Amazon has uploaded the manual to the Kindle 3, which will ship later this week. This iteration of the popular book reader includes a new voice guide feature to read menus and some book information. In looking at the manual, its implementation is a mixed bag. We've converted the manual to a plain text format which is linked to this post. Read on for some initial impressions. \
According to the manual, Voice Guide is a new experimental feature which will read all menus and some information about the current book. According to an example from the manual, the current position in a book will be announced when it is opened. It is unclear if other information such as battery power or connection status will be similarly spoken.
One area where the manual itself does well is the description of the unit itself. It gives the location of the keys and plugs in relationship to each other, making it seemingly simple for a blind person to orientate themselves to the unit. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the descriptions of many of the unit's functions, such as this description on how to turn on Voice Guide.
To turn Voice Guide on or off, follow these steps: 1.If you are not already on the Home screen, press the Home button. 2.Press the Menu button. 3.Move the 5-way to underline "Settings" and press to select. 4.Press Next Page to go to Page 2 of Settings. 5.Move the 5-way to underline "turn on" or “turn off” next to the "Voice Guide" setting and press to select.
It is unclear whether the menus wrap or not. If they don't, these instructions could be easily modified to give the exact key presses to turn on this feature. Many Kindle settings can also be changed from Amazon's website, but it is unclear if Voice Guide is one of these settings.
As for text-to-speech, the implementation seems to leave much to be desired. One can control the speed and volume of the text being read as well as play or stop the reading with a hotkey. There is no mention, however, of the ability to read by line, word, or character. Also, the ability to highlight passages or view popular passages highlighted by others appears to also be inaccessible.
Many of these features, including Voice Guide, are listed as experimental, and Amazon includes an address for Email feedback regarding these features. Many of the issues surrounding the current device could be solved with firmware updates, and perhaps this will occur. We'll post more about Kindle 3 as we learn about it. Meanwhile, go check out that manual.Source: Go to source
i remain unimpressed with Amazon's sorry efforts regarding accessibility. Unless and until they quit giving in to publishers who are supposedly afraid of the tts losing them audio book sales, I will not buy a Kindle reader. With the recent decision from the librarian of Congress clarifying certain aspects of the copyright laws, there is no longer any excuse for Amazon and publishers to be able to get away with denying legitimate access needs of people who can't read the regular print. Does Amazon and its publisher clients who choose to turn off tts honestly believe that any sighted person who can read the text is going to put up with the lousy tts if they don't have to? If so, they're not living in the same universe I am. I don't know a sighted person who would stand for text to speech in its current state if they had another option. So the publishers' arguments are bogus.
Jeff.young Thursday, 26-Aug-2010 7:32 PM ET:
I'm glad to see some blind people bying the kindle to let us know about accessibility. If it is indeed accessible and half of the book can be read with TTS thats more than Ibooks provides. However, ibooks is completely accessible.
mary Saturday, 28-Aug-2010 2:18 PM ET:
While it is true that the number of Kindle books is far greater than the number of IBooks, I feel that part of the reason has to do with Amazon's heavy-handed tactics, read threats against publishers, or publishers using that as an excuse, not to mention absurd fears, real or otherwise, expressed by some publishers that enabling the tts will cut in to audible book sales. For those folks who think its just fine that Amazon continues to let publishers off the hook by allowing them to turn off tts, how will you feel after you've purchased the Kindle and purchases books that turn out to be totally inaccessible to you? Good luck getting refunds. Good luck not feeling like you've just been had. I would applaud amazon's efforts if they would drop this nonsense about letting the tts real out loud feature be disabled at the whim of publishers, especially since you don't get to know in advance if its been turned off, and therefore will almost surely get stuck with totally unusable materials and/or have a major hassle trying to get your money back. But the real bottom line is, this sets a bad precedent to let publishers decide what we may and may not have access to, especially if Amazon is going to turn around and claim that their device is now accessible, and therefore, universities and other institutions who have objected to its inaccessibility might now feel that they can expect students to use Kindle as their textbook access device. Far better to support IBooks, which are, as a previous commenter noted, totally accessible.
J.J. Sunday, 29-Aug-2010 7:13 PM ET:
Mary, as we've pointed out previously and as you can tell by looking at the book pages on Amazon's site, you are told of the text-to-speech setting on a book before you purchase it. Unfortuantely, this renders a lot of your argument a moot point. Apple, like Amazon, and like just about any multinational corporation will do all sorts of heavy-handed tactics to get their way. Amazon certainly isn't the only one.
Sam Monday, 30-Aug-2010 06:40 AM ET:
Unfortunately, large corporations do try and force their own way. However, as a member of the blind community who consumes products, I refuse to take it sitting down, just because, ‘Every corporation does it.’ So, the Administrator's sanguine attitude towards Amazon's heavy handed tactics towards the blind community makes me suspicious as to who is paying the bills, here. Amazon is happy to provide a barely accessible product to the blind community for testing purposes? Why bother when there are plenty of companies like Humanware and Freedomscientific who can give them all the help they could ever want, if they just ask. Give me a finished product. I’m not your lab rat. And if you want a lab rat, give it to me for free so I can provide you feedback. Until then, ibooks, here I come.
J.J. Monday, 30-Aug-2010 10:44 AM ET:
I'm by no means saying the Kindle is perfect. In fact, I won't be saying much of anything until I receive a unit for testing, which by the way, was not given to us by Amazon. I do think a comparison of Kindle and iBooks and Blio if it ever comes out would be quite appropriate. It's just important we hold all of these corporations to the same standards.
rcarrick Monday, 20-Sep-2010 3:06 PM ET:
A friend of mine and I who are totally blind purchased the new Kindle. Yes, it is not 100% accessible, however, I am currently reading a book and have no problems whatsoever doing so. No, you can't move characgter by character or wrd by word, but that sint' something I'd want to do anyway. I plan to offer Amazon a lot of feedback. The voices appear to be Paul and a somewhat digitized Samantha. Amazon could improve this device a lot by offering TTS shortcut keys, so maybe this will happen in the future.
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.