Author’s Guild Opposes TTS for reading Electronic Materials

While not strictly Mac related, we feel that this situation is a serious problem, and could potentially effect access to printed materials and mobile devices for the blind and visually impaired at large.

The Author’s Guild has taken issue with the new text-to-speech capabilities of the Kindle device from Amazon.com<. We first learned of this from this MacWorld.com story.

Essentially, the guild is equating text-to-speech output by devices like the Kindle 2 to audio book recordings. Anyone who has tried to read a book using TTS will know that they are not comparable experiences. They claim Amazon.com is violating copyright by providing text-to-speech with their product.

By taking this stance, the guild is effectively excluding visually impaired persons from enjoying the same printed materials as their sighted counterparts.  Most books are not available in audio.  Most books are not available in Braille.  E-Texts and the technologies, like text-to-speech, which give the blind access to them, has been making it possible for the first time in history, for them to have access to books, newspapers, magazines, and more, at the same time and of the same quality as the sighted world.

Some publishers have already taken steps that exclude the blind from many versions of electronic publications by using forms of DRM, (Digital Rights Management), that prevent assistive technology from reading them.  Now, the Author’s Guild is working toward eliminating our technology from mainstream devices entirely, further setting the visually impaired back.

It is unreasonable to equate text-to-speech technology with the performances of audio book narrators, something many blind and visually impaired individuals enjoy and purchase when available.

If you feel strongly about this issue, we encourage you to contact the Author’s Guild at the information provided here. Telephone, post, and email contact information is available.