Colleges say “no” to Kindle DX

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After experimenting with Amazon’s Kindle DX e-reader as a replacement for traditional textbooks, two universities have disapproved because of accessibility issues.

University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University have rejected the readers, mainly because they are problematic for blind and dyslexic users, the Associated Press reports.

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The main sticking point is the Kindle’s lack of menu navigation and note-taking features for blind users. Though the large-screen device has a “read aloud” feature for translating text to speech, the feature only applies to book text, not to the Kindle’s menus, so a vision-impaired  user would still need someone else’s help to operate the reader.

This accessibility problem landed Arizona State University in hot water last June, when The Federation for the Blind sued over discrimination. The Federation has applauded today’s decision.

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“We do not oppose electronic textbooks; in fact, they hold great promise for blind students if they are accessible,” the group said in a statement. “But as long as the interface of the Kindle DX is inaccessible to the blind … no university should consider this device to be a viable e-book solution for its students.”

The universities’ decisions are a blow to Amazon, whose $489 Kindle DX sits high above the cost of most other e-readers. Both schools said they won’t buy any more devices until Amazon makes changes.

This could prove a good opportunity for Amazon, however. Facing competition from Sony and Barnes & Noble, among others, Amazon is under pressure to revamp its existing models and maybe even knock down the price. So far, most speculation of a redesign has been around the basic Kindle, but the Kindle DX could be refreshed as well, with features that will satisfy all users, not just universities.

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