Kindle 2 – Accessibility Features Reviewed

My new Amazon Kindle 2 arrived at work on Friday afternoon, and as promised – I am going to review the accessibility features from my perspective (I am legally blind). But first, a few first impressions about the device.

1. The device was provisioned to my Amazon account and ready for me out of the box. The only thing I had to do was plug it in to let the battery fully charge. No need to sync with a computer, no setup wizard, nothing. Simple as simple can be.

2. It is very thin – about 3/8 of an inch.

3. It doesn’t have a cheap or plastic feel to it (like I was afraid it might). It gives you the impression that it is well built and will hold up for many years. It would be nice if Amazon provided a case (I have already ordered one).

The two main accessibility features I wanted to look at on the Kindle 2 were the font size adjustment and the text-to-speech functions. The text-to-speech has attracted quite a bit of press in the last week. Seems rights holders are complaining they will lose out on proceeds of audio book sales. So I’m going to take these issues out of order and jump right into the speech reader function.

I have purchased many audio books in my life. I have also used various text to speech engines. While speech engines have improved over the years, there is still a major difference between the two. The speech functions of the Kindle 2 offer one male and one female voice, and it does allow for playback speed adjustment. But that’s about it. Here is a sample of the female voice. As you can tell, this is nothing like the polished “human” voice you get in a true audio book.

Amazon has decided to let individual publishers decide whether or not to enable the speech function for individual book titles. I think this is a chicken shit approach. Grow a pair Amazon – stand up for what is right here. I for one plan to keep my Audible account in addition to using my Kindle (yes, I know Amazon owns Audible). The world as we know it isn’t going to fall apart because of this one new feature.

Moving on to the adjustable font size. It is extremely easy to adjust the font size. Just press the text key – it’s the one labeled “Aa” to the right of the space bar. One important note – this only works when reading content. If you try this from the home screen you will get a message that says, “Sorry, you can only change the size of text while reading content.” How strange. Why did Amazon give us the ability to increase font size everywhere on the device except the home screens and menus? Did they not consider that to be important? Well, I suppose if your eyesight is good enough to navigate the menus (like mine), then you will probably appreciate the larger fonts when you are actually reading a book. I’ve included a picture below that demonstrates the largest font size the device supports. It is quite adequate for my needs.


  1. your Sister said,

    February 28, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

    So you like it?

  2. jdbarney said,

    February 28, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

    Yes – I like it. Just a little disappointed over Amazon’s decision to let publishers decide whether or not to allow the text to speech function. Then again, I just finished the first chapter of “The Shack” and I didn’t use that function (even though it is available).

  3. Mom said,

    February 28, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    It sounds like Kindle 2 will suit your needs, John. Somehow, I’m a bit disappointed that the text to speech version isn’t going to be available for every book.

    Waiting to hear what you think of “The Shack”…We will be discussing it at our Casitas book club on March 10th. There are many good discussion guides on the web for this book. I’m looking forward to some good conversation and, perhaps, a bit of controversy.

  4. The Human Factor » Blog Archive » Amazon’s Kindle: A case for accessible design said,

    November 3, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    […] paper equivalents (this is also an important feature for those with dyslexia). As one legally blind Kindle owner explains, the text-to-speech functionality is also a very important accessibility feature – while […]

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