RE: Reading Rights

Year: 
2009
Resolution Number: 
2009-03

RESOLUTION 2009-03
RE: Reading Rights

WHEREAS, the ability to read is critical to living a well-informed personal and professional life; and

WHEREAS, blindness and some other disabilities pose challenges to accessing all available written information fully and efficiently; and

WHEREAS, text-to-speech technology has helped to remove these access barriers for the approximately fifteen million blind and otherwise print-disabled people living in the United States; and

WHEREAS, Amazon's Kindle 2 is one of the first mainstream, commercially available e-book reading devices to incorporate text-to-speech functionality, potentially making well over one quarter of a million titles accessible to the blind and other people with print disabilities; and

WHEREAS, this heretofore untapped community of eager consumers promises to benefit publishers and authors; and

WHEREAS, many educational institutions are exploring the possibility of e-textbooks and mobile access to electronic book information; and

WHEREAS, upon learning that the Kindle 2 would feature text-to-speech technology, significant segments of the publishing industry and the Authors Guild promptly lodged specious legal and business objections with Amazon, urging it to eliminate or severely restrict access to the synthesized-speech function of this device; and

WHEREAS, one specific objection of the Authors Guild was that the ability to have a legitimately purchased e-book read aloud with text-to-speech technology violates copyright, a legal claim that experts have dismissed as erroneous, since people who buy books have the right to acquire the information privately in whatever way best suits their needs as long as they do not reproduce the content of the book for general circulation; and

WHEREAS, Amazon has agreed to allow publishers to deactivate the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2 for individual authors based on lists provided by the publishers, and to date one publisher, Random House, has instructed Amazon to turn the text-to-speech feature off for all of its published material, regardless of author preference; and

WHEREAS, the suggestions that leaders of the Authors Guild have proposed to mitigate the harm visited upon blind and other print-disabled readers (e.g., creation of a national registry of blind and print-disabled readers or charging additional money for the privilege of accessing books on the device with speech output) are wholly unsatisfactory to first-class customers who are prepared--like everybody else--to pay for the product that Amazon has developed, advertised, promoted, and sold to the general public; and

WHEREAS, civil rights laws and policies in the United States oppose and protect against acts that thwart equal access and equitable treatment of the blind and other people with print disabilities: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, in Convention assembled this 13th day of September, 2009, in the city of Tucson, Arizona, that this organization urge all government procurement agencies, schools, institutions of higher education, and libraries to be mindful of technology-procurement requirements and state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws and insist that mobile e-book readers and e-books have accessible text-to-speech; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly protest all attempts by the Authors Guild to eliminate or restrict the text-to-speech technology Amazon has incorporated into its Kindle 2 e-book-reading device; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urges the publishing industry and the Authors Guild to abandon their unreasonable demands on Amazon to degrade the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that barring the willingness of the publishing industry and the Authors Guild to comply with this resolution--this organization also urge Amazon itself to ignore the outrageous petitions of self-interest of both the publishing industry and the Authors Guild and to make the design changes that will in fact make the Kindle an accessible electronic book reader for blind readers.

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