THE BLOG
05/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

People vs the Authors Guild, don't turn off text to speech in Kindle 2

As has been written about extensively in the press and the blogsphere, the Authors Guild has pressured Amazon to disable the text to speech feature in Kindle 2. This has set of a storm of opposition among groups that see the Guild's actions as harmful to access for persons who are reading disabled. Details are reported by the Reading Rights Coalition(http://www.readingrights.org) and by others. The Guild has issued this statement, which has been widely criticized by organizations working on accessibility issues.

Nothing is more moving than the comments of persons who are signing the "We want to read" petition to the Authors Guild.

If you are as outraged as I am, you might want to sign the petition, but also contact directly the members of the Guild Board of Directors: http://www.authorsguild.org/about/board.html who are directly responsible.

The following are only a few quotes from the petition:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/We-Want-To-Read

Mary Butigan, Florida
Have freinds that are going through eye cancer and cannot read. This is a great resource for them to have books to hear while going through chemo and escape the rigors of loosing their sight.

Barbara Foyil, California
Text to speech is important to me because I have visual limitations and am a community college instructor of students with various disabilities who would also benefit from text to speech electronic book readers. Those of us who have difficulty reading caused by a type of visual impairment should have the right to view the world in any form available. Text to speech is our vehicle to the world of the written word.

Judy Marrs, Virginia
I have a friend who is almost blind and she wants to have the bible read to her. this is vital for her overall well being. She is 96years old.

Denise Smith, Alabama
Please reconsider disabling the text to speech function on your ebooks. Many individuals will be excluded from reading your materials if you take this action. Discrimination is still rampant in the disability community and your actions perpetuate this policy. My son is legally blind and has a cognitive disability. He looks forward to engaging in activities with as much independence as possible. Devices such as the Kindle 2 provide him with this opportunity. He is 23 years old and wants to be just like any other 23 year old. By denying this option, you are contributing to his dependence on society rather than his independence. Please allow everyone access to e-books!

Timothy Emmons, Alabama
Text to Speech is important to me for a variety of reasons, the main one of which, I am totally blind. I rely on it daily to read, perform my duties as a librarian, and get entertainment among other things.

Lusi Radford, North Carolina
My daughter and I are both blind. If we had twenty/twenty vision, the main use we would find for it is reading. Since this isn't possible, we want to access everything that others are reading. Please make the Kindle 2. Reader total accessible to all who are print impaired. No author will lose any money over this.

Tom Shaw, Virginia
I have a speech disability which can be frustrating and it has its barriers but it pales in comparison to the loss of sight. I would feel totally compromised if I did not have access to read all that is available to the general public.

Robert Hargrave, Canada
My daughter Meaghan is blind. She has very limited access to audio books. When we can get them she will listen to them for hours and over and over again. I think what AMAZON IS DOING WOULD BE FANTASTIC FOR HER.

Susan Sell, Maryland
I really do not think that we want to live in a society that denies access to reading material to the blind.

Thomas Bickford, Maryland
Because of my blindness I have been reading recorded books since 1948. It has always been hard to get current books because the recording and distribution system takes so long. It has only been in the last few years that really current books have been available thanks to new technology. All I want is to read books when they are new. I don't want to cheat any authors.

Barbara Shears, Kentucky
Text-to-speech allows my non-reading students to 'read' books they would otherwise never hear. They CANNOT read on their own without this technology added to the books.

JACKIE WHITFORD, United Kingdom
Because I have a blind daughter who loves reading braille books and listening to books. It would make the latest books equally accessible to her.

Sandra Merchant Taboada, Louisiana
I have a 16 year old son that is in a gifted program in Louisiana. Access to books is paramount to him being able to compete with his gifted peers and to be able to compete in college. Please do not make this harder than it already is for blind youth and adults to compete in a sighted world.

Jason Ewell, Maryland
I am blind. I would love to be able to buy books the way any print reader does. This is the first chance I have ever had to do so and the Authors Guild wants to take that opportunity away from me.

Chris McNamee, Wisconsin
I am blind, why shouldn't I have access to the Kindle 2????

Scott McIntyre, Minnesota
As a father of a blind daughter I know first hand the financial disadvantage she faces in the world. Less chances for well paying jobs and expensive equipment to assist her with computer and reading. Adding this cost on top is adding to and is exploiting a group of people with already smaller income and larger expenses than sighted people. Please keep the reading function turned on at no cost.

