Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader has a feature that allows users to set it up so that it “reads” their books aloud. A handy application for those with disabilities that limit their reading capabilities, such as paralysis or blindness, this feature has surprisingly gained some heat.
The Authors Guild, a organization that has been advocating for copyright protection and fair author contracts since 1912, is concerned that this electronic reader will hurt the sales of audio books. This spurred Amazon into giving authors and publishers the option to silence the text-to-speech ability in the e-readers. According to Inc.com, Americans alone spend more than $1 billion on audio books every year, so we can see some might infer greed as the motivator behind this decision.
On their web site, the Authors Guild posted this statement: “The Authors Guild will gladly be a forceful advocate for amending contracts to provide access to voice-output technology to everyone. We will not, however, surrender our members’ economic rights to Amazon or anyone else. The leap to digital has been brutal for print media generally, and the economics of the transition from print to e-books do not look as promising as many assume. Authors can’t afford to start this transition to digital by abandoning rights.”
In response to this move 31 disability organizations including the National Disability Rights Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities, formed the Reading Rights Coalition to protest what they see as an unfair restriction to their e-book access. They are staging protests at major book fairs as well as at the Authors Guild and distributing a We Want to Read petition to give “people with print disabilities…the opportunity to enjoy access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print”.