I spent a few minutes today on Amazon, to check on reports that some Kindle titles now have text to speech disabled. Among the authors who are “turning off” text to speech in Kindle editions of books are President Obama, Vice President Biden, Toni Morrison, the Pope, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Isaac Asimov, Tom Brokaw, P.D. James, Robert B. Reich, George Will and Ann Coulter, to mention a few.
Update #2, 15 May: Yesterday, Random House began to disable TTS on books in the Kindle store, which is our primary concern. However, it appears that early reports from the Amazon message boards of remote disabling may have been inaccurate; there have been no confirmed reports of TTS being remotely disabled, and we apologize for any confusion. However, the technology to remotely disable these works does exist, and this remains a significant concern.
Two major points to bear in mind as this story progresses:
The following is my report from the April 7, 2009 Reading Rights Coalition demonstration in front of the NYC offices of the Authors Guild, regarding text to speech for Kindle 2.
The groups below represent 15 million Americans who cannot read print because of blindness, dyslexia, spinal cord injury and other print disabilities. Reading disabled persons affected by the Authors’ Guild request to remove the text to speech function on Kindle 2 include school children, the elderly, professionals, university students, returning veterans, and yes, your neighbors, family members and friends.
The Authors Guild is pressuring Amazon to modify the Kindle 2 so that the synthetic speech function can only be used with the express authorization of the owner of the copyright of a work. A coalition of organizations that represent or work with persons with reading disabilities is organizing a protest to persuade the Guild to change its position. KEI supports the protest, and makes this statement on the Kindle 2 issue: