Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ Category

Text-to-speech comes to the Paperwhite

May 13, 2016

Text-to-speech comes to the Paperwhite

Regular readers know that text-to-speech is an important issue to me.

TTS is software which reads a book out loud to you. It’s a way to access the text, like increasing the text size.

It is not, by the way, a computer generated “robot” voice. A human being reads…it’s just that they aren’t reading the book you are reading. ūüôā The software then assembles what they have read (which might involve individual sounds, bu often does entire phrases, which can give it intonation) to match your book. I interviewed September Day, the voice to which I listen on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HD7:

An ILMK interview with September Day, the voice of the Kindle Fire HD

about the process, and I thought that was one of my better posts.

I do listen to TTS: typically, for hours a week in the car.

It’s converted driving time from, as I like to say, “wasted non-reading time”. ūüėČ

That’s not why the issue matters to me, though. While I have been listening to TTS since it came to the Kindle with the Kindle 2, it’s more a matter of fairness to me. I’ve written about the issue, particularly in this piece from about five and a¬†half years ago:

The Disabled Deserve to Read

I actually consciously try not to write about it too much, just because I like the blog to be eclectic, and not to focus on anything too much. Here’s the category on ILMK:

Text to speech

Many people have expressed concern that Amazon’s more recent EBRs (E-Book Readers…not tablets) have not had TTS. To be clear, it’s because they haven’t had audio at all…no TTS, no music, no audiobooks. Presumably, that might be to reduce the size (including weight)¬†of the device (even a headphone jack takes up room), and maybe to increase battery charge use.

When I listen to TTS now, I am commonly doing it on the Kindle Fire. Our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

also does TTS, although I haven’t used it for that much.

If a tablet can read TTS, why care about it on an EBR?

Well, EBRs have much longer battery charge life, even when using TTS, I believe. A device may also be shared between someone with a print disability and someone without one. Some people also can sight read some things (large graphs and images, perhaps), but use TTS for others.

So, some customers definitely want TTS for EBRs.

Amazon has come up with a solution!

Kindle Paperwhite Blind and Visually Impaired Readers Bundle – Includes Kindle Paperwhite with Wi-Fi and Special Offers, Kindle Audio Adapter, and $19.99 Account Credit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Not surprisingly, it requires another piece of hardware (bundled at the above link), and it’s a pretty big dongle…not elegant working.

Still, this is an important innovation!

There are some key things to know:

  • This audio adapter needs to be used with a special EBR…it won’t work with your existing Paperwhite
  • You additionally need headphones or a speaker: that’s not included
  • It does more than just read TTS: it includes touch navigation abilities
  • It will not enable music or audiobooks
  • It’s currently for the Paperwhite, but should be coming to other contemporary models

I’ve asked Amazon two questions…I’m hoping they respond today, and after I hear something, I’ll update this post.

One is that they consistently say this is for people with print disabilities. That’s similar to

Flash! Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin makes all books TTS enabled for the print disabled

which works on PCs.

Why does that matter?

The law treats making text available to people with print disabilities different from making it available to the general public.

The Chafee Amendment said that certain groups could make accessible versions of books available to people with print disabilities without first getting permission from the rightsholders.

We can see that with

Bookshare

They say

“In order for you to become a Bookshare¬ģ member, an expert must confirm that you have a print disability that prevents you from reading traditional print materials. Anyone in the world with a qualifying print disability may join Bookshare.”

Now, my strong assumption here is that Amazon is not going to require any sort of certification to order this device, but I’ve asked them, just to be sure.

My other question for them has to do with when publishers choose to block text-to-speech access in a book.

Some of them do that, at least with some titles, although I’m sure it is a lot less than it used to be.

To be clear, they have to take an action, actually insert code into the file to block the access. If a publisher does nothing, TTS works with the book. That’s why you can use it on personal documents…which I also do.

I always would have preferred if Amazon indicated whether TTS was “blocked” or not on a book’s Amazon product page, rather than whether it is “enabled” or not, but I suspect this was a compromise with the publishers. The TTS can’t access the text (at least, the current software can’t) if it is part of an illustration: in a graphic novel or children’s illustrated book, or example. That could be an argument for saying “enabled”, but I don’t really buy it. ūüôā

It’s possible this device works even if TTS has been blocked. That might seem odd, but that is the case with the Kindle for PC plug-in.

That is why certification of the print disability hypothetically would matter.

Publishers do have to have a version of their e-books which is accessible to those with print disabilities.

