August 2010 Update: Amazon are releasing the new Kindle 3 on August 27th, 2010. It has Voice Guide which reads out menus and book listings to you and still has the text to speech feature and supersize fonts. Combine all these features and you have a pretty good eReader for blind and low vision people.
Update: Amazon are making the Kindle 2’s navigation accessible. See below for more details. This Kindle 2 FAQ is my take on the questions you might have if you’re looking to buy the Kindle 2 to help you expand what you can read and access.
March 19th, 2009 – Great Announcement from the official Amazon Kindle blog -
We’ve heard from many of our blind or vision impaired customers who are excited about Kindle 2’s text to speech technology. Some of these customers have asked that we make Kindle even easier for them by adding navigation accessible to the blind. We want to let those customers know that this is something we are working on and we look forward to making it available in the future.–The Amazon Kindle Team
The Kindle 2 is an electronic book reader – it can be used to buy and read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs. It has a text to speech feature that will read out any of your purchases or even any of your personal documents. It comes with 6 font sizes to read in if you have low vision or font size preferences. It is in 16 shades of gray – no color.
My current understanding is that –
- Kindle 2 will be absolutely great for low vision people.
- Kindle 2 will be good for blind people if they have someone with them to help them out a bit. The menus and Kindle Store in the Kindle 2 are not voice accessible.
QZERO: What should my expectations be?
AZERO: Here is a comment from Stella which sums it up very well – You OUGHT TO try it out before you buy it.
The Kindle 2 will not be usable for all people with low vision. It is not high contrast. The display is grey on lighter grey.
The largest font size is not all that large.At the next-to-largest font size I get four to five words per line.
Text-to-speech is very good but not al all like an audiobook. The speed is somewhat variable.I need a magnifier to even find the keys on the keyboard.
That said, I can read longer and without the pain I get when using a computer or trying to read even a large print book.
I highly recommend that anyone with low vision considering a Kindle 2 make an effort to try one first. This is not going to work if you rely on reverse print color or other high contrast.
Not all books will be accessible via the text-to-speech,and there is no speech for menus or for buying books
Q1: Is the Kindle 2 specifically focused for Blind People and Low Vision People?
A1: No. As far as I understand it has some great features that will really help you. However it is not a device targeted at Blind People. This means that the keyboard isn’t in Braille, and the menus and book buying experience from Amazon via the Kindle 2 are not accessible via speaking.
Q2: What are the main features of the Kindle 2 that will help me?
If you’re blind – Kindle 2 has a feature called Talk To Me that can be used to read out any book. The menus are not accessible i.e. they won’t be read out to you – So you’ll have to have someone buy books for you, and choose a book.
Using the Font Size Key you can navigate to the Read To Me feature and turn it on. I’d think that with a bit of practice you can get to the point where you can play around with the Menus a little bit.
If you have low vision – the Kindle 2 works really well. There are 6 font sizes, which correspond approximately to the following Microsoft Word standard font sizes:
1 = 7pt
2 = 9pt
3 = 11 pt
4 = 14 pt
5 = 17 pt
6 = 20 pt
And you can read Kindle 2 in any of these. Also, the eInk screen is much easier to read than computer screens. And of course you have the Read To Me feature to be able to have any book, newspaper, or any document at all read to you.
Q3: What range of books are available for Kindle 2?
A3: There are 225,000+ books, blogs, newspapers, and magazines available.
Books – I’d say approximately 200,000.
Blogs – Over a thousand.
Newspapers – 24 or so.
Magazines – around 20.
Also you can load your own documents provided you’ve converted them into Kindle format. The first two methods described here work for convertible formats like PDF, HTML, DOC document formats. Kindle 2 supports TXT, unprotected MOBI, Audible AudioBooks, mp3, and Amazon’s own AZW formats natively.
Q4: Where can I get my hands on a Kindle 2?
A4: There’s something called ‘See a Kindle in Your City’ at Amazon where you can find a Kindle 2 owner in your city and request them to let you try out their Kindle 2.
Q5: Can I play around with Kindle 2 at a store?
A5: No, unfortunately Kindle 2 isn’t sold at any stores.
Q6: At $359, Kindle 2 is too expensive – I can’t afford it. Can i get it cheaper?
A6: Well, I’m not aware of any way to get it cheaper. I do know that since books are cheaper for the Kindle 2, that might offset some of the cost of the Kindle 2 down the line.
Q7: Where can I buy a Kindle 2? What If I don’t like it?
A7: You can buy a Kindle 2 at Amazon. There’s a 30 day return policy – So you could return it if it doesn’t work for you. Note that the 30 days is from shipped date (as far as I understand).
Q8: When is Amazon going to make the Kindle more accessible?
A8: No idea. I haven’t heard any plans and requesting Amazon directly would be your best bet.
Q9: What if I’m color-blind?
A9: Kindle 2 only has 16 shades of gray and no colours – so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Leave your questions, and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.