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Old 04-23-2011, 06:58 AM   #1
Zita
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Buying unprotected EPUB ebooks? Or good text-to-speech?

Is it possible to buy recently released books as unprotected EPUB files?

My sister has visual problems and needs to have books read out. When I got a Kindle, we both thought the Text-to-Speech and Voice Guide features would enable her to use the Kindle without having to look at the screen. But Text-to-Speech isn't really good enough for those who can't use the screen - you can't slow the voice down, you can't repeat a word or a sentence, and the cursor doesn't follow the voice, so it's not easy to stop it and take it back to an earlier sentence you'd like to have read again.

Her alternative would be to listen to EPUB books on her VoiceNote device (a little computer with a keyboard but no screen that reads text to her). Its reading software is much more usable, but it will only read unprotected EPUB books.

As far as I can see, that would mean she could only use EPUBs from places like Project Gutenberg, ie old books. But she really wants to be able to read recently published books (mainly non-fiction, in particular history). Am I right in thinking that these new books would all be protected EPUBs?

Or is there another ereader available in the UK with better text-to-speech capabilities than the Kindle? I looked at the Sony ereaders, but they don't seem to have text-to-speech.

Any suggestions would be welcome! She just wants the same as the rest of us, the ability to read the latest books.
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Old 04-23-2011, 07:27 AM   #2
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Hiya,
There's a matrix of ebook properties here which includes text to speech. You may have to check out the relevant device forums for users with more day to day experience of this particular function.

Having a quick scan - it looks like the Hanlin and Hanvon models all have it but its not a common feature to other eink devices.

In this instance to be honest I'd just buy the titles you want in whatever format they are and then see apprentice alf - oh and don't forget to use Calibre for your library - cant go wrong then.

Edit: Probably worth noting that sighted users of text to speech may miss out some issues a visually impaired person would have as I'm sure your aware

Last edited by rakulos; 04-23-2011 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 04-23-2011, 07:28 AM   #3
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For the most part yes.
Do yourself a favour, and get your book rid of drm I would say.
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Old 04-23-2011, 09:34 AM   #4
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If you were in America it would be legal for you to remove the copy protection (DRM) for that purpose. I don't think there is any similar exemption under European law.
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Old 04-23-2011, 11:21 AM   #5
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And I have to derail the discussion by throwing in a minor quibble: You're not looking for unprotected books, you're looking for unrestricted books. Who are they "protected" against -- your sister who just wants to use her books? There's no protection involved, except for platform lock-in for device vendors. There are a lot of restrictions, though, which you've just run up against. Especially in your case, one shouldn't use the DRM promoters' terminology (that's conceding the field to them anyway, and just quibbling over trifles). You need unrestricted books.

As for your problem, unfortunately I don't know what the state of the UK laws is, except that it's highly unlikely that they in any way benefit the consumer. I think that's what you need to look at, though. With a device that didn't check in with its vendor regularly I'd suggest just stripping the DRM, but since the Kindle is known to communicate with Amazon (it reports on your reading, annotations, etc.) and since Amazon is known to issue commands to the Kindle (deleting books, most notably) I'd be very paranoid about doing anything I didn't want any random script at Amazon to know about.
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Old 04-23-2011, 11:41 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zita View Post
As far as I can see, that would mean she could only use EPUBs from places like Project Gutenberg, ie old books. But she really wants to be able to read recently published books (mainly non-fiction, in particular history). Am I right in thinking that these new books would all be protected EPUBs?
There aren't many publishers selling non-DRM'd ebooks, but there are some.

Baen, which focuses on science fiction & fantasy, sells all its books without DRM--and offers its entire catalog free to people with reading disabilities.

Three Press Consulting has a list of non-DRM ebook publishers; most are fiction. I put together a list of a handful more, which again, are almost all fiction.

The US has laws that allow books that aren't distributed in a format accessible to people with visual disabilities to have their DRM stripped; I don't know if the UK has any exceptions to its DRM-supportive laws.

