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Special Education

Kindle 2’s Voice is Muted; Disability Groups Plan Protest

By Christina A. Samuels — April 03, 2009 1 min read

When Amazon’s Kindle 2 was released in February, the e-book reader was thinner and lighter than its predecessor--and also included a text-to-speech feature that could convert e-books into serviceable audiobooks.

That functionality attracted the attention of the Authors Guild, which has represented writers in this country since 1912. Audiobook rights are a potentially lucrative part of an author’s publishing contract, and the group was concerned that the Kindle 2 offered the ability to breach an author’s copyright.

In response, Amazon has offered publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech functionality of the device for individual books. But that move has attracted the ire of disability advocacy groups, which have banded together as part of the newly-formed Reading Rights Coalition. The groups represent people who have print disabilities, such as blind people or people with dyslexia.

The coalition plans to protest Amazon’s move by holding a demonstration at 2 p.m. April 7 at the guild’s headquarters in New York.

In a Wall Street Journal article, a guild representative said the group believes there’s a way to work out this situation so that people with disabilities can have access to books. The Reading Rights Coalition is looking for a situation that allows full access to books by people with print disabilities. It’s an interesting collision of technology and ownership rights.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.