It isn’t that every version of the e-book has to be accessible…which is why they can block TTS in a Kindle store book, as long as a version of the book is accessible to those with print disabilities. They do not have to make one with TTS available to the general public.

Since the publishers don’t appear to have made that an issue with the plug-in, I’m guessing it won’t be an issue here.

I think I will hear that you don’t need to certify a print disability, and that it will work with e-books with TTS blocked, but we’ll see what they say. I wouldn’t personally use the device to get around the block: I think the block is legal (although highly ill-advised), and I don’t need it. For people with print disabilities, though, it is legal for them to get around the block, so it would be fine for them.

While Amazon and the disabled community have had some issues (the large screen Kindle DX may have failed in the market in part because of objections to it being used in colleges, lodged in part by a print disabled advocacy group, and for a while, there were concerns about closed captioning in videos…something about which Amazon is very explicit in their new on demand video program), they have also featured information about their accessibility features prominently.

Overall, kudos to Amazon for this solution. I’d still like to see TTS return to EBRs without a dongle and for the general public, but I appreciate the effort which went into this development. I also think we may see it in another device, like a wearable, but that’s not the same as an accessibility question.

While I had already been planning to write about this, I want to thank reader Elaine Jordan for a heads-up on an article about it. I always appreciate links to interesting articles, and interactions with my readers help to make this blog better.

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

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

*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.

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Unlocking the universal translator: over 600 Star Trek books go DRM free

March 30, 2016

Unlocking the universal translator: over 600 Star Trek books go DRM free

Star Trek was a TV series.

I say “was” because it became so much more.

There was a coordinated¬†effort to keep Star Trek on the air after the second season, which was successful…even if the uneven quality of the result made “third season” a geek slang term for something that wasn’t very good (“That lunch was really third season”).

Then there was an animated series with many of the original cast returning to voice their roles. There were movies, games, comic books, role-playing games, and, of course, novels.

The novels are important, and were important to other fandoms which followed.

It’s worth noting first that Star Trek was always connected with books. The series had actively sought science fiction authors (Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson…) to contribute scripts. It was seen as unusually cerebral television…perhaps even literary.

While there had been tie-in novels and novelizations before (including¬†an original Star Trek novel for “juveniles” written by Mack Reynolds called Mission to Horatius), James Blish’s Spock Must Die! published in 1970 (after the original series was off the air) brought an official, authorized, new story.

The title may have been “Spock Must Die!” but the message was “Star Trek Won’t Die!”

There would go on to be literally more than 500 official Star Trek novels (and short story collections).

500!

For the vast majority of them (and for decades) they’ve been published by Pocket Books (one of the original paperback companies), which is part of Simon & Schuster.

It even has its own stand-alone website:

http://www.startrekbooks.com/

Many of them are available in the USA Kindle store. A search for

Star Trek published by Pocket (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

gets 696 results at the time of writing.

I’ve been happy to see that the Star Trek novels have been available in the Kindle store.

One of my great disappointments with a publisher, though, has been Pocket/S&S choosing to insert code into the files which blocks text-to-speech (TTS) access.

TTS uses software to read a book out loud to you (I typically use it for a week in the car). It’s something I’ve written about many times before because I believe that blocking it disproportionately disadvantages people with disabilities.

That seems particularly inappropriate with Star Trek books to me. Star Trek (especially in the original series, but beyond that) championed diversity, even if it was imperfect in doing so. The original series made a point about prejudice against those with vision issues (who we would now say are “print disabled” or “print challenged”), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (there are novels from all of the series) had Geordi La Forge, a main character who wore a vision-enabling visor.

A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it (including personal documents) unless that access is actively blocked by the publisher.

I was, therefore, very pleased to see that S&S is removing Digital Rights Management (DRM) from the Star Trek books going forward (they show 611 as currently available).

With no DRM, you can convert the file you receive to different formats (so you can buy a book and read it on a NOOK, Kobo, or Kindle, for one thing).

That should also mean that the TTS access is no longer blocked.

It appears that the new files have not yet been uploaded to Amazon, which makes sense. While Amazon doesn’t¬† specifically label books as DRM free or not (something which I think they should do), they do indicate the number of SDL’s (Simultaneous Device Licenses) available for a book.

Unless it says otherwise, the number of devices registered to the same account¬†to which you can download the same compatible book at the same time is six. Some few books have fewer…and some will show as unlimited (books without DRM are unlimited).

Tor went DRM free some time ago, and I said that other publishers would watch carefully to see how that affects sales and rights infringement.

We haven’t heard any horror stories about Tor’s experience with going DRM free.

This is a major move in that direction.

