The Soundproof Book: Exploration of Rights Conflict and Access to Commercial EBooks for People with Disabilities

George Kerscher, Jim Fruchterman


The electronic book should be a boon to people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the nascent eBook industry has often soundproofed its books, preventing access by people with visual and learning disabilities using adaptive technology. Persons using synthetic text-to-speech technology or electronic braille systems are not allowed access to the underlying text of the eBooks, and thus are cut off from the content. The leading eBook technology providers, Adobe and Microsoft, have provided the option to disable disability access in their publishing systems, at the request of publishers. This is not because of an explicit effort to deny access to the disabled community, but rather is due to concerns over audio book rights and enabling piracy of book content. We explore these conflicting visions of accessible eBooks and set forth the essential background for the search for a solution that meets the needs of both publishers and people with disabilities.

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