Choosing an eReader - Review of the Amazon Kindle
Amazon has recently made some improvements to the Kindle, including a new joystick that allows users to move the cursor around the text to select words and look up definitions at their leisure (the kindle will also say a word out loud for you, if you aren’t sure how to pronounce it). This also makes navigating newspapers much easier, as you can flip through headlines and jump to the desired article. Pushing down on the joystick also lists each newspaper section. As with the other e-readers, the text can be magnified to the desired size for easier reading.
Additionally, Kindle 2.0 also features unique text-to-speech capabilities that aren’t found on any other e-reader. This allows for items on the screen to be read out loud, a helpful tool for anyone with a visual or learning disability, or even ESL users. Speech can be played over the Kindle’s built-in speakers, or using stereo headphones. While this is a step in the right direction, users with visual disabilities should note that it is difficult to navigate the menus to activate this function without sighted help, and there are few controls to navigate through the text with this option enabled, aside from Play/Pause (so you cannot rewind through the text without difficulty). Additionally, the physical aspects of the device are small, somewhat cramped and can be hard to navigate for users with limited motion or significant visual disabilities. AccessWorld has an excellent review of the product from an accessibility standpoint here, which points out that, while potentially useful to users with low vision, the Kindle is not ideal for blind users.
The downside of the Kindle is that, while it does support the formats used by downloadable content from Toronto Public Library, it is not compatible with OverDrive, our download managing software, or Adobe Digital Editions, which is the software we use to manage digital rights on copyrighted materials (this is how your computer knows to delete a file after your one- or three-week loan period has elapsed). However, if you are comfortable purchasing your eBooks directly from Amazon, they can be uploaded very easily from your computer via USB, or downloaded directly from Amazon using the built-in wireless function. The kindle also features (limited) HTML browsing, and Facebook/Twitter access for passage-sharing.
Verdict: While the Kindle is definitely a cool device and unique in its use of text-to-speech functions, it is incompatible with e-content downloaded from TPL and still has a long way to go in terms of its accessibility functions.