I applaud Simon & Schuster for this decision.

Live long and prosper…

\\//,

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

All aboard our new 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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get.¬†:)¬†Shop ‚Äôtil you help!¬†:)¬†By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.¬†

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.

New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

January 9, 2016

New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

This is one of those crossover stories, which belongs both here and in my The Measured Circle blog!

You can now use your

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to listen to text-to-speech!

This is a huge development for me, and it will be for other people.

People with print disabilities, for example, can use the Echo to read a book…and making the request verbally may be a lot easier than using a tablet. It also means they don’t need to have a tablet. ūüôā

I would expect it to come to the

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

soon (it wasn’t there right now)…meaning that a print disabled ¬†person could have a TTS device for under $50.

It’s very simple. Just say, “Alexa, read The War of the Worlds” or whatever book is in your Cloud which has not had text-to-speech access blocked by the publisher (and has text…graphic novels usually aren’t accessible to TTS even if the publisher doesn’t take an action to block it).

It also means that kids can have Alexa read to them…no, I don’t think that’s the same as a loving adult reading to them, but it could still be good developmentally, and might really help with kids with certain learning disabilities as they sight-read and listen at the same time.

You can tell which books you have with TTS available by going to the Alexa app and going to

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – Kindle Books

You can see more details in my post in The Measured Circle:

New to Alexa/the Echo: movie times and making phone calls…and text-to-speech!

Enjoy!

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

* 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.

Amazon and eTextbooks

January 8, 2015

Amazon and eTextbooks

The idea of using e-books for textbooks was a very important one when the Kindle was first becoming popular.

The potential for real improvements was there: not only in interactive and more accessible materials, but in reducing the weight that students had to carry from class to class.

When the larger Kindle DX was introduced in 2009, part of the announcement was a partnership with major textbook publishers. Clearly, the thought was that colleges, universities, and others, could start using e-textbooks on a mass basis.

Unfortunately, that effort hit a major snag when there was a challenge to the accessibility of the device. Sure, e-books were better for the print challenged than paperbooks…but the argument was that they were even better for sighted students (who had access to search capabilities, for example, that the print disabled did not have), making their use inequitable.

That stalled the momentum (and may have led to decreased sales for the Kindle DX).

Times, though, have changed.

The Fire tablets are much more disability friendly than the Kindle DX was. They have audible menus, and even “explore by touch” which can tell you what you are touching on the screen.

For more information on the available features, see

Accessibility for Fire (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I was pleased today to get an e-mail from a representative from Amazon, outlining some of the advantages of eTextBooks from Amazon. I was given permission to share it with you:

Hi Bufo –

Hope you’re well!

As Winter Break ends and college students head back to school (with new gadgets in tow), purchasing textbooks for spring semester classes is now top of mind. I thought your readers, especially parents of college-aged students, would be interested in learning about the benefits of going digital this year with Amazon eTexbooks – students can save money, read their textbooks at any time across multiple devices, and take advantage of interactive features to help make studying easier.

With options to rent, buy or try for free (up to 80% off print list for rentals between 30 to 360 days and up to 60% off purchases), eTextbooks give students the flexibility to spend money where they want. Not to mention students can take their entire library wherever they go without lugging physical books around campus Рwith the free kindle reading app (at AmazonSmile*), students can conveniently access their eTextbooks from any device, including their tablet (Fire, iPad or Android tablets), smartphone (iPhone or Android), PC or Mac.

I’ve outlined some of the study-friendly features students receive when using eTextbooks below, including digital notes for easy reference, multi-color highlighting and Flash Cards to jog your memory after each chapter.  Or, if you’d like to see these features live, check out the Study Smarter Not Harder videos here.

Let me know if you have interest in covering or if you have any questions.

Thanks!

Study Tips Made Easy with eTextbooks

  • Multi-Color Highlighting¬†‚Äď Are you one of those students that highlights every sentence in their textbooks? With multi-color highlighting on your eTextbook you can organize categories and sections by color and save all your highlights in Notebook for easy reference
  • Digital Notes¬†‚ÄĒ Notebook for eTextbooks displays all your notes, colored highlights, saved images and bookmarks in one place. You can mark and filter your most important concepts to organize when it‚Äôs exam time ‚Äď it‚Äôs like a digital scrapbook for your studies. Notebook is available on Fire HD tablets, iPads, and Android tablets
  • Flash Cards¬†‚Äď Just finished a chapter and already can‚Äôt remember what you read? Flash Cards allow you to quickly review all the terms, concepts and definitions in each chapter with an easy to use interface
  • X-Ray¬†‚Äď Get everything you need with a single tap, including definitions, related pages and even relevant content from other sources like YouTube and Wikipedia
  • Swift Navigation¬†‚ÄĒ With the swipe of a finger, quickly navigate through pages and chapters of eTextbooks to find the section you are looking for
  • Whispersync Technology¬†‚ÄĒ Synchronizes your last page read, bookmarks and annotations across all of your devices so you can always pick up where you left off

Learn more about Amazon’s eTextbooks here (at AmazonSmile*)with details on study tips.

