FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Category: 
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

Reading Rights Coalition Denounces Random House

Random House Has Denied 15 Million Print-Disabled Americans Access to its Books

New York City (May 20, 2009): The Reading Rights Coalition, representing more than 15 million print-disabled Americans, has denounced publishing giant Random House, which has turned off text-to-speech on all of its e-books available for Amazon’s Kindle 2 reading service.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “When Random House turned off the text-to-speech function on all of its e-books for the Kindle 2, it turned off access to this service for more than 15 million print-disabled Americans. The blind and other print-disabled readers have the right to purchase e-books using this service with text-to-speech enabled. Blocking text-to-speech prohibits access for print-disabled readers and is both reprehensible and discriminatory. We urge President Obama, whose e-books are now being blocked from over 15 million Americans, to either demand that access be restored or to move to a publisher who does not engage in discrimination.”

Dr. Cynthia Stuen, Senior Vice President of Policy and Evaluation for Lighthouse International, said: "Having the technology available to give people with impaired vision and other print disabilities equal and timely access to the printed word should be celebrated and encouraged in a civil and just society for all."

Andrew Imparato, President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), said: “Random House is callously disregarding the right of American consumers with disabilities to get access to the same content at the same price at the same time as everyone else. Random House’s decision to turn off the feature that makes this content accessible to millions of print-disabled Americans is a bad business decision with real human consequences and it must be corrected immediately.”

Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind, said: "The recent action by Random House disabling text-to-speech on e-books is the latest and most egregious discriminatory action against the nation's 15 million print-disabled individuals. Random House either doesn't care or doesn't understand the impact this will have on those who would otherwise have equal access to books and other printed materials in the same manner as our non-disabled peers. We must work collaboratively to do everything possible to assure such access for this growing constituency."

James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), said: “KEI is disappointed that Random House is turning off text-to-speech on its Kindle 2 e-books. In a world where access to knowledge is central to everything, Random House certainly understands this action will isolate and marginalize many persons with reading disabilities.”

K. Eric Larson, Executive Director and CEO of National Spinal Cord Injury Association, said: "All Americans have the right to equal access and many people living with paralysis use text-to-speech capabilities in order to gain that access. Our members are also consumers and “turning off” text-to-speech means that some will not buy books they would otherwise purchase."

John R. Sheehan, Chairman of the Xavier Society for the Blind, said: “The Xavier Society for the Blind is committed to the notion that ALL books should be accessible to all people. When a book about Mother Teresa is among those whose text-to-speech functions have been disabled, we fear that we are seeing the beginning of a blanket cut-off of a function that should be open and available to all, especially (but not exclusively) to those with visual impairments or other problems that limit access to printed materials.”

When Amazon released the Kindle 2 e-book reading service on February 9, 2009, the company announced that the device would be able to read e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Under pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has announced that it will give publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2 service. Random House is the first publisher to turn off text-to-speech on all of its e-books and thus deny the rights of print-disabled people across America.

The Reading Rights coalition includes the blind, people with dyslexia, people with learning or processing issues, seniors losing vision, people with spinal cord injuries, people recovering from strokes, and many others for whom the addition of text-to-speech on the Kindle 2 promises for the first time easy, mainstream access to over 270,000 books.

For more information about the Reading Rights Coalition, please visit www.readingrights.org. To sign our petition, go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/We-Want-To-Read. If you are an author who supports our cause, please send your contact information to readingrights@nfb.org.