Lisa Farquharson, Canada
It is important to me that my blind 8 year son have equal access to the 245,000 books on the Kindle 2.

Melanie Cimini, Massachusetts
I have a granddaughter with processing problems. I know she is not alone and realize the benefit of having books available by audio. She learns by listening not by reading.

Anthony Cobb, Maryland
My wife is blind and a voracious reader. To ask that she pay for a downloaded book and then pay again to read it is an insult and is inconsistent with my ability to read it by sight with no extra charge. This requirement is discriminatory on its face.

Anonymous, Mississippi
My wife and I have a daughter who recently lost her vision. This will be an important factor in our daughter's life and educational career. Thank you and please reconsider.

Dylan Krenske, Minnesota
I am blind - and I would love to be able to use the new Kindle 2! Please, please help make this happen. It would add so much and help me with college.

Elizabeth Whitney, Hawaii
As a person who is blind, I was so excited to know that all of the books on the Kindle 2 were going to be available for me to purchase and the unit would speak to me. We are not asking to have the books given to us for free, we are capable of buying them, but to choose to make them only available to people who can read print is sad and discriminatory. And, I don't understand why anyone would object to having them spoken. I can go to my local book store and find books in many languages and some books on audio disks, so why assume that people with challenges to reading print, through no fault of their own, are not deserving of equal treatment? Thank you.

Raymond Blanford, Virginia
Because I may, some day, not be able to routinely read written text but need to resort to listening to it.

Michelle B., New York
I am a quadriplegic due to neuromuscular disease, and cannot turn pages for myself. These days I mostly read e-books on my computer, where I can Page Up and Page Down with my voice recognition program. The alternative is propping up a book in a book holder with other books piled underneath to raise it high enough, and asking someone to come over each time I need the page turned. Needless to say, I (and my family) prefer e-books. There are many times when I'd love to be able to read but simply can't use the computer or book stand; waiting rooms, van rides, vacationing, outside in my backyard, lying down. If the Kindle could read to me I would buy it in a heartbeat!

Matthew Might, Utah
My young son has an incurable neurodegenerative disorder. His vision will soon be too poor to read books. Reading books are one of the few joys in left in life for him. When you take away text-to-speech, you will take away his love.

DENNIS DIBona, Florida
I am blind and depend on this technology daily.

Courtney Schlittenhard, North Dakota
I am a blind individual, and such techonology, would enable me to read books, again.

Ari Goldberg, Pennsylvania
My 13-year old daughter suffers from Mitochondrial Disease and last year suffered a stroke-like event which has caused her to lose her normal reading ability. The Kindle 2 offers her the opportunity to access so many more books than are currently available in audio book format. Please reconsider your decision immediately.

Meryl Ater, Virginia
My husband is blind, my mom and sister are dyslexic, and I am a teacher of those with learning disabilities. The Kindle, with its speech option, would be wonderful for those that have disabilities. Please do not allow publishers the opportunity to create a negative on a device that offers so many positives to people with disabilities.

J. Richard Hunt, Indiana
My mother-in-law, avid reader all her life, at 101 could no longer read because of macular degeneration. She would have benefited from this technology. She has since died but there are many people with such issues who need this kind of access to books. Please give them the help that is within your power to provide.

Anonymous, Maryland
Text to speech is important because my mother sustained a brain injury and used to love to read. As her caregivers, we don't have the time to sit and read to her while cooking, cleaning, taking care of her, etc. This is a perfect way for her to have the books read to her. The Author's shouldn't be selfish!!!!

Lorraine Rovig, Maryland
I often buy my books from Amazon.com now. If I lose my ability to read when I become one of the elderly I expect I'll continue my love of reading through electronic means. I sure don't want to have my choice of reading materials restricted because the Kindle 2 has its speech function turned off or have to pay more than if I were reading print. If I'm an author, I expect to be paid once when one person buys one copy of my book--whether the reader uses print or OCR speech from the print.

Norma Crosby, Louisiana
I am blind and love to read. I currently purchase audio books when available, and I would love to buy e-books as well. I urge authors to support equal access for the print disabled by allowing their books to be published in a text-to-speech format that will allow people like me to buy and read them just as others do.