There are other features that can help students (although not necessarily with study, specifically):

  • Onboard dictionaries
  • Wikipedia lookup
  • Web lookup
  • Translation
  • Free public domain books
  • Text-to-speech and those¬†¬†accessibility¬†features on the Fires

and more.

Teachers can also do some interesting things. They could make public notes available, and students could view them.

There have been fits and starts with schools using eTextBooks. California mandated use of them in some situations (partially because they are so much cheaper). Some schools have issued them to students (and Amazon has donated some. WorldReader.org, a charity about which I’ve written before, gets them to students in difficult situations where trucking p-books (paperbooks) into the schools might be impractical.

I don’t expect p-textbooks to disappear any time soon, but I do think we will see eTextBooks share of use increase over the next few years.

What do you think? Are you using or have tried to use eTextBooks? If so, what did you think? What was the best thing about doing it, and what were the challenges? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join over a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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.

The best book I’m not reading

January 5, 2015

The best book I’m not reading

Last year, my Significant Other and I read a book that we both really liked.

That’s somewhat unusual. ūüôā

We often both enjoy the same¬†book, but this is one that really stood out as special…again, to both of us.

I was all ready to enthusiastically recommend it to you, when I noticed something had happened.

When we got the book, text-to-speech access had not been blocked by the publisher.

My regular readers are familiar with this issue, and how I feel about it, but I think it’s worth explaining.

Starting with the Kindle 2, Amazon put text-to-speech software on Kindles (which have audio at all).

That is software which reads an e-book out loud to you. It’s not a recorded performance, like an audiobook. It’s another means of accessing the material, like increasing the text size.

That software works with any text downloaded to the Kindle. The text does not need to be prepared: you can use it with personal documents, for example, and I’ve certainly done that.

If a publisher does nothing, text-to-speech access is available.

Some publishers choose to insert code into the file which blocks the text-to-speech software from providing access to the book in that manner.

To be clear: the publisher has to take a conscious step to make text-to-speech not work. The default position is that it works.

It is generally only the largest publishers which make that choice, and they don’t do it on all of their books (Random House used to say they blocked it on all books, but they reversed that policy).

Amazon discourages blocking: if an independent publisher using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing blocks text-to-speech, it disqualifies them from being able to get a higher royalty…they are limited to 35% instead of 70%.

However, Amazon can not prevent traditional publishers from blocking it.

Amazon does indicate if it is blocked or not on the book’s Amazon product page, although they use the language that the book is either “enabled” or “not enabled” for text-to-speech. I think that’s misleading: it’s either “blocked” or “not blocked”…nothing needs to be done to enable it. There are some books where the “text” isn’t really text, but is part of an image (graphic novels, typically). The software can’t access it then: I’d prefer the language, “blocked”, “not blocked” (or “available”, perhaps), and “unavailable”.

While I don’t need text-to-speech myself, I use it, usually for hours a week in the car. I like to say that it has changed driving time from “wasted non-reading time”. ūüôā I go through books much more quickly that way, which would seem to me to be an advantage to publishers.

I don’t purchase books with text-to-speech blocked, but that’s not so much for my own use of it. It’s because I don’t approve of the publisher blocking TTS, and I don’t want to give them money on a book where they have done so.

Similarly, I don’t knowingly link to books which block text-to-speech, since I don’t want to benefit from that link, either.

I do this because I feel that it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

Yes, some books are available for those with a certified print disability (sometimes for free). In fact, my reading of U.S. copyright law (and I’m not a lawyer, just an interested layperson) is that the publisher can only block the access if there is an accessible version available to those with certified disabilities.

It is, still, inconvenient. Accessible copies through those programs are not always available when the book is first published. They can’t always be read on an easily mobile device, like a Kindle. They can’t be shared with other family members as a book from the Kindle store can. They don’t always have the same services available (like Whispersync, letting you continue where you were as you move from device to device) that the Kindle store has.

It also has a negative impact on those who can’t prove a disability, or who have a print challenge which does not rise to the level of a legal disability.

