PRESS RELEASE: 7 October 2010
The Publishers Association, The Society of Authors, The Association of Authors Agents and The Right to Read Alliance today released a joint ‘recommendation to publishers’ to encourage the use of accessibility functions on e-reading devices.
The recommendation will go some way to offering people with print disabilities the same rights to access e-readers as those without disabilities, and should provide a more equal footing as sales of these devices take off in the UK.
The joint statement “recommends that text to speech is routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, at least where there is no audiobook edition commercially available”.
A result of strong partnership working between the organisations involved, it is hoped that the statement will open up as many titles as possible to those with print impairments, through the text to speech function. The advent of digital publishing offers new opportunities for titles to be provided in accessible formats via the e-readers and other devices available on the high street. Publishers are also using the increasing prevalence of these technologies to produce more downloadable unabridged editions of audiobooks and ensure that these are cost effective for consumers.
While many individual publishers have already enabled text to speech on their e-books, the signing of this recommendation brings a common base position for all publishers in the UK to achieve.
The partner organisations will continue to work together to improve access to books, including to draw up new guidelines to help trade publishers provide titles in ways which are accessible for those with different kinds of print disabilities.
Victoria Barnsley, CEO & Publisher, HarperCollins and President of the Publishers Association said: “The widespread availability and increasing affordability of e-reading devices has brought these technologies into the reach of the mainstream market. The text to speech function on new e-readers, where the device will speak the text to the reader, offers a huge opportunity to those with print impairments to access all titles published digitally. The Publishers Association has been working hard over the years, in partnership with other organisations, to help publishers make accessible versions of their titles available and we are really proud to have the opportunity to take such a big step forward with the use of new technologies to make that a reality.”
Chair of The Right to Read Alliance, Anna Tylor said:
"With the one step of enabling text to speech, publishers open up opportunities for a wide range readers who find it difficult or impossible to read standard print books, whether because of dyslexia, sight loss or another physical disability. I congratulate the members of the industry who have come together to make this recommendation possible, through understanding the issues from each others' points of view and being open to the opportunities. It is a tremendous achievement. "
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is a member of the Right to Read Alliance and Inclusive Society Group Director, Fazilet Hadi said:
"These developments have a profound significance for me and for thousands of other blind book lovers. They point to a future when blind children and adults can buy the same books, at the same time and price as their sighted friends. Ebooks with text to speech could really open up a world of reading to people who cannot read print, so I wholeheartedly welcome this recommendation: it is incredibly exciting."
Dyslexia Action is a member of the Right to Read Alliance. Head of Marketing & Communications, Jane Gallagher said:
'The option for text to speech gives the 6m people in the UK who have dyslexia another way to access books both for leisure and learning. It is difficult to function in today's society if you cannot read and adopting this technology as a standard will level the playing field a little more for those who struggle with literacy.'
Mark Le Fanu, General Secretary of The Society of Authors said:
“Authors are very conscious of the needs of the blind and partially sighted and are keen to facilitate access to their books in ways that do not undermine their ability to earn a living. We are happy to support this sensible recommendation.”
Anthony Goff, President of The Association of Authors’ Agents said:
“New technology has given the chance for print disabled people to have access to far more books through text-to-speech. It is right that they should be able to take advantage of the opportunity and agents are happy to have played their part in facilitating this.”
Notes to Editors
New advances in technology have not only helped to open up new markets for publishers, but have also offered vast new opportunities for published works to become more accessible to a wider variety of people.
It is in the interests of publishers for their published content to be available and accessible to as many people as possible. This includes the broadening of the market to those with visual impairments or other disabilities which make it hard to access traditional printed content, as a result of the leap forward in technology offered by e-readers and e-books.
The text-to-speech functionality on many of today’s e-readers offers a new opportunity to make all e-books more accessible to those who find it difficult to engage with traditional printed text products.
The Publishers Association, with the endorsement of the Society of Authors and the Association of Authors' Agents, recommends that text to speech is routinely enabled on all e-books across all relevant platforms, at least where there is no audiobook edition commercially available.
We will continue to work together with all stakeholders to identify how people with print impairments can access e-books that are not text to speech enabled.
The organisations involved
The Publishers Association
The Publishers Association is the leading trade organisation serving book, journal and electronic publishers in the UK. Our core service is representation and lobbying, around copyright, rights and other matters relevant to our members, who represent roughly 80% of the industry by turnover. Our membership is open to publishing companies that operate in the UK.
Right to Read Alliance
The Right to Read Alliance campaigns for people who have sight problems, dyslexia or other disabilities to be able to buy or borrow books which they can read at the same time as everyone else, without having to pay extra. Member organisations are all concerned with the production of material in alternative formats, either as producers or representing the interests of people who cannot read standard print books. Most are charities - there are no commercial companies involved.
Every day almost 100 people in the UK will start to lose their sight. There are around two million people in the UK with sight problems. RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk
Dyslexia Action is a national charity that improves lives through education. Its vision is a world where barriers to learning, employment and fulfilment have been removed for people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.
Society of Authors
The Society of Authors is a non-profit making organisation, founded in 1884, to protect the rights and further the interests of authors. Today it has more than 8,900 members writing in all areas of the profession.
Association of Authors Agents
The Association is a voluntary body providing a forum for member agencies to discuss industry matters, to uphold a code of good practice, and to provide a vehicle for representing the interests of agents and authors. Our members have each practiced as literary agents for a period of three years or more, are based in the UK, have a list of clients who are actively engaged in writing, and abide by our code of practice.