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The Kindle 2.0 Book Reader - Facts and Accessibility

  • Published: 2009-09-19 (Rev. 2014-02-05) - Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information and facts on Kindle version 2.0 including accessibility features for blind and vision impaired.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is a series of e-book readers now in their fourth generation, which enable users to shop for, download, browse, and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other digital media via wireless networking.

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"The new Kindle plays audio over stereo speakers, making one wonder if music downloads are a potential in the future."

The Kindle version 2.0 is what version 1.0 might have been. The product is a mere 0.36 inches thick and has buttons that tilt inward making it less likely to bump the edge and advance to the next page. It has a new sixteen-shade gray-scale screen that presents black and white images as well, and simply works better.

Amazon's Kindle 2 E-Book Reader

There is no more scroll wheel that moved faster than the screen refresh; instead it has a joystick that lets users move the cursor around the text to select words and lookup definitions if they choose. Newspapers are easier to get around, and you can push the joystick either to the right or left to scroll through headlines or articles and, 'jump,' to them. Users can also push down on the joystick to produce a listing of all the newspaper sections.

Kindle version 2.0 has a text-to-speech ability which reads items on the screen out loud. While it lacks intonation, the voice used produces a better quality of sound than the robotic voice version one of Kindle used. The new Kindle plays audio over stereo speakers, making one wonder if music downloads are a potential in the future. Users can also plug in stereo headphones.

Kindle 2 book reader from Amazon
Kindle 2 book reader from Amazon
The contents available to Kindle users include two-hundred and thirty-thousand books which sell for less than ten dollars, to include one-hundred and three of the top one-hundred and ten New York Times best-sellers. Amazon has also expanded its selection of both magazines and newspapers available for Kindle, as well as the number of blogs that are available for automatic updates. The Kindle version 2.0 is available for $359. What follows are some of the specifications for Kindle version 2.0.

Amazon is making the Kindle version 2.0 accessible, although there is debate over the level of accessibility. Kindle can be used to purchase and read books, newspapers, blogs and magazines, has a text-to-speech feature, and comes with six font sizes that aid users to read if they have a preferred font size or low vision. The Kindle has sixteen shades of gray, but no color. Some people believe that the Kindle will be great for people with low vision, or those who are blind if they have assistance from someone. The menus and Kindle Store are not voice accessible.

It is suggested that people, 'try before they buy,' where the Kindle is concerned. Kindle version 2.0 is not something that is suitable for everyone with low vision, in part because it is not high contrast - the display is gray on lighter gray. The largest font size is not really all that large; the next-to-largest font size presents four to five words per line. While the text-to-speech is quality, it is not like an audio-book. The speed is somewhat variable. Some people will need a magnifier in order to find the keys on the keyboard. Persons who rely on high contrast or reverse print color will not be able to use a Kindle. Not all books are accessible through text-to-speech on the Kindle, and there is no speech for menus or for the purchasing of books.

The Kindle is not specifically focused for persons with low vision or those who are blind. While the Kindle does have features that will assist those who have these forms of disabilities, it is not specifically targeted at persons who are blind. The keyboard is not in Braille, and the menus and book purchasing experience through Amazon via Kindle are not accessible through speech. If you are a person with a vision impairment, Kindle version 2.0 has a feature called, 'Talk To Me,' that may be used to read out a book. The menus themselves will not be read out to you, so you will require the assistance of another, sighted person in order to purchase books for you, as well as to choose the book itself.

Persons with low vision may find that Kindle version 2.0 works well. There are six font sizes that correspond closely to Microsoft Word standard font sizes. The keys on the Kindle associated with these font sizes are as follows:

The, 'eInk,' screen is easier to read than many computer screens. Users can also load their own documents once they have been converted into Kindle formats such as PDF, HTML, or DOC formats. Kindle 2.0 also supports TXT, unprotected MOBI, AudibleBooks, MP3, and Amazon's AZW formats.

Disability Rights Advocates, as well as several additional organizations which comprise the Reading Rights Coalition, are working in conjunction with each other to enhance the accessibility of the Kindle. Many people with disabilities were happy to learn that the Kindle version 2.0 includes a text-to-speech feature, but their joy has been short-lived because the Authors Guild promptly pressured Amazon to remove the audio feature from Kindle due to concerns that it would interfere with sales of AudioBooks. Amazon's response was to allow each publisher to decide whether the text-to-speech feature would be available for their titles.

Several publisher, to include Random House, have already told Amazon to turn text-to-speech off, cutting off a resource related to people with disabilities and a channel of mainstream media access. Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and additional members of the Reading Rights Coalition are working to get Amazon to reverse this policy. It seems that Random House prefers greed over people.

Laura Porco, Amazon's Director of Kindle Books, stated that the company is working with three of the top five textbook publishers to make educational materials available in the Kindle store. These textbook publishers include Pearson, Cengage Learning and Wiley, along with more than seventy-five University Press Publishers. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) does not think the Kindle has gone far enough. The e-book reader's menus and controls are not audio accessible to persons who are either visually impaired or blind. The NFB believes that deployment of the Kindle in colleges and universities would violate both state and federal laws which require equal access to textbooks and course materials for students with disabilities.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the NFB stated, "We are appalled that Amazon is releasing a new Kindle device ostensibly for the use of students that does not contain features that make it accessible to the blind. Amazon [should] introduce a user interface for the Kindle that is accessible to the blind as soon as possible. Until [then], no college or university should deploy this device. Although the Authors Guild claims that it supports making books accessible to the blind, its position on the inclusion of text-to-speech technology in the Kindle 2 is harmful to blind people." Dr. Marc Maurer has urged Amazon to make the Kindle more accessible by simplifying its controls.

Accessibility requirements need to be catered end to end. Accessibility features and provision can be of help only if they are implemented in a manner which is both accessible and usable. There is no such thing as, 'Partly-accessible.' An item is either completely accessible, or it is inaccessible. A blind student pursuing a degree in journalism as ASU, Darrell Shandrow, stated:

"Not having access to the advanced reading features of the Kindle DX - including the ability to download books and course materials, add my own bookmarks and notes, and look up supplemental information instantly on the Internet when I encounter it in my reading - will lock me out of this new technology and put me and other blind students at a competitive disadvantage relative to our sighted peers. While my peers will have instant access to their course materials in electronic form, I will still have to wait weeks or months for accessible texts to be prepared for me, and these texts will not provide the access and features available to other students. That is why I am standing up for myself and with other blind Americans to end this blatant discrimination."



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