I do know it's relatively easy to find information on how to strip DRM from ebooks. If you're only doing it for yourself (or your sister) and not redistributing the books, nobody's going to come after you for it. You have to sort out for yourself where you stand on the ethics of breaking a law if it doesn't cause any harm to break it.
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Old 04-23-2011, 12:13 PM   #7
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Have you checked out http://www.bookshare.org/

They are for the vision impaired and they have the latest books, I believe.

Good luck.
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Old 04-23-2011, 12:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zita View Post
I

My sister has visual problems and needs to have books read out. When I got a Kindle, we both thought the Text-to-Speech and Voice Guide features would enable her to use the Kindle without having to look at the screen. But Text-to-Speech isn't really good enough for those who can't use the screen - you can't slow the voice down, you can't repeat a word or a sentence, and the cursor doesn't follow the voice, so it's not easy to stop it and take it back to an earlier sentence you'd like to have read again.
Just for future reference... When I need to have things repeated much, I increase the font size so it's not too big of a chunk. Then, when I need to replay, I just stop (not pause) TTS, then turn it back on.

It starts over at the top of the page, so how far back it takes you depends on the size of the font. Some are so big it's only a sentence at a time. That would suck a lot of battery power, though, so I usually keep it so it's about 10 sentences a page.

I set TTS at slow speed from the menu - that option is only there once TTS is running.

Regarding the stripping, not a lawyer on the planet would try to go after someone who stripped DRM for accessibility reasons like this. It would be their and any pro-drm company's worst nightmare of a case and PR - would be the end of DRM for TTS for sure.
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Old 04-23-2011, 02:46 PM   #9
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Regarding the stripping, not a lawyer on the planet would try to go after someone who stripped DRM for accessibility reasons like this.
I'd be much less concerned about lawyers and much more concerned about mindless scripts that do what someone told them to do, not what someone wanted them to do. Sure, Amazon (or any other vendor who did it) would take a bath in the press when the details came out, but at that point, the damage would already be done.

I can easily see the following scenario: Some Amazon script gets, from each Kindle, a list of all books and their DRM status. It then compares the DRM status with that of the books when bought from Amazon. If it finds one that has been de-DRM'd, it outputs an automatic letter, contents of your choice, to be sent off to the person in question.

I wish I was just imagining things. I remember a case a few years ago where the MPAA sicced their lawyers on a guy who was "obviously" sharing a movie file ... based solely on the file name. The file was actually some data he'd created, and was a fraction of the size of even the smallest movie, but it had a name which could have been that of a movie (some common words that applied to both the data and the movie) so he was guilty until proven innocent, and had to come up with the money for lawyers to prove that this file was not their movie -- he had to prove a negative beyond a reasonable doubt. That was clearly done by some badly-written script, which only checked file names, not contents or even sizes, and then fired off the "pay up or else" letters based on those names.

Amazon itself is unlikely to be butt-stupid. Most human beings (with the possible exception of those who work for AT&T) are smarter than that. But scripts aren't. Scripts will do exactly what they're told to do, even when that isn't what they're supposed to do. And I'm not sure I'd trust Amazon, possibly upon request of various publishers, not to run such a script. They look so nice ... so shiny ... so impressive to management ... until all hell breaks loose. And, of course, I could be wrong about the whole intelligence thing. Amazon did, after all, go in and delete 1984 from its customers' Kindles. Short of The Gulag Archipelago, I can't think of a worse book they could have chosen.

Which is a long way of saying I'd be rather paranoid about anything involving device vendors and DRM where said vendors could do something automated, simple, and damaging. To err is human; to really foul up requires a computer. Stupidity happens. I try to avoid opportunities for automated stupidity to land me in court.
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Old 04-23-2011, 03:06 PM   #10
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I'd be much less concerned about lawyers and much more concerned about mindless scripts that do what someone told them to do, not what someone wanted them to do. Sure, Amazon (or any other vendor who did it) would take a bath in the press when the details came out, but at that point, the damage would already be done.

