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E-reader barons file FCC plea to opt out of disabled-friendly regs

'Is this an electronic book or an IPTV service' asks regulator

E-reader manufacturers have petitioned to exempt themselves from accessibility regulations applied to communication services - and the FCC wants to know what you think about that.

The claim comes from Amazon, Kobo, and Sony, who all claim that browsing or e-mail capability is just a distraction as their devices exist purely to read books, and thus can't be classed as Advanced Communication Service (ACS) and thus be saddled with the requirement of being accessible to those with disabilities.

The claim comes from Amazon, Kobo, and Sony, who claim that e-reader devices shouldn't be classed as Advanced Communication Services (ACS) because their ability to browse the internet or read email is not their primary function.

Thus, the companies say, their devices should not need to comply with disability regulations in the same way as other ACSs – such as IPTV services and other video programming technologies.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) requires that ACSs be accessible, but a paper book clearly isn't a communication service and remains closed to a blind man.

The companies argue that despite the presence of the occasional web browser, or hacked e-mail client, e-reader devices are electronic books, and that making them accessible would turn them in to tablets in all but name.

In support of the claim the companies' FCC submission (pdf, 12 pages but double-spaced) quotes adverts for the Kindle (not the Fire, obviously) and Kobo's Glo, and points out that:

Not only does the Sony Reader have 'read' in its name, it brands itself as 'Your Personal Library' and is featured in the 'ebookstore' section of the Sony website.

The submission also quotes various reviews saying how marvellous it is to have a dedicated device, and points out that anyone wanting an accessible version of the same content can use e-reading software on a tablet (perhaps a Kindle Fire) or desktop computer.

The FCC seems minded to agree, and suggests exempting devices on the condition that they have no LCD screen, no camera, are not shipped with any communications software (though they may feature a Wikipedia-friendly browser and social network integration) and are solely marketed as reading devices.

The proposal is open for public comment until September 3. ®

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