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Advocates for the blind protest Authors Guild's stance on Kindle 2's read-aloud feature

April 7, 2009 |  4:30 pm
Kindle 2
Amazon.com's Kindle 2 e-book reader. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

The Reading Rights Coalition, a group that says it represents disabled readers, staged a protest today outside of the Authors Guild's New York offices. Its complaint: The guild's objections to the read-aloud feature of Amazon.com's Kindle 2 electronic book harms people with disabilities.

In February, the guild complained about the Kindle 2's text-to-speech function, which uses an electronic voice to recite text. The organization said then that the feature "presents a significant challenge to the publishing industry," suggesting that it could hurt the $1-billion market for audio books. Amazon, which introduced the second-generation Kindle in February, later backed off and said it would allow authors to disable the feature for their own titles.

Though that may have mollified some writers, it incensed another constituent -- people who can't read print because they are blind or learning disabled. The Reading Rights Coalition, whose members include the National Federation for the Blind and International Dyslexia Assn., maintains that the read-aloud feature should be available for all Kindle titles, which currently include more than 260,000 books and several dozen newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.

The group organized this afternoon's rally, with protesters chanting such slogans as, "No need for greed, we want to read."

The guild issued a statement to the Associated Press, saying that the protest was "unfortunate and unnecessary." It did not return calls seeking further comment.

-- Alex Pham

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