Kindle Fire 8.9″ has Voice Guide: coming to 2nd gen 7″

Kindle Fire 8.9″ has Voice Guide: coming to 2nd gen 7″

Well, this was interesting!

I haven’t had time to take a day just to explore my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB, and I’m still discovering things.

I read in this

Amazon press release

that Voice Guide and Explore by Touch are coming to all second generation Kindle Fires early next year.

I was excited to try it out. As regular readers know, I’m quite interested in the accessibility features of Kindles (especially text-to-speech).

Swipe down – More – Accessibility

I did, however, make the mistake of turning on both Voice Guide and Explore by Touch before learning more about them.

Voice Guide functions like it does on the Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi (the Keyboard line has been the only one with audible menus), pretty much. You touch something and it tells you what you touched. No problem there, and it worked well.

Explore by Touch meant that as you touched something it told you what it was…but it didn’t do anything. That makes perfect sense for those with vision challenges. However, I couldn’t quite figure out how to get it to do things at first.

If you tap it and let it announce it, then tap it again, that’s what does it.

That was quite confusing trying to swipe at first. The big problem with that? I couldn’t get it to swipe down so I could turn Explore by Touch off! However, I got the hang of it within five minutes or so.

I can see this being very useful. When I opened a book, it also plunged right into text-to-speech…nice!

Not too surprisingly, I couldn’t get it to read me a website.

However, I could completely compose and send an e-mail without vision! How liberating that might be, although speech to text would be easier, of course.

If you do have visual challenges, I’d be very interested in your feedback on this.

By the way, a quick note on another app, since the Kindle Fire 8.9″ is on a $50 off sale right now.

This appears to be only available for the 2nd gen Kindle Fire devices, but you can use

FREE Calls with magicJack

to make phone calls with your Fire! I’ve tested it a little bit…yes, for no charge,  I could make a phone call, and I was told that the sound quality was pretty good.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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10 Responses to “Kindle Fire 8.9″ has Voice Guide: coming to 2nd gen 7″”

  1. Catherine Kudlick Says:

    Bufo, Great that you’re such a champion of Kindle accessibility! Most people are oblivious. And great that you’re upset that the new Kindle PaperWhite took a step back by eliminating text-to-speech all-together. But even the models that are supposed to have more access are pathetic – I know it’s unpopular to say on this forum, but Apple is light years ahead. Please see why the National Federation of the Blind is furious at Amazon, and with good reason: https://nfb.org/blog/atblog/amazon-why-do-you-keep-burning-blind-readers

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Catherine!

      First, let me say that I wish all books were equally accessible to all people. That would include, for example, eye tracking and voice command for those who have challenges with tactile interaction. In the ideal world, the same book and device would also be accessible to someone with print challenges.

      However, in my experience, furor is rarely justified and never useful. I have written a few times when I was angry. That’s rare, largely because I don’t get angry very often. In general, while some terrible things happen in it, I think the world is a wonderful place that is getting better.

      When negative emotion has influenced my posts, I have gone back and re-edited (something I almost never do). If I’ve used emotionally charged terms, I try to look at that very carefully. As a trainer, what I do is modify behavior. Education is certainly a part of that (they can’t do what you want them to do if they don’t know how), but it is only one part.

      Using a headline like “Amazon, Why Do You Keep Burning Blind Readers?”, as Amy Mason does in this National Federation of the Blind post, is a good example of something that will tend to be counter-productive. There aren’t a lot of terms that are more negative than “burning” (there are certainly some). While there are connotations that aren’t destructive (“burning a CD”, for example), no one can escape that connotation of destructive, injurious, and painful action when it is applied to human beings.

      It’s not likely to encourage Amazon to behave differently…and it will alienate some people (the empathetic ones you want on your side) who will read it without much knowledge of the issue.

