Has blocking text-to-speech access ended?

Has blocking text-to-speech access ended?

This is great news if it’s what has really happened!

Regular readers know I’ve been writing about the issue of publishers blocking text-to-speech access for many years. This post

The Disabled Deserve to Read

from 2009, explains it in depth.

Basically, when Amazon introduced the Kindle 2, it included “text-to-speech”, software which reads the book out loud to you.

I was quite wrong 🙂 when I thought publishers would embrace that.

It costs the publishers nothing, and it meant that people would consume books more quickly. I typically listen to text-to-speech for hours every week in the car, meaning that I need more things to read more often, since driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”, as I like to say.

The publishers, apparently concerned that text-to-speech access would cut into audiobook sales (I don’t think it does), got Amazon to allow them to insert code into the book files to prevent the access.

I made the decision not to purchase books with TTS blocked…and not to link to them on this blog. I did write the publishers and let them know what I was doing and why. I started out not mentioning the books at all, but I understand that it’s a personal decision as to whether or not you are going to buy those books, and it’s quite complicated. I decided that if I listed them but didn’t link to them, I wasn’t helping sell them directly, and that worked for me.

That has certainly meant, though, that I haven’t read some books I would like to read, and haven’t promoted some books to you I thought you would like.

Yesterday, I was looking at the great

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

(there’s another good one for series starters today)

and happened to notice that

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (at AmazonSmile*)

no longer had TTS blocked!

That was good to see! I’ve wanted to read it since it was released, but it’s always (at least when I’ve looked at it) had TTS blocked. It has 4.6 stars out of 5 with 5,744 customer ratings at time of writing, which is very high.

That book is from a publisher which at one point was blocking all their books by policy, but it hasn’t been consistent.

I have seen books released without the TTS block get it later, so I wanted to check a book which both my Significant Other and I really enjoyed (that doesn’t always happen). I was going to suggest it to you, but after we’d read it, the text-to-speech was blocked. I even wrote the author to raise the issue (so the author could raise it…they aren’t the ones who directly decide in a traditional publishing situation, usually).

Well, when I checked

The Rosie Project by Grant Simsion (at AmazonSmile*)

it also no longer had TTS blocked! This one is 4.4 stars, but with 10,299 customer reviews.

I started checking other titles.

All the text titles I checked said that the text-to-speech was “enabled”. I’ve always found that a bit misleading: nothing needs to be done to “enable” TTS access…that’s why I can use it with personal documents, even simple text files.

Now, I did some sophisticated searching and did find some titles which said they were “not enabled”, but those were graphic novels. TTS can’t read the words in word balloons, for example, because they aren’t text in the way it needs it…they are images.

I haven’t tested enough to know that TTS-blocking code is no longer being used…but things are looking good so far.

Why the change?

One possible factor is that Amazon has started listing whether or not books are accessible to screen readers.

Screen readers do text-to-speech, but they also do more. One big thing they can do is read the “ALT text” which can be provided to describe images for people with print challenges. I do that with some of the images I insert…I try to do it with all of the ones I import. All screen readers do text-to-speech, but text-to-speech doesn’t do everything that screen readers do…like all cats are mammals, but not all mammals are cats. 😉

For more information, see this

Accessibility for Kindle help page (at AmazonSmile*)

Update: the most important thing about the listing of screen reader accessibility is that screen readers are unaffected by the code which blocks stand-alone text-to-speech. If a publisher blocks TTS, a screen reader can still read the book out loud…at least, that’s my understanding.

One thing I don’t know at this point is what happens if you bought a book with text-to-speech blocked. When we bought books (like The Rosie Project) where it wasn’t blocked, and then they blocked it later, it still wasn’t blocked for us. I was kind of figuring that was because you got what you bought…they could have updated the file on the cloud, which would have affected us (if you allow automatic updates, that is…that’s an option). They wouldn’t have reached into people’s Kindles and changed downloaded copies (they learned their lesson on that years ago, when they removed 1984 from Kindles when it was apparently accidentally sold outside of the intended market).

I’m really excited about this! Even if it hasn’t been an issue for you, it will simplify what you read in ILMK, if it’s true and not temporary…

You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


5 Responses to “Has blocking text-to-speech access ended?”

  1. Phink Says:

    I agree with Bufo that publishers are wrong when they think text to speech harms audio book sales. Bufo and I are opposites in both these areas. He does not like audio books and I love them if the narrator is good. I can’t stand text to speech and he likes it. I never listen to text to speech.

    Speaking though of listening in your car Amazon needs to do what it’s sister company Audible is doing for car listening. Audible’s latest update included car mode. I’ve attached a screen shot of my phone to show what it looks like. There are 3 areas, one for play/pause, one for rewind (I have mine set up for 22 seconds), one for bookmarks. I don’t have to hit exactly on the buttons. I simply touch anywhere in the area and it does that command. I still have to wake my phone however which is kind of a pain. I just got a new vehicle so I need to see if my steering wheel controls will control my audible app. I need to do that.

    Hey! There’s no way to attach pictures. Oh well. I did a search for audible car mode and got nothing in the first few dozen pictures so I guess you will have to use your imagination.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Yep, I think it’s good that with our different tastes we both feel the same about TTS and audiobooks. The growth of audiobook popularity happened along with TTS (even though TTS was pretty primitive in the beginning). I actually think that TTS may help audiobook sales, since it can acclimatize people to listening to books for free…and they may pay for those performances you prefer. 😉 I do like audiobooks if I’ve sight-read (or TTSed) a book…then, it’s like a movie adaptation for me.

      Alexa in the car will solve the issues with starting up and listening to audiobooks. Until then, maybe set your phone not to sleep at all when driving…if the steering wheel controls don’t work.

  2. Monthly Kindle Deals up to 80% off: December 2017  | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Has blocking text-to-speech access ended? […]

  3. Monthly Kindle Deals up to 80% off: January 2018 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Has blocking text-to-speech access ended? […]

  4. The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 495 Jon Fine Says:

    […] “Has Blocking text-to-speech access ended?” by Bufo Calvin at I Love My Kindle – November 28, 2017 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: