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Publishers And Campaigners Unite To Boost Text-to-Speech

A call for text-to-speech functions to be included on all electronic book platforms to improve their accessibility has been issued by a group of publishing and literary organisations.

The Publishers Association, The Society of Authors, The Association of Authors Agents and The Right to Read Alliance – itself an umbrella campaign group, whose members include The Royal National Institute of Blind People – grouped together to issue the joint statement. It recommended that speech functions, which help many print-disabled readers access a range of otherwise inaccessible e-books, “is routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, at least where there is no audio-book edition commercially available.”

Kindle 3: Better Accessibility, But Still Not Perfect

Improved accessibility features on the new Kindle 3 electronic book reader will help vision-impaired users, but do not yet go far enough to make the device fully accessible, a leading analyst said this month.

The Kindle 3, developed by the online retailer Amazon, features a display with improved contrast and an audible menu facility, ‘Voice Guide’, enabling users to select an e-book using sound and activate the device’s text-to-speech ‘Read to Me’ feature. The Kindle 3 also features a display with 50% improved contrast between the text and background, improving the readability of text for partially sighted users.


Association To Set UK Digital Format Standards

The new UK Association for Accessible Formats ( UKAAF: ) is to set national standards next year for accessibility of digital formats such as electronic books and synthesised speech, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The association, a charity formed last year, refined its work programme for the next two years at its annual general meeting in London earlier this month.

Electronic Books: The Right to Borrow

By Guy Whitehouse.

One of the last pieces of legislation passed earlier this year by the UK’s outgoing Labour government was the Digital Economy Act 2010, which, among other things, extended the Public Lending Right to audiobooks and ebooks in libraries.

This transfers out of copyright both physical hardcopy audiobooks in libraries, and audio/ebooks downloaded to an mp3 player or ebook reader on library premises; authors receive a payment from the government for each loan based on a rather complicated formula. The US does not currently have a similar scheme, following a failed attempt to introduce one in the 1980s.

Accessible e-Books “Tantalisingly Close”

Many of the barriers that currently hinder access to electronic book reading platforms by people with disabilities are easily correctable by altering the implementation of existing technologies, according to a new report.

The best practice guide on e-book accessibility was produced for the publishing industry by the Publishers Licensing Society and JISC TechDis, the disability and technology advisory agency for the education sector. Findings in the guide – which form part of a lengthier full report on the research – are based on the results of accessibility testing of e-book platforms carried out in 2009 by disability charity the Shaw Trust.

E-Book Guide Highlights Benefits And Obstacles

A guide to the accessibility benefits and obstacles of major electronic book formats, including technical formats, e-book readers and reader software, has been published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

E-book readers covered by the document ( ) include dedicated e-book readers; e-book reading software; and e-book readers for mobile phones.

Amazon Bows To Pressure On Kindle Accessibility

The online retailer is to incorporate extra accessibility features into its Kindle DX electronic book reader or ‘e-reader’, after several American universities rejected the device as a potential teaching-aid, citing inaccessibility to blind students (see E-Access Bulletin, issue 119: ).

Audible menus and an extra-large font size will be added to the new version of the Kindle DX on its release this summer. The menu feature addresses claims by Syracuse and Wisconsin-Madison universities that although the Kindle features a text-to-speech function valuable for blind users, inaccessible menus meant that such users would not be able to activate the function.

International Copyright Treaty On Accessible Formats Edges Closer

An international treaty allowing people to share accessible versions of copyright works across national borders moved a step closer last month, with an agreement by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to consult on the issue.

The 19th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), held in Geneva in December ( ), agreed to host a series of consultation meetings aimed at producing an international consensus.

UK’s First Educational e-Book Library Launched Online

The UK’s first online library of educational textbooks in a range of digital formats accessible to visually impaired students has been launched.

‘Books for All’ is a joint project between The Seeing Ear ( ), a website which provides electronic books for visually disabled people, and the University of Edinburgh. It allows authorised and registered teachers and students with visual impairments to access an online catalogue of alternative format educational books for free.

The Music Of Signs

At last month’s launch of Signed Stories ( ),
an online treasure-house of children’s stories in British Sign Language created by broadcaster ITV for free use by teachers, parents and carers of deaf children, the excitement was palpable.

G. P. Taylor, author of the best-selling ‘Shadowmancer’ series of children’s books, said the service was “the most exciting thing to happen in children’s reading since the invention of the book.”

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