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April 20, 2011

Libraries, Kindle Book Lending and Accessibility: What a Mystery

Amazon and OverDrive both made announcements today talking about library users being able to borrow Kindle eBooks for reading on the multitude of Kindle platforms Amazon has out in the marketplace. The Amazon press release says in part:

 

Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

 

OverDrive's release goes into a bit more detail with the gist being that things will work like other OverDrive experiences with the Kindle being a new platform for library patrons. There's not a lot of detail out yet though as you can expect.

 

As an avid book reader, supporter of public libraries and fan of technology, these announcements were met with great interest by me today. I'm left to think accessibility here is a big mystery though that I'm hoping won't turn into a tearjerker.

 

Supposedly the latest versions of the physical Kindle support enough accessibility that people who are blind can use the devices with complete independence. I've not verified this directly. That said, I have tried the free Kindle reading apps on multiple platforms and so far none have worked with the screen reading solutions on those platforms. Blog readers can feel free to correct me on this point. I'd love to be uninformed or wrong in this case. As it stands now, I'm left to wonder what Amazon, OverDrive or the public libraries intending to use this solution are going to do about accessibility.

 

At least one library took a stand saying they'd quit investing in an inaccessible eBook platform when Adobe's Digital Editions had accessibility issues. Will libraries stand up here and tell Amazon and OverDrive, "Figure out the accessibility and then talk to us about spending public tax dollars?" Or will public money be spent without considering accessibility implications yet again?

 

Some may contend libraries spend millions of dollars already on print books that have the same accessibility challenges. I argue that the situation is different here because it has been shown numerous times that software can be made accessible if the right attention and effort is put forth. As we use more electronic solutions, especially when public money is being spent, I believe we have obligations to maximize accessibility with that spending. So, Amazon, OverDrive and public libraries, it is time now to do the right thing and figure out accessibility. Library patrons, I urge you to make your wishes known and ask your library the accessibility questions now before any contracts are signed. You can bet Amazon and OverDrive will be giving the hard sell for these programs.

Posted by Kelly at April 20, 2011 6:42 PM

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Comments

I don't think that the [ physical Kindle offers COMPLETE accessibility, at least not based on the demo I heard Here's a direct link to an MP3 at http://media.libsyn.com/media/bct/bct1545Kindle.mp3

Posted by: Jennifer Sutton at April 20, 2011 8:01 PM

This is what you can see on www.blindcooltech.com: "Kindle
3/6/2011 John gallagher
describes where all the buttons and controls are located on Amazon's Kindle, then
he demonstrates and discusses the accessibility triumphs and pitfalls of this electronic
book reader.
8.5 MB"

After pointing out all of this, though, I must say that I'm guardedly optimistic since I find librarians some of the most interested people with whom I've worked on accessibility issues. If people want to make their opinions known, I suggest they comment publicly on articles and on library-related blogs, as well as speaking with their libraries about the matter. Remember, though, that libraries' budgets are being slashed at alarming rates. Finally, as I understand it, there's a Window-Eyes script that can help with accessibility to Kindle-based software on the PC. I believe that this reference to a QT script at GWMicro's App Central may be helpful, but please correct if I am wrong. See:
https://www.gwmicro.com/App_Central/Apps/App_Details/?scriptid=1225

Posted by: Jennifer Sutton at April 20, 2011 8:15 PM

Unfortunately the Kindle still isn't 100% accessible, as you need to have sighted help to turn the speech on and books can only be read if tts is inabled. Also one can't browse the store yet. As long as the person doesn't have to put in any other info and can just select the book once transfered, it should work ok.

Posted by: Mike Reiser at April 20, 2011 8:44 PM

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