Glenn Crosby, Louisiana
Access to printed material is critical to blind and other print disabled people if we are to compete effectively with our sighted counterparts, and as someone who reads "talking books" regularly, I would love to have access to a broader variety of materials. Not only that, I feel that since I am willing to pay for books, I should be able to access them just as others do.

Anonymous, Maryland
Equal access to digital books and information by people with disabilities is a fundamental right recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Forcing people with print disabilities to pay extra or undergo a burdensome registration process to read the same books I can buy for less and enjoy instantly is discrimination. Authors Guild, reverse your stance and let the millions of people with print disabilities who want to be your paying customers buy and read your books!

Anonymous, Massachusetts
Any hand held, or otherwise, technology should be equally accessible to visual perfect and visually impaired persons. Reading is not something that should be segregated! If a book is purchased it can be read aloud by a natural voice. What then is the concern with a terrible computer voice doing this? Denying visually impaired or blind persons access to books is a crime -- or should be.

Marc Workman, Canada
For a student, access to books is tremendously important. Too much time and too many resources are spent trying to make books accessible. The Author's Guild has an opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of books available to print disabled students. Don't ignore this opportunity.

Isaiah Wilcox, Georgia
Because I am a college student and reading is my life line. And to have a useful tool such as text to speech is so much easier on my life and allows me to be much more productive.

Denice Brown, Pennsylvania
as a blind individual, I should be able to read electronic books on the new Kindle. It should be one of the choices that I have. How can it be anything less than discrimination if a sighted person can use their eyes to read, but I can not use my ears?

Jackie McBride, Arizona
I happen to be blind, & I've pretty much made it a policy not to buy books that aren't accessible to me or which would require a lot of work in order to make them so. I would buy a Kindle II & I would purchase books that use text-to-speech format. It very much seems to me that by allowing individual authors to dictate whether or not their books can be translated via the text-to-speech engine, it denies access to print-disabled people but probably actually also decreases sales of those books. Perhaps those authors who feel they don't wish to allow those of us with print disabilities access to their books should put a blindfold on for a week & see how it feels not to be able to read. It might well give them a much needed perspective.

Raymond Foret jjr, Louisiana
I strongly urge you, the Author's guild, to reverse your profoundly stupid and absolutely backwards stand on the issue of wishing to prevent access to books via text to speech via any electronic device. What will you do next? Will you attempt to shut down the talking book program; the only source of books for the blind which is free? Will you next target innocent mothers reading bed-time stories to their children? Must everyone who reads allow now fear your wrath? I cannot help but wonder; will you now try to try to bring a lawsuit against me just because I'm blind and use a screen reader to read this very page upon witch I'm signing this petition? After all, it's technically the very same thing to which you object; text read via electronic device. It seems to me y'all have y'all's heads buried in the sand. This is a stupid ass backwards position which y'all have and we're not going to stand by and tolerate you and your ilk even trying to take the right to read away from us. Just who the hell are y'all anyhow? Well, it seems to me that you are not going to when this one; because, you see, we, the blind of the country and all other print disabled citizens of the country will call y'all's asses on the carpet and defeat you on this. We will not be stopped. You will not stop us.

Deborah Kent, Illinois
As I have been totally blind since birth, I cannot access print directly. Braille and audio versions of books are of critical importance to me, and the number of books in those accessible formats has always been woefully limited. Kindle II, with text to speech capability, would open the gates to equality in the world of the printed word. It would offer a level of easy access which those of us with print disabilities have scarcely imagined. As a widely published author of books for young readers I welcome this opportunity to make my books available to the broadest possible audience. Reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Mary Hansen, New Mexico
I have a 11 yr. old blind son who could benefit from this opportunity to be able to access to E-books. He is extremely delayed and would be extremely helpful in his ability to read info.

Mary Ellen Gabias, Canada
I'm a Braille and recorded book reader who grew up without much to read. My attitude toward books was like the attitude of someone raised during the Great Depression about money and material goods. I didn't believe I'd ever have access to enough. When my friends went to the book store or studied the magazine rack at the department store, I felt jealous. Those were the only times I hated being blind. Now the new technology, especially the Kindle, gives me the possibility of having access to books when my sighted neighbors do. Please explain why anyone would want to take that away from me. It's incredibly sad to have the possibility of reading what I want when I want to read it so close and then have it taken away. Please think about what you're doing and what it means to me. Mary Ellen Gabias

Sc Stud, South Carolina
Please be considerate to those of us who reading is a challenge. Help us gain in knowledge through your ebooks.