I did e-mail the author about the first book, and I have contacted the publisher (Simon and Schuster) as well. This is what I wrote to the latter:

My Significant Other and I greatly enjoyed The Rosie Project as a Kindle store book.

I am also a blogger with one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the USA Kindle store.

I was about to recommend the first book to my readers, when text-to-speech access was blocked (subsequent to our original purchase). I do not recommend books when the publisher has made that decision.

We were quite disappointed to see that the new book (The Rosie Effect) also has that access blocked. As a result, we will not be reading the book while that is the case.

I feel strongly enough about how good the first book was that I am writing a post on the topic, to explain the situation to my readers.

Please reconsider the decision to block text-to-speech access. I believe it limits the access to people who would otherwise happily purchase a copy.

Please feel free to contact me for more information, if you like.

I also need to be clear: I completely understand why someone would go ahead and purchase the book. I do not hold it against people who do so, and I am not saying you should follow what I do here. I simply want to inform you so you can make a decision about it knowing more of the background. For more general information on blocking text-to-speech, you may find this earlier post interesting:

The Disabled Deserve to Read

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

The first book was The Rosie Project. As I mentioned, when we bought the book, text-to-speech access was not blocked. Even though it was blocked later, our version still has it. The new book is The Rosie Effect.

If you feel similarly about it, you might want to let the publisher know. This is the Simon and Schuster contact page:

http://www.simonandschuster.com/about/contact_us

While an author can influence (typically through an agent) whether or not a book has the access blocked, it is an action the publisher takes. I did inform the author on the first book, so I assume they are aware of it. Therefore, I’m not providing a direct way to contact the author in this post.

What do you think? Does whether or not text-to-speech is blocked affect your decision to buy a book? Do you need it yourself? If you are print disabled, do you ever use the Kindle’s (including the Fire’s) text-to-speech rather than your normal screen reader? What’s the experience like¬†getting accessible books through special agencies? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Last day to submit petitions for copyright exemptions

November 2, 2014

Last day to submit petitions for copyright exemptions

Monday, November 3rd, is the last day to submit petitions (you can upload them) for “Exemptions to Prohibition Against Circumvention of Technological Measures Protecting Copyrighted Works”.

The details are here:

http://copyright.gov/1201/

This is the triennial review of technological blocking of features and full works for copyrighted works.

This review is mandated under the Digital  Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

I’m not a lawyer (if you are an intellectual property lawyer, I’d welcome your comment on this post getting more technical), but here’s the basic situation as it pertains to e-books.

Publishers can insert code into an e-book file that prevents copying it or from doing certain other things to it. Using that code is often referred to as DRM (Digital Rights Management), although that’s actually a broader term.

It is generally illegal under the DMCA to “strip the DRM” so you can get around the publisher’s intended use policies.

Under certain circumstances, though, it is legal.

This review looks at changes to those exemptions…and could hypothetically add additional exemptions.

The first case that comes to mind for me, as regular readers of this blog know, would be blocking text-to-speech access.

Currently, a publisher can insert code into an e-book file which prevents text-to-speech software from accessing that text and reading it out loud.

My understanding of it, as an interested layperson, is that it is not illegal to use text-to-speech (since it does not create a copy, but it does streaming), nor is it illegal for a publisher to block the access…provided (in the latter case) that an accessible version for people with print disabilities is also available.

In other words, a publisher can block text-to-speech in the Kindle store version for most people, if a version where TTS works is available to those who can certify a disability.

I feel that TTS is not an infringing use, and I think the Copyright Office would generally agree. Let’s say, as an analogy, that publishers blocked increasing the text size to make it easier to read (I’m sure that would be technologically possible…PDFs presented as image files can’t be read by typical TTS software, for example).

Increasing the text size is a non-infringing use.

Would it be legal for the publishers to block text size increase?

Probably…but doing so couldn’t prevent the specific population of those who need larger text size to be able to access the book in some way.

Many people thought an exemption would be granted for TTS in previous “rulemakings”, and some argued that it had been (but that was, at the least, not unambiguous).

I explained that one of the rulings that led to people thinking the exemption had been granted here:

Flash! Hacking Kindle TTS still not legal

I did think that the case was just not as well presented as it could have been.

This time, the bar is lower:

“Unlike in previous rulemakings, the Office is not requesting the submission of complete legal and factual support for such proposals at the initial stage of the proceeding. Instead, in the first step of the process, parties seeking an exemption may submit a petition setting forth specified elements of the proposed exemption, as explained in the notice.”

