Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad news for those with impaired eyesight

After numerous publishers expressed concern over the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2, Amazon is backing down and letting the copyright holders decide which texts will have this feature enabled.


  1. I just got the Kindle today. I haven't had a lot of time to sit and read it yet, but my initial impressions are good. The text-to-speech feature, not so good. The ability to change the font size is great and it would be helpful for people with poor vision. But if a blind person wanted listen to a book on tape, I'd highly recommend finding one that had an actual human being reading the text over the Kindle's text-to-speech service. I think Amazon realized the service wasn't worth fighting over.

  2. the service itself has a while to go until it's perfected, but i think that amazon backing down is really setting a bad precedent as far as content being affected by technological advancements regarding readability.

    i want a machine that gives me as many options as possible with regard to how it can interpret it, and overall, i think that amazon should have fought this, espceially since it sounded like they might actually be able to win, according to many copyright specialists.

    this is where i heard about it:

  3. You're probably right. People have made good points about the text-to-speech service since I've showed the Kindle to a few people. Just having the option to have something read aloud that isn't available (like newspapers, magazines, etc, which you can get on the Kindle) makes it worth it.

    I don't know what goes into conceding on these things. Maybe Amazon wanted to give a little so that they might have some traction on other issues later. Maybe they didn't want the text-to-speech service to be the focal point of their roll-out campaign. Who knows.

    Some people have been critical of the Kindle, but it often masks a worry about what this will do to the publishing industry and to authors. What I think...the Kindle is a paradox. It's a technological throwback. The text is entirely the focus, but it's packaged in this new helpful format. I love it. I've already read a short book (part of the 33 1/3 series, rock) and am half through another short one. It really makes me focus, at least so far. Now I'm going to get ready for bed so that I can spend an hour reading about Celine Dion. Check it.

  4. Slate has an excellent article on the Kindle and other text-to-speech technology.

    It feels futuristic to wonder how such a feature or service could impact the digital divide if a robot voice could not only read like a human, but respond to human inquiry. But given the pace of tech innovation, it doesn't seem completely unrealistic.