Juan Haro, New Mexico
Access to information, books, and news is highly important to the blind. In order for the blind to be competitive in the workplace, we need to have equal access to the materials that everyone has access to. Our 70 percent unemployment rate is unacceptable an unnecessary. Let us read your books so we can pay taxes and contribute to the recovery of our economy.

Anonymous, Arizona
Does this mean that Apple computers, which have been using speech to text recognition for DECADES, will not longer be able to read text? This case is absurd. It's like challenging a search engine because it can search. There are MANY, many people who need assistance to read - even due to arthritis because they have a hard time handling books or typing. This also prevents many students from equal access to an education or forces them to hire expensive tutors just to read. Reading is one of the 3 R's. Everything should be done to encourage and enable those with difficulties to have equal access to information including READING. Text to speech is a widely used communication technology that enables universal access to essential information. Restricting it's use affects more than individuals, it has chilling economic impacts. I am really tired of watching media shoot themselves in the foot out of fear over technologic advances. It is time to ENTER the 21st century rather than attempt to restrict development and innovation with 19th century thinking. Computer bytes are NOT the same as manufacturing a product!

Cheryl Echevarria, New York
I am blind is there anything else to say, I can cannot read print.

N.A. Sombat, Florida
I have a granddaughter who has just been told by doctors that she is legally blind. Please keep e-books for all those with visual challenges.

Albert Spooner, Minnesota
I am blind. I need the same access as everyone else.

Joyce Keller, Nebraska
I have several friends who are blind and I have diabetes. While my eyesight is not in danger at the moment, it could be and since I am nearing the senior stage of my life, the thought of books being unavailable to me is unthinkable.

James Salas, New Mexico
Individuals who are blind, like myself, must have the right to utilize available technology to improve access to the printed word.

Peter Crane, Utah
I have family and friends that have limited vision and use technology to allow them to enjoy listening to audio books, and articles on web pages. allowing anyone to dictate how media is presented to someone especially if they have vision restrictions is a step backwards. eventually something like this would end up hurting the education systems, by restricting how teachers can present students with learning subjects and we would become more dependent on spell checking and grammer checking software or other learned traits of communications or mathmatics. Yes people should be paid for their work, but it doesn't do any good to limit how can enjoy that work.

Ann Marie Deverson, Florida
My daughter is visually impaired and she should be able to have access to the same literature everyone else does. I would think most authors would like to attract a wider audience. Braille books aren't always available, so why should my daughter and everyone else in the world who is blind or visually impaired be restricted access.

Jeremiah Beasley, Wisconsin
People who are blind or have print disabilities have the same right to this information as everyone else. As a blind person and a father of a blind child I want to have access to this information. My son deserves to be able to have access to this information! Let's make things better for min and all the other kids this will impact!

Yolanda Garcia, Texas
TTS helps remove barriers to accessing information valuable to education and employment.

Martha Thorp, Kansas
Back in the day, books on tape saved me when I was unable to physically read and/or hold a hard-copy publication. In this time of highly refined technology, the act of preventing access to information is unthinkable.

Fran White, New Jersey
As the parent of a dyslexic child, I don't understand why the Author's Guild, after being apprised of how valuable this tool would be to disabled folks, would not reconsider. If it's a money issue, do they not realize that any theoretic lost sales in audio tapes would be made up in increased sales of ebooks by the same people and possibly more? My child might even enjoy literature and increase the number of purchases instead of struggling with reading the text if it were in a format that were accessible. She's a teenager and lives in the electronic world. As part of the next generation, she would be highly unlikely to use an audio tape or even a CD to listen to a book. The Author's Guild will be missing a huge potential to increase their "readership" if they persist in their archaic and discriminatory thinking.

Roxanne O'Connell, Rhode Island
I teach visual communication and am well acquainted with the many issues concerning vision, perception and processing. This move by the Authors' Guild is incredibly shortsighted (no pun intended, but perhaps apropos). Performed readings (recorded books) will not be outplaced by the Kindle's compu-speech reader. Performed readings have an aesthetic quality -- the Kindle2's text-to-speech is purely functional. If I buy a book and read it aloud to someone else, does that put me in violation of the Authors Guild's digital rights? I don't think so. By buying the Kindle2 with text-to-speech, a reader basically buys an artificial form of the human who would have read to them.