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 Group protests Kindle e-reader's read-aloud limits

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Date posted: 07/04/2009

A group representing the blind and other people with disabilities protested limitations to the new read-aloud feature on Amazon.com Inc.'s latest Kindle electronic reader Tuesday, arguing that the restrictions unfairly limit their access to e-books.

The feature, which reads text in a stiff-sounding electronic voice, is still available for all books on the new Kindle, which was unveiled in February. But the Authors Guild has expressed concern that the feature will hurt sales of audio books, so Amazon plans to give publishers and authors the ability to silence the text-to-speech function for their books.

That is what prompted the newly formed Reading Rights Coalition, whose supporters include the National Federation of the Blind and the American Association of People with Disabilities, to stage what it called an "informational protest" outside the office of the Authors Guild in New York.

The protesters shouted "We want access sooner" and "Stop the greed, we want to read."

Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said the protest was the first of several to come around the country, in the hopes that Amazon will change its stance. The group started with the Authors Guild because it "caused the trouble" with the text-to-speech feature, Maurer said.

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