Tag Archives: text to speech kindle

FREE WILL BY SAM HARRIS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO BLIND KINDLE OWNERS

On 24 November I wrote about my inability to read a book on my Kindle due to text to speech not being enabled for the title, http://newauthoronline.com/2013/11/24/the-silence-is-deafening/. At that time I did not name the book as I wished to try to persuade the author and/or publisher to change their mind and enable text to speech thereby allowing me, as a blind person who is not able to read print, to access the book using my Kindle. Having received no answer from either the publisher or author I have, reluctantly decided to name the book, Free Will by Sam Harris, http://www.amazon.com/Free-Will-Sam-Harris-ebook/dp/B006IDG2T6. The title is available as an MP3 download (a fact discovered after some considerable Googling)! However blind people should, so far as is humanly possible, have the same choice regarding how they access books as sighted readers do. Sighted people can purchase the book in hard copy, as a Kindle download or on MP3. In contrast blind readers have only one option, to purchase the MP3 download. This is, to me unfair as it artificially limits my ability to choose how I access the work. I am not arguing that the provision of the book in hard copy is discriminatory. Such an argument would be risible. I can not read print but that is not the fault of the author and/or the publisher. However the author/publisher do have control regarding the Kindle version of Free Will and they have chosen not to enable text to Speech rendering the Kindle version inaccessible to those who can not read print.

As previously stated, all of my books have text to speech enabled. I believe that everyone irrespective of their disability is entitled to access books. To enable text to speech is such a minor matter for authors and publishers but it makes such a huge difference to the ability of visually impaired people to access the wonderful world of literature.

It may be objected that authors are not charities so why should they provide their books with text to speech enabled, especially if the selling of audio versions will generate additional income? As writers we are not mere players in the free market. We are citizens with moral obligations to our fellow man. There is nothing wrong with turning a profit and I am always delighted when I hear of authors who have done well, however money is not the be all and end all. We exist in a community and we owe duties to others. One of those duties is not to discriminate (albeit, in many cases unintentionally by failing to provide accessible versions of our books). I am not suggesting that authors spend hard earned money on producing expensive braille editions so that blind people can access them. I am, however saying that all authors should enable text to speech as it costs us nothing and, in addition creates a great deal of good will among visually impaired people, their family and friends.

(As of 13 December 2013 text to speech was not enabled on Sam Harris’s Free Will).

The Silence Is Deafening Revisited

On 24 November I wrote about my frustration at the failure of some authors and publishers to enable  the text to speech facility on Kindle e-books thereby preventing blind people (and others who are not able to read print) from accessing them, (see http://newauthoronline.com/2013/11/24/the-silence-is-deafening/. I subsequently made contact with the author however, having heard nothing I have, today contacted the publishers to request that the text to speech facility is enabled. I will update you if/when I receive a response from either the author or publisher. Many thanks to all of you who commented or reblogged my post. Your support is very much appreciated.

The Silence Is Deafening

One of the joys associated with e-books is the fact that most are accessible to people with a visual impairment. As a blind book lover who is not able to read print I relish my ability to read e-books either on my Kindle or using the Kindle app on my iPad, via the text to speech facility (on the Kindle) or by Apple’s in-built screen reader, Voiceover on my iPad.

I was disappointed to find that a book recommended to me by an acquaintance (and available in the Kindle store) does not have the text to speech facility enabled thereby rendering my purchase of the title in question pointless as I would be unable to read the work in question.

As an author I can understand the legitimate desire of writers to protect their work from copyright theft. All of my books are Digital Rights Management (DRM) protected rendering them virtually impossible to copy. However all of my books as with the majority of those available in the Kindle store have text to speech enabled thereby allowing visually impaired individuals to purchase them. I would never disable text to speech because, by so doing I would be locking out blind people from the possibility of reading my works independently.

I have sometimes heard it argued that authors disable text to speech because their book is also available as an audible download from companies such as audible.co.uk/audible.com. If the book is available as an audio download then what is the point (the argument goes) in providing a text to speech enabled version of the book on Amazon.

In answer to the above I would argue that visually impaired readers should have the same choice as to how they access books as their sighted friends and acquaintences. If a copy of a book which does not have tex to speech enabled is available from Amazon and, in addition as an audio download then the sighted reader has a choice of either purchasing the Kindle book or the audio download. In contrast the blind reader has only one choice, to download the audio version as the Kindle book is inaccessible to him or her. This is, to my mind grossly unfair as blind people should (as stated above) be afforded the same opportunity to access books as their sighted compatriots.

Certain works are only available as inaccessible (non text to speech) enabled Kindle downloads with there existing no audio alternative. Consequently blind people have their ability to access such books severely curtailed. They can request a sighted friend to read the book which negates their independence or request a charity such as the Royal National Institute of The Blind (RNIB) to record the work or transcribe it into braille. However the latter option can be time consuming and can leave the visually impaired person feeling like a second class citizen who must rely on others for his or her reading enjoyment.

I won’t name the book or the author as I hope to be able to make contact and persuade them to make their book available, on Amazon with text to speech enabled (there appears to be no audio alternative).

Most authors who sell their books on Amazon do make them available with text to speech enabled and I am, as a blind person grateful to the vast majority of writers who do the right thing. To those authors who don’t enable accessibility for visually impaired people, I am sure that most of you do not realise that the effect of your decision is to make the lives of blind readers difficult by reducing their choice of reading material. If you are one of those authors please look again and ensure that your books are accessible to all not just those who can read print.

In conclusion this post is not aimed at the vast majority of writers who make their works accessible by enabling text to speech (on the Kindle) or Voiceover (on Apple products), it is aimed at the minority of authors and publishers who do not do the right thing.

In Praise of the Traditional Book

Does it matter what form a book appears in? Both my books – The First Time and Samantha – are available in ebook format only (it was the easiest way of publishing and the cheapest).

As a reader I value the accessibility of ebooks. Being blind I can read electronic books using the text to speech facility on my Kindle or Voiceover on my Ipad. I am, however unable to read hard copy print books as my poor eyesight renders doing so impossible.

Having said all that I would like, in the longer term to collect my stories together (in real rather than virtual covers) and have them appear on actual bookshelves. There is something magical about handling a paperback or hardback book. Literature somehow appears more real preserved between covers than is the case when it flashes up on screen or is read aloud using voiceover or text to speech.

Print books can (and do) last for centuries and I guess that many owners of e-readers would feel long lasting pangs if their print books disappeared in a puff of smoke while the loss of e-readers would cause less profound turmoil.

Perhaps I am showing signs of my age (I’m 44 years young)! But, in my view print (and braille) books possess a value which their younger relative (the e-book) lacks. One can not sit in a room surrounded by e-books nor can one obtain pleasure from the texture of electronic publications. Long live the book in all it’s forms but god preserve us from a world in which only e-books exist.