Skip to main content

Philly Free Library Settles Lawsuit Over Inaccessible Nook eReaders

Back in May I reported about a lawsuit brought by the National Federation for the Blind. They were suing over some recently purchased Nook eReaders. The devices were bought with a federal grant, and as I have mentioned before the Nook is completely inaccessible to a visually impaired user.

While normally this would be an interesting story for me to cover, the settlement closely parallels the one which the Sacramento Public Library  made with the DOJ and NFB back in August. Both cases involved Nooks and both settlements involved not buying anymore inaccessible ereaders.

And since I covered the Sacramento settlement agreement as well as the surrounding technical issues in more than enough detail I do not see a reason to repeat myself.

But one thing I have learned since I last covered this issue in August was that these lawsuits had cooled the interest of at least a couple libraries. They had been toying with the idea of getting ereaders, but thanks to the lawsuits they planned to wait.

And on a related note, thanks to the changes in the DMCA exceptions announced today, the libraries who have Nooks will be able to legally remove the DRM and move the ebooks to an accessible device. So while they might lose the hardware at least the libraries won’t lose their investment in the content.

via The Digital Shift

image by Todd Barnard

Similar Articles


Paul Durrant October 26, 2012 um 4:04 am

There a problem with exceptions to the DMCA. It may not be illegal for librarians to remove the DRM from ebooks so that blind and other disabled patrons can access them, but it still seems to be illegal for anyone to distribute DRM-removal tools.

Tom October 26, 2012 um 7:51 am

Yes and make sure all your print books are also blind compliant, and don’t buy audio books unless they are deaf compliant, oh yes also make sure every laptop you have is compliant as well…

Any institution receiving federal funding does have to offer content to the blind, the deaf, the wheelchair bound, etc that it does for the "normal" people. The institution does not have to make every machine comply but does need to offer options to the blind.

There are relativity few actual lawsuits (only 4 that I am aware of) and there are no e-readers that are blind compliant (an iPad with a very expensive accessory is blind compliant).

The legal battles are around speech recognition software that allows hands free AND sight free navigation of menu options. Said soft ware is often quite expensive and as in the case I am familiar with also requires extra hardware.

The reality is schools and libraries are not required to make every door have a wheelchair ramp or every resource be available to every patron. The idea that every piece of technology needs to be compliant for every possible user is absurd.

My view is not so much negative as it is practical. I am all for elevators in libraries but lets not take out all the stairs to put them in.

Nate Hoffelder October 26, 2012 um 8:35 am

I’m pretty sure the 3rd gen Kindle is accessible. This is part of the reason why Amazon keeps it around.

Fbone October 26, 2012 um 6:36 pm

The NFB says the Kindle keyboard is not accessible. Something about the menus.
The Kindle Fire HD may be after they test them.

Nate Hoffelder October 26, 2012 um 10:12 am


And BTW, wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and elevators all add unnecessary cost to new buildings. Let’s just leave them out.

Fuck the disabled; we should just ignore the fact that they have the right under federal law to have equal access to public facilities and resources.


marque2 August 4, 2013 um 11:07 am

The point is the disabled should have reasonable access and be reasonably accommodated. As mentioned above regular books are also not all accessible to the blind, libraries have certain books available in Braille that have to be ordered. Music CD’s are also not accessible to the deaf either.

Also not every entryway is wheelchair accessible, not every stall in the bathroom is handicapable, but a reasonable number of them are.

What happens when you become overly zealous and demand absolute equality for every need, is that you end up hurting people. Who is hurt in this case. Poor people who can’t afford books and nooks and appreciate the library providing them. And it hurts kids who would otherwise not read a paper book but would read it off a cool device.

There is a point where you have to draw a line.

Nate Hoffelder August 7, 2013 um 10:23 pm

I understand.

The thing is, if the disabled had been reasonably accommodated in the first place then this lawsuit would never have happened. If, say, a third of the funds were spent on iPads then there would have been little reason for the NFB to complain.

marque2 August 7, 2013 um 10:29 pm

IPads aren’t a solution either. It costs a lot to modify them to work for the blind and even without the modifications are several times more expensive than nooks. It would be an unaffordable non solution you propose.

Libraries already offer books for the blind.

Nate Hoffelder August 7, 2013 um 11:05 pm

Cost is secondary on accessibility issues.

Wheelchair ramps are more expensive than steps but that doesn’t mean you can get away with not installing them.

And it doesn’t cost anything to modify iPads – unless you want to add a braille keyboard. But that’s not strictly necessary.

3M Cloud Library Launches New Hardware Lending Program with the Nook Glowlight – The Digital Reader October 7, 2014 um 2:00 pm

[…] the fate of the Philadelphia Free Library or the Sacramento Public Library. These libraries were sued in 2012 because they loaned out Nook ereaders, which lacked sound and thus could not be used by the […]

Write a Comment