So, you could submit a petition explaining why it should be legal to circumvent (get around) TTS blocking code, even without citing all the precedent.

A petition, by the way, does not, in this case, mean something with a bunch of signatures…think of it more as a formal request. You don’t need to get a 1,000 people to sign something by Monday to make this work.

I honestly don’t think I’ll get anything submitted this time…but if they don’t rule it as a legitimate exemption this time, I’ll put it on my calendar for three years from now!

I should be clear: people with a certified print disability can use a plug-in with Kindle for PC to make all books TTS accessible, even if the publisher has blocked the access:

Flash! Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin makes all books TTS enabled for the print disabled

However, that doesn’t mean you can read it on any Kindle devices. To the dismay of some, the current crop of Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers…non-Fires) don’t have sound at all, so they can’t do TTS, but that plug-in won’t work for Fires, either.

I’d be delighted to see a ruling that just flat out said that, whether you can certify a disability or not, it’s legal to circumvent DRM for the purpose of TTS access.

I would take advantage of it personally (I currently don’t get books that block the access…nor do I knowingly link to them on this blog), but for me, it’s more about other people. Certifying a print disability can be difficult…and it’s logistically much more complicated for a print disabled family member to get an accessible version and other members of the same family have one accessible to sight-reading. The print-disabled accessible versions often don’t come out at the same time, as just one issue.

Many people with print disabilities would love the convenience of using a

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or other device (I’d linked that one because that’s the one I personally use daily…and regularly for TTS in the car), rather than having to use a PC version or other reader. The HDX has a lot of accessibility features (audible menus, the ability to read aloud what you are touching on the screen), and would be a big plus for that group.

What would happen if they rule that it’s okay for anyone to circumvent for TTS?

I think, right away, we would see apps that could do it…and probably free ones.

Not too long after that, it’s possible the publishers would simply stop blocking it. If the block was ineffective for many people, it might not be worth the costs (it has to cost something to insert the code…and there are public relations costs) to block it.

There won’t be a decision¬†immediately, but virtual fingers crossed…

If you do submit a petition (or have already) and want to share it with me and my readers, feel free to comment on this post. If you have any other thoughts on this (Are there other exemptions which should be in place? Should publishers be able to block TTS to protect audiobook sales?), again, feel free to comment on this post.

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

* 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.

Round up #263: parody legal in the UK, Kindle case for those with grip issues

August 3, 2014

Round up #263: parody legal in the UK, Kindle case for those with grip issues

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Kindle case for those with grip issues

I have a sibling with a medical condition that makes it hard to hold on to things…lots of things get dropped.

We happened to be visiting today, and my sibling told me about a Kindle case which had been recommended in a class…and which really worked very well:

MarBlue Atlas (new) for Kindle Case, Purple (Fits Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle and Kindle Touch) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You can’t see it at all well in the product pictures, but it has a broad strap on it…roughly the size of a deck of cards (well, an almost two dimensional deck of cards).

My sibling is able to slip a hand in there, and then can even turn the Kindle upside down without dropping it.

It could be useful for a lot of people who want to make sure they can hold on to a Kindle (even in the bath, for example).

It’s $24.99 for basic colors at time of writing, and is also available with a customizable design (which could be good for gifts, or if the person is in a group living situation).

One other thing: we don’t use leather, and this one is all synthetics.

My Fire Phone tells me where to go

No, it wasn’t insulting me. ūüėČ

I’m liking my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

more as I use it more.

Today was the first time I tested it out for navigation (using the native Maps app).

It worked fine. ūüôā

I liked the timing of it…with my S4, I sometimes wouldn’t get the upcoming directions at the right time…too soon or too late. One test isn’t enough, of course, but the timing seemed quite good. It didn’t announce the next move way ahead (once I was on the right path), which meant it was less “chatty”. Oh, and if it had to re-route (because I went a different way), there was just a little chirrupy sound, and it seemed to re-route very quickly…within half a block, I’d say.

I’ve also been playing

Planet Puzzles (at AmazonSmile*)

which came on my phone. It’s a puzzle game: you have a Rubik’s Cube looking thing, and there will be two squares of the same color on it. There might be several pairs. All you have to do is “connect the dots”, coloring the squares in between, say, blue and blue.

That sounds easy…it very quickly became quite a challenging puzzle!

It has the dynamic perspective, the sort of 3D effect.

I had a New Millennial (born roughly between 1980 and 2000) relative try it (and play around with the phone). The response was good. ūüôā

August Kindle First books

The

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

books are out for August, and this time, I had an easy choice.