      A key issue I have with this NFB post is that is is prompted by Amazon announcing that it will provide more accessibility functions (not fewer). I know the concern here is about functions that are not provided, but this simply reads like someone being ungrateful and overdemanding. Let’s say that there is a teenager with a chronically messy room. The teenager comes out and announces that they have made the bed. If the parent responds by yelling, “DID YOU VACUUM THE FLOOR TOO, YOU LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING???!!” that will not encourage the teenager to do more cleaning.

      I know that the use of the term “ungrateful” may be touchy, there. People don’t think they should be grateful for being given something that they feel was theirs by right in the first place. I understand that, and I’m just trying to communicate how this may be seen by others.

      It always seems to me, intuitively, that the angrier someone presents, the more likely it is that they are wrong. If your position is demonstrably correct, you don’t need to use anger to make your point. Of course, that’s my bias: I tend to value an objective statement of fact over a subjective emotional response, when the latter might be perfectly legitimately caused by an objective imbalance in the situation.

      Do I think Amazon could make the Kindle Fire more accessible? Absolutely. The issue of not being able to activate accessibility features by those who need them has gone back to when Amazon first paid to license RealSpeak on the Kindle 2 for its readers. I think it would be reasonably easy to add a specific gesture to the Fire (and all touchscreens from all companies, ideally) that turns text-to-speech and voice navigation on and off. Perhaps something like two fingers dragging a “J” shape, followed by two taps. That would be somewhat evocative of the American Sign Language “thank you” sign, but specific enough not to confuse the computer.

      I do want to say that not providing something is very different to me than actively blocking something. The latter is what publishers do when they insert code into a book file to prevent the text-to-speech which is already provided on a device from working. That’s what happens with Kindle store books…if the publisher does nothing TTS access works.

      Finally, I have no problem with someone pointing out when Apple does something better than Amazon. :) Popularity shouldn’t impact information exchange.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to post this, and to direct my readers to the NFB commentary. I do recommend that they read it.

      • Catherine Kudlick Says:

        I agree that one catches more flies with honey, and the NFB post is not one I would have written myself. But I understand where the anger comes from, and I think people outside of access don’t fully appreciate the level of frustration that comes from not having full access to what is easily available to others. Throw on top of this the fact that people see that access right there in other devices, and you can understand Amazon’s comparatively feeble efforts leading to some blazing :) remarks. (BTW, I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect “burning blind people” was playing on Amazon’s own world of fire as much as it was -ahem- incendiary as you state.)

        If Amazon wasn’t such a big player in electronic books, none of this would matter – people could just vote with their wallets, but alas, Amazon has positioned itself as a leading force, including moving into K-12 schools with its Kindles. This means Amazon should be setting standards for access rather than promising features that go half way to meeting ones that have already been met and surpassed elsewhere.

        This brings me back to your teenager making his bed. The way I would tell it is that this guy brags about making the bed in his messy room while the health inspector who saw the clean room next to his has knocked on the door and insists that his room be clean too. Granted, the knock would sound more like a pounding stick than a nice friendly tap, but this is because the kid’s music has been playing so loud that he’s given only minimal indication that he can hear anyone knocking. Whether you think about this fellow from your perspective or mine, he seems rather too spoiled!

        Bufo, I don’t want to put out your own fire for accessibility, which is, as I said in my first post, great. I’d hope to find a way to work both from inside and outside to press Amazon into taking access more seriously than it does at present. While anger makes people uncomfortable to the point of being counter-productive, I shared this post because I think the passion of the people most affected needs to be front and center; only by understanding that real people are truly angry can change really happen.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Catherine!

        Yours is one of my favorite comments ever!

        It’s well-written, respectful, and essentially disagrees with me…the perfect storm. :)

        I don’t think we disagree at all on the importance of access, and that’s a good thing. I do understand people’s frustration.

        I think where I would approach things differently from the commentary you linked is that I’m interested in getting the behavior to change, and I can say from my professional experience, that I’m good at that. I think the other person wants to get it to change as well, but may not be as versed in making that happen…and/or that isn’t the only agenda in posting it that way.

        For me, it doesn’t matter whether the teenager is spoiled or not, or justified or not…it’s how do you get that teenager to clean the room and even more importantly, want to keep it clean.

