On today’s Op-Ed page in the New York Times, Roy Blount, Jr, head of the Author’s Guild, has penned a piece, The Kindle Swindle?, defending his organizations attack on the new text to speech (TTS) feature in the new Amazon Kindle 2. Over at O”Reill Media, there is An Open Letter to Roy Blount, Jr. on the Occasion of Him Speaking Like a Dinosaur, which offers good counterarguments on the issue of TTS and audio rights. My purpose is to point out his ingorant dismissal of the blind. In his words:
What the guild is asserting is that authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books. For this, the guild is being assailed. On the National Federation of the Blind’s Web site, the guild is accused of arguing that it is illegal for blind people to use “readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio.”
In fact, publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability. (The federation, though, points out that blind readers can’t independently use the Kindle 2’s visual, on-screen controls.) But that doesn’t mean Amazon should be able, without copyright-holders’ participation, to pass that service on to everyone.
Is Blount iggorant of the fact that blindness is not binary, but rather a continuum? Being legally blind with functional vision, I look forward to supplementing my low vision glasses with some text-to-speech while reading on the Kindle 2. I have long enjoyed audiobooks, but look forward to reading more normally with the new Kindle.
Or is he simply twisting the NFB’s words to make his argument? Either way, his move has accessibility implications. The Kindle 2 now has both scalable font (not quite enough for me to read without glasses) and the text to speech feature. Wiith both of these features, the Kindle becomes nearly the ideal accessible reading device for the partially sighted like me. Oddly enouhg, I would think that we make up a larger market than the profoundly blind. So the Author’s Guild position stands against a very significant step forward in accessible technology, relegating folks like me back to the world of blind-only devices and tiny-fonted iPods.
Thanks, Roy! I am so glad you need those extra pennies.If you find this post useful or interesting, please consider buying me a cup of coffee.