April 8, 2009

Protestors make their voices heard, if not their Kindles


The crowd in front of the Authors Guild headquarters

“Some 200 people with print disabilities–physical impairments that restrict their ability to read print–protested in front of the Authors Guild headquarters in New York yesterday, rallying against the Guild’s attempt to get Amazon to disable the Kindle 2‘s text-to-speech function,” reports Lynn Andriani in a Publishers Weekly story.

The protest was organized by the National Federation of the Blind, and they were protesing Amazon‘s recent announcement “that it plans to give authors and publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any of their e-books available for the Kindle 2” — a response itself to the Authors Guild complaint that the function was basically an unauthorized audio book (see the earlier MobyLives report).

In between chanting “Two, four, six, eight, the Authors Guild discriminates!” and holding signs that said “Throw the E-Book at the Authors Guild,” the crowd listened to representatives of the Reading Rights Coalition and the NFB giving bullhorn addresses.

But Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, released an official statement saying “Today’s protest is unfortunate and unnecessary. We stand by our offer, first made to the federation’s lawyer a month ago and repeated several times since, to negotiate in good faith to reach a solution for making in-print e-books accessible to everyone.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.