefitting from TTS and related technologies—just might result in more government and K-12 business for Amazon. Bureaucracies at all levels, not just in the States but elsewhere, should send Bezos this message, loud and clear.

Meanwhile I’ll welcome comments from LibraryCity visitors—community members in time, I hope—on the degrees of blind-friendliness in Amazon’s various e-reading apps. The more specifics, the better. Be fair. If you think Amazon is doing certain things right, as is at least somewhat true with the PC app, then say so! But don’t neglect areas needing improvement.

Detail: The anti-TTS-blocking petition is a bit out of date, in that so far Amazon has resisted the pressure to deprive all books of TTS. But countless titles are blocked because authors and publishers exercised Amazon’s option to do so, so your signing the petition will still be useful—especially since Amazon seems to be scaling back its support for TTS.

Editor’s Note: The above article is Creative Commons-licensed content from LibraryCity.org.

 
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