The first thing that popped to mind when Amazon
issued its Kindle DX
was this: textbooks! The size makes it perfect for using in place of those dusty old books, and we're guessing that most students would much rather lug around a single electronic device versus a sack full of heavy books that they'll only read a page or two from in any given class (after class is another story, right kids?).
But it seems as if not everyone is too keen on the Kindle DX replacing the textbook, and the National Federation of the Blind has today come forward to bring some attention to the matter. Both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University have elected not to rollout the Kindle DX as a means of distributing electronic textbooks (e-books) to their students, despite the fact that it features text-to-speech technology that can read textbooks aloud. Naturally, the Federation is applauding these decisions, but why? Here's the quote:
"The menus of the device are not accessible to the blind, however, making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon's Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available on the Kindle DX. Both universities have experimented with the Kindle DX to learn whether e-book technology is useful to their students. But the schools will not adopt the device for general use unless and until it is made accessible to blind students."
We guess that makes sense on some level. What good is a book reader that reads to you if you can't tell it to start reading, right? But on the other hand, it's tough to expect Amazon to make an e-reader specifically for those with damaged or no sight. We can certainly see both sides of the argument. At the end of the day, we highly doubt Amazon will take offense. What's more likely to happen is that another startup will see this as an opportunity and will fill the niche by creating an e-reader that's suited to the blind, yet not the best option for those with sight. We'll close with a quote from Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind:
"The National Federation of the Blind commends the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University for rejecting broad deployment of the Kindle DX in its current form because it cannot be used by blind students and therefore denies the blind equal access to electronic textbooks. We do not oppose electronic textbooks; in fact, they hold great promise for blind students if they are accessible. But as long as the interface of the Kindle DX is inaccessible to the blind -- denying blind students access to electronic textbooks or the advanced features available to read and annotate them -- it is our position that no university should consider this device to be a viable e-book solution for its students."