VoiceView for Kindle is Amazon’s Accessibility Solution

VoiceView for Kindle is Amazon's Accessibility Solution e-Reading Hardware Kindle When the Kindle Oasis went through the FCC last month, one of the test reports inexplicably mentioned an "iPod Earphone". This made no sense at the time (the Oasis doesn't have a headphone jack) but with today's launch of the Kindle Audio Adapter accessory that detail suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Len Edgerly has the scoop on Amazon's latest Kindle accessory, a USB dongle which you can plug into the Kindle Paperwhite's USB port and connect to a pair of headphones. Once plugged in, Kindle owners can use the new Voiceview for Kindle feature to browse the menus on their Kindle and listen to ebooks.

VoiceView for Kindle is Amazon's Accessibility Solution e-Reading Hardware Kindle

You can buy the new audio adapter as part of a bundle. It costs $140, comes with a Kindle Paperwhite, and includes a $20 credit.

Yes, it's coming first to the Paperwhite, but Amazon also plans to bring the feature to other Kindle models. There are no plans, however, to offer just TTS without the accessibility features.

In other words, you can't plug in the audio adapter just to listen to your ebooks.

Amazon announced the new accessory and feature in a blog post today:

We are excited to say that, today, we have brought VoiceView to our Kindle e-readers, starting with the Kindle Paperwhite, so that visually impaired customers can enjoy reading on our Kindle e-readers, too.

VoiceView for Kindle, which uses Amazon’s natural language text-to-speech voices (formerly known as IVONA) lets visually impaired customers read millions of Kindle books and navigate the Kindle Paperwhite via speech feedback. Like VoiceView on our Fire tablets, VoiceView for Kindle supports linear and touch navigation, and the same broad range of speech feedback rates and earcons. Likewise, we developed a tutorial with multiple lessons that users can return to at any time.

Visually impaired customers will be able to use VoiceView for Kindle with the new Kindle Audio Adapter—an Amazon-designed USB audio dongle—to connect headphones or speakers, which then allows the ability to listen to and navigate the user interface, in addition to listening to books.

Did you catch that last bit about navigation? When it comes to legally-defined requirements for accessibility, that is the ballgame.

Yes, listening to ebooks being read to you is nice, but the visually impaired also need audio cues for navigating menus and opening ebooks.  This is where the iPad excels, and where tablets and smartphones generally beat ereaders like the Kindle.

But not any more. If Amazon can live up to the promise of real accessibility then they will be able to tap into the library and institutional market that other ereaders can't touch. Remember, public libraries have been sued over inaccessible Nook ereaders, and now Amazon has an accessory which could meet the minimum requirements.

But there are no first-hand reports yet, so we'll have to reserve judgement for the time being.

Amazon

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

17 Comments

  1. Frank10 May, 2016

    Nate, you made a typo in the middle of this phrase “to yuor ebooks”.

    This feature was around included with the Kindle Fire’s Fire OS 5 and it is good it has been added to the Paperwhite.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder10 May, 2016

      Fixed it, thanks!

      Reply
  2. Tom Semple10 May, 2016

    Well. One con certainly use the audio adapter to listen to your books. It’s just that you’ll also have to listen to a lot of ‘chatter’ each time you touch the screen.

    We could see TTS (as we have known it) added back eventually, especially as I would expect a lot of people to flood kindle-feedback with such requests, now that this is out the door. But I don’t expect them to un-bundle the audio adapter until they have more field testing and have a sense of the demand.

    It’s hard to see this becoming a popular option when Fire does all this and more cheaply, so I agree it is mostly to get them contracts they would otherwise not be able to pursue.

    I’m almost curious enough to order one.

    Reply
  3. poiboy10 May, 2016

    so, instead of implementing a way to integrate audible.com content.. they want us to buy a dongle? the text-to-speech kindle 2 didn’t need a dongle. hmmmm a backstep for amazon.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder11 May, 2016

      This was developed an an accessibility team, rather than the Kindle team, so the feature set makes sense.

      Reply
      1. poiboy11 May, 2016

        agreed.. still makes no sense in 2016 that kindle couldn’t step up and make this an included device feature. but they still haven’t waterproofed the kindle yet.. so i ask too much. lol

        Reply
  4. Tom Semple11 May, 2016

    The audio adapter can now be purchased separately (requires Paperwhite 7th gen):

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZGVVG92/

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder11 May, 2016

      Thanks!

      Did you read the description? It says “test – do not use”

      Whoopsie!

      Reply
  5. Frank11 May, 2016

    The newest PW now has the 5.7.4.1 update in order to use VoiceView.

    Reply
  6. […] Amazon announced Voiceview for Kindle yesterday, many current Kindle owners were frustrated that the new accessibility […]

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  7. […] news about the new Voiceview for Kindle accessibility feature has lead many news sites to proclaim that it is Amazon's first accessible […]

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  8. […] the-digital-reader.com, e-book-news.de, techcrunch.com […]

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  9. […] Amazon launched Voiceview for Kindle on Tuesday, they announced  it with a $140 Kindle Paperwhite bundle and the […]

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  10. […] week Amazon announced Voiceview for Kindle,  an accessibility feature for blind and visually impaired Kindle owners. […]

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  11. […] isn't it? Amazon is showing no interest in adding a standalone TTS feature to its Kindle ereaders, but they have added a similar feature […]

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  12. […] have installed the update, and I can also confirm that this update did not add the Voiceview feature to my 6th-gen Kindle […]

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