I can easily see the following scenario: Some Amazon script gets, from each Kindle, a list of all books and their DRM status. It then compares the DRM status with that of the books when bought from Amazon. If it finds one that has been de-DRM'd, it outputs an automatic letter, contents of your choice, to be sent off to the person in question.

[...]
I and a few others just posted about the possibilities vs the likelihood of those things in this thread:
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...00#post1506800

Regarding the OP's question, I think if she got one of those letters, she'd have lawyers lined up at her door to fight for her pro-bono. A lot of lawyers would love to be the ones to crash and burn the dcma, and a situation like this one would be a dream come true for them.

Also, as we all know, Amazon and publishers are not exactly friends these days. They are not pro-DRM, and they would undoubtedly fight publishers' subpoenas to get userdata. They aren't as PR blind stupid as publishers.
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Old 04-23-2011, 03:20 PM   #11
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I can easily see the following scenario: Some Amazon script gets, from each Kindle, a list of all books and their DRM status. It then compares the DRM status with that of the books when bought from Amazon. If it finds one that has been de-DRM'd, it outputs an automatic letter, contents of your choice, to be sent off to the person in question.
Whether the book you are reading has DRM or not is one of the things that the Kindle logs and sends to Amazon the next time you go online. So they would already have that information ready and waiting for whenever some publisher or other requests it.

Since Amazon would only be assisting in the detection and prevention of crime (in countries where DRM removal is illegal), there would be no media outcry over it. Anything that puts the copyright enforcement industry in a bad light is always ignored by mainstream media anyway.
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Old 04-24-2011, 05:56 AM   #12
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Thanks very much for your replies and all the information, links etc - that's been very helpful!

To be honest, I wasn't sure whether the DRM could be removed from EPUB files, but I see now how to find out how to do it. I've always respected the right of copyright-holders to protect their software, music and ebooks from piracy/theft etc, and so I wouldn't usually try to strip off DRM. But in this case I wouldn't have an ethical problem with doing it, since it's only to allow someone to modify their own paid-for copy of an ebook for their own use, so that they can access it on a suitable device. The copyright-holder actually gains a sale as a result, and no-one loses.

Thanks for the suggestions of places to get non-protected EPUBs. And I'd never heard of Hanlin or Hanvon readers, but I see some of them are sold by Amazon.co.uk, so that's another possibility worth pursuing.

Piper, I hadn't realised that the voice can be slowed down on the Kindle's TTS. I tried that, switched to the male voice, and then played it over the phone to my sister, who thinks it's more usable that way. We'd also had the same idea as you about changing the font size so there are fewer words on the page, making it easier to stop and go backwards to repeat sections. It hadn't occured to me though that if you go too big, it'll drain the battery faster. It's a shame Amazon haven't made the TTS a bit more usable. With just a bit more work they could have made it as usable as it is on the expensive specialist devices for those with visual impairments (like my sister's VoiceNote). It would finally have given people like her the same access to books on the same affordable equipment that the rest of us use.

Thanks again! This all gives my sister several possibilities for finding a solution that'll work for her.

Last edited by Zita; 04-24-2011 at 06:09 AM.
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Old 04-24-2011, 06:06 AM   #13
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Zita

Welcome to Mobileread ....

You will find a surprising number of books that are issued without DRM - Calibre has been mentioned as a converter (once DRM has been removed); but Calibre has a developing sister site advertising books that are DRM-free http://drmfree.calibre-ebook.com/.

Places like Smashwords and Fictionwise also sell books that are DRM-free....See also links in my signature line to stores ....

Admittedly these links will, primarily, be for fiction books and probably not what you want .......
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Old 04-24-2011, 06:09 AM   #14
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Don't forget BeWrite books, they don't have DRM and have a good selection of books.
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Old 04-24-2011, 06:19 AM   #15
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Don't forget BeWrite books, they don't have DRM and have a good selection of books.
Sorry , I forgot that one ....

Might not be non-fiction history - but the fiction history is often entertainingly good.
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