Prime members can choose one of these pre-release titles…not to borrow, but to own.

The choices this time are:

  • Fantasy: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Mystery: A Cold and Broken Hallelujah by Tyler Dilts
  • Historical Fiction: Portrait of a Girl by¬†D√∂rthe Binkert (translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo)
  • Romantic Suspense: Crazy for Her by Sandra Owens

I went with The Paper Magician…

If you wait until they are released (in September), you should be able to read them through Kindle Unlimited, and borrow them through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library).

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Public Domain Detective

I haven’t reported on this one yet, but the U.S. Supreme Court, according to this

BBC article

and other sources, declined to hear an emergency appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, effectively ending (at least for now) a legal battle over the copyright status of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a bit of a tricky case, but very interesting and potentially with sweeping implications (including for fan fiction, in my opinion).

It goes like this:

A lot of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain in the USA. That means that the public owns them: they are not under copyright protection. Anybody can publish them, distribute them, profit off them, and make media adaptations of them without first getting permission.

Ten of the stories, however, are not.

The estate argued that a new work which is “informed” (my term, not theirs) by the last ten stories would infringe upon their rights if unauthorized.

The suggestion was that a new work with Sherlock Holmes as a character might infringe their copyright…because those last ten stories were under protection.

The declination to rule clears the way for new Holmes works…although not, of course, for reproduction of the last ten, without permission.

In a related story, the British House of Lords has just okayed the use of parody there, according to this

The Drum article by Angela Haggerty

and other sources.

I think most Americans don’t realize our relatively freedom to parody works (which I’ve done many times in this blog).

When you parody something, you can use the original characters (even the names) if what you are doing is critiquing that work. In the USA, we see it all the time…Saturday Night Live, Mad Magazine, and so on.

That hit me years ago as the explanation for a mystery: why are so many comedians (including ones on SNL) working in the USA Canadians? John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Eugene Levy…the epiphany was that Canada doesn’t specifically have parody as a defence in copyright cases. In order to make parodies, it makes sense for them to come to the USA to practice their art. That’s not the only reason, I’m sure, but I would guess it is a contributing factor.

Another way that the UK is updating copyright laws is to make format shifting legal of items you legally own, when you do it for your own use:

Intellectual Property Office PDF

I’ve been saying for some time that the USA needs to make this explicit change as well.

Currently, it isn’t clear that it is legal for you to digitize a p-book (paperbook) you own, if it is not in the public domain…even for your own use.

Oh, the odds are that no one would come after you, of course, but you can’t judge morality and legality just on whether or not you will get caught (at least, I don’t).

The hard thing in the USA is that it might be legal…this is one of those fuzzy areas that the Copyright Office often has.

I’d like to just see a straightforward statement: format shifting for your own use of legal items (just like it is now in the UK) is legal.

It seems unlikely that we’ll get that soon, though. We need a major overhaul of copyright: I’ve suggested one possibility would be to go to permanent copyright in exchange for much greater Fair Use provisions for educational and non-profit uses. That may have been my most controversial article to date, even though I didn’t advocate for the idea, just explored it:

Should copyright be permanent?

A great example of the value of Kindle Unlimited

I was working with a physical therapist who recommended a book to me:

Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life (at AmazonSmile*)
by Michael Merzenich
4.3 out of 5 stars, 74 customer reviews

I’m guessing this will be the kind of book I won’t want to re-read.

It’s price in the USA Kindle store right now is $9.95…but I could borrow it for free as part of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

So, this month, I’ve already almost saved enough with KU to pay for itself…with one book. ūüôā

What do you think? Should it be legal to format shift books? Will the US make any major changes to copyright in the near future? If so, what would you like to see? If you are on the trial of KU, will you pay for it when that trial is up? Which Kindle First book did you pick? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

* 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.

 

89% of Canadian publishers do e-books

March 19, 2014

89% of Canadian publishers do e-books

…and everybody else is either in the process or planning to do them.

At least, that’s according to this fascinating and information packed

Booknet Canada study

As far as I’m concerned, they asked a lot of the right questions of the right people, and laid it out nicely (many pie charts, and you also get the numbers).

I’m not going to take much away from it (I recommend that you take a look), but I do want to mention a couple of things.

What are the driving forces for e-book production?

  • Increase sales: 74%
  • Accessibility: 72%
  • Customer demand: 68%
  • and weigh down towards the bottom of the list was “Mechanism to reduce costs” at 15%

That one stands out to me to because so many people think it is so much cheaper for publishers to produce e-books than p-books (paperbooks) that the consumer price should be much lower.