        One other important point: your health inspector is an officer of the law. When Amazon initially licensed RealSpeak (followed by Vocalizer, followed by Pico, followed by Ivona), it had it work universally on content which it could access (not pdfs, for example, but all the regular Kindle store books). It stated then that it was legal, and I believe that’s correct. There was quick (and surprising to me) push back from the publishers.

        My understanding of the copyright law is that it is legal for the publishers to block access in Kindle store editions as long as at there is at least one accessible edition of that e-book available (even if a disability has to be certified to get it).

        Amazon allowed publishers to block the access for the rightsholder’s “comfort”.

        Amazon could have stood their ground on it, but not easily.

        Do I think it’s bad for publishers to block access via TTS? Yes, both ethically (in my opinion) and in a business sense.

        I’m not sure if you’ve read my earlier account of some of this:

        http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/the-disabled-deserve-to-read/

        which I allow to be distributed for non-commercial purposes.

        I think we’ll both be rewarded with seeing further advances in accessibility over time…I’m sure we’ll both be looking for it. :)

  2. Catherine Kudlick Says:

    I did read your post about access and author rights a few years ago, and appreciated it for its passion and thoroughness. In fact, it prompted me to want to find out more about the person behind it, why you care about access as someone who doesn’t seem to depend on it, but who obviously benefits. Most people don’t come to access without some first-hand experience either their own or in their friends or family.

    Glad you liked my comment – keep up the good fight, and I’ll do the same!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Catherine!

      I think all real problems are universal. You don’t have to have had the same experience as somebody else, you just have to have the ability to see its analogues in your own life…or in your potential life. When someone says that “you aren’t xyz, you wouldn’t understand”, that always seems to me to underestimate empathy. It suggests to me that there is inward-facing group dynamics involved, more than a desire to resolve the situation. I’m not at all suggesting that’s what you are saying, but it’s something that I see in many situations.

      I do have a close relative with challenges, but not with visual print challenges. I care about it because I think it’s right that people should have access…that’s pretty simply it.

      You are right that I don’t depend on it (although I do benefit from the increasable text sizes), and that I do benefit from the presence of text-to-speech (I typically use it for hours a week in the car). However, even if I detested TTS, as many do, I don’t think that would impact my desire not to benefit from books where it is blocked and to wish the decisions some publishers make were different.

      For me, “good fight” is an oxymoron. :) I actually remembered the opening to Superman for years as the hero “…leading a never ending battle”. Later on, when I realized it was “…fighting a never ending battle”, it made me cringe a bit. I’d much rather that my heroes (fictional or otherwise) lead than fight…

      Should we stand up for what we believe is right? Absolutely. I choose to do that in two ways: self-sacrifice, and an attempt to change the other person’s opinion. There are many books that I would like to read, and that my Significant Other would like to read, that we don’t get because they block text-to-speech access. Not out of inconvenience to use, but because I don’t want to give money to the company in that situation (I have informed them why). I don’t knowingly link to books that block text-to-speech, because I don’t want to personally benefit from someone clicking that link.

      I write about the situation, to try and persuade people that blocking access is a bad idea.

      However, that all feels different to me than “fighting”. That may just be semantics, though. :)

  3. tellthetruth1 Says:

    I tried these settings just now. Explore by Voice and Touch). Didn’t know they were available, and, like you, I switched both of ‘em on! Aaarrrgghhh! Try getting out of that one. It’s hard! ;-) Managed to get back into settings, finally and turn them off. Nice to play with, but one at a time, methinks. :) As usual, I found the info here. Thanks Bufo, Jen.

  4. kenzy Says:

    that same thing hapened to me i ust got stock tanks it was so helpful. i almost cried i thought i had wrecked my kindle

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, kenzy!

      I’m glad it was helpful for you!

      If you ever get stuck with your Kindle again, you can always contact Kindle Support for help:

      http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

      You’ll see a

      Contact Us

      button there. You can call them, have them call you (my favorite), e-mail, or chat. They’ll help you out.

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