Way back when, I remember seeing an analysis that it was 12.5% cheaper, approximately.

People often figure that the tangible items in a process should be the most expensive part, but that’s rarely the case.

We pay humans for their efforts more than we pay the planet. ūüėČ

There’s the author, sure, and the editor and the cover artist and the marketing department, oh, and the legal department and…taxes, and more.

Certainly, it’s likely that the expense of getting a p-book somewhere has gone up in the past four or five years, so the 12.5% might have risen…but e-books are not primarily about cutting production costs for the publisher.

In terms of digital availability of print titles, 19% of the publishers had 100% available. If you look at publishers which have more than half of their p-books available, it’s about 49%.

32% of them had more than 75% of their backlist (titles which have been out for more than six months) in e-book form.

Great strides!

Now, this was something that was consistent through the study, and might be surprising.

Which of the publisher sizes were more likely to have done more in the digital world (higher percentage of books in e-book form, dedicated digital employees, and so on)?

  • Small/Indie
  • Mid-size
  • Large

Let’s see: small, nimble, adaptable, little modern speedboats, or big, lumbering, cruise ships?

Okay, that was misleading…it’s actually the large publishers!

Again, that might make some people shake their heads. That’s not the scenario which has been discussed.

I think the reason is pretty simple.

Doing something new takes money.

Large tradpubs (traditional publishers) have it.

Tradpubs can bring on a new staff of digital experts, experiment, fail, figure it out, go from there…small publishers can’t take those chances.

Let’s look at one more thing: e-book retail distribution.

  • 93% had books listed with Kobo
  • 88% had the Kindle store
  • 76% had Apple
  • 68% had Barnes & Noble
  • 67% had Sony
  • 50% had Google
  • and there were more options listed

Since this is Canada the top few were to be expected…but it intrigues me that they still have so many with Sony, and not as many with Google.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Respondent Profile
  • Dedicated Digital Staff
  • Ebook Production & Conversion
  • Fixed-Layout Ebooks
  • Ebook Bundling
  • Digital 2.0 – Digital Originals, Enhanced Ebooks & Apps
  • Digital Best Practices
  • Digital Creation and Management Tools
  • Digital Asset Management
  • Ebook Sales & Distribution
  • Libraries & Ebooks

The link I gave you above is to a free PDF.

In case you are wondering, I tend to read PDFs on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

using

ezPDF Reader PDF (at AmazonSmile)

Why do I use that instead of the Kindle app on the Fire?

Text-to-speech.

I’m usually listening to TTS in the car (I prefer that to the radio or music). The Kindle doesn’t do TTS for PDFs, unfortunately.

It wouldn’t have done me much good on this report, because of all the charts, but I’m used to using that app now. ūüôā

That’s one reason that “accessibility” as the second biggest reason for producing e-books interested me.

E-books are much more accessible than p-books for many people.

  • You can increase the text size
  • You can use text-to-speech on most commercial titles (unless the publisher blocks it)
  • You can change colors (white text on a black background helps some people)
  • The device is light, relatively. I had a relative who had someone tear the Harry Potter books into pieces, because they were too heavy to manipulate. Another relative just recently switched to a Paperwhite, due to an inability to push the physical buttons because of a medical condition
  • The Fire even has audio adaptations for some hearing challenges

Hm…here’s a cool idea for an accessibility feature that would help people like me.

I mentioned the great pie charts here. One issue is that they use colors (colors that are too close for me…I have some color vision deficiency), without labels on the slices. However, they did put the legend in the same order as the slices, so I can tell which is which.

One thing that is possible, though, is to have an option that adjusts for color vision deficiency.

They could put that on the Kindle as an accessibility option.

I can get apps through the Amazon Appstore now.

For example, this one is free:

DaltonAid (at AmazonSmile)

I can use that to look “through” my phone at something, and it adjust the color for me.

Yes, the app is compatible for the Fire: but I can’t look through my 7″ HDX (the camera only points towards you, primarily for videocalls)…and any way, I couldn’t use an app on the Fire to look at the Fire. ūüėČ

So, there’s a suggestion for you, Amazon. ūüôā

What do you think? If you read the report and something else stands out to you, feel free to come back and comment here to tell me and my readers what you think. How do you like to read PDFs on your Kindle? Would it be worth it for Amazon to add a color vision deficiency adjustment option to the Kindle, or would you prefer they not spend the money on development (after all, everything costs something)? Would you guess that Canadian publishing is significantly different from American publishing? I’m all ears…you know, except for the rest of me. ūüėČ

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

===

* 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.


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