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Letter to Concerning Restriction of Books on Specialist devices

I have recently sent the below letter to to encourage them to reconsider their decision not to allow specialist audio players for the visually impaired to play protected content which they offer to their paying members.


I am writing to express my concern that have taken the decision not to allow external devices to play your protected audio content, including specialist players specifically designed for visually impaired people.

I have used for a number of years now and have had a subscription of longstanding. My partner has a similar subscription. We both use a player from the company Humanware on which to listen to books, and this is particularly important for my partner as she has additional difficulties and spends a good deal of time alone. Audible is an invaluable service in that regard. It is fair to say in addition that your library of books gives visually impaired people an even wider choice of titles than similar libraries can hope to offer, certainly here in the UK, for which we are very grateful.

If the Victor Reader Stream devices we own which play your content currently malfunction in the months or years ahead, this will cause significant difficulty for us and many thousands of visually impaired people I am sure. Humanware this week launched a new incarnation of the Victor Reader Stream which sadly because of your business decision will not be in a position to play the content offered by your company.

In an interview conducted by me for our company’s podcast at
Humanware have given a commitment to updating their new player to accommodate Audible support if you worked with them, and I understand from a technical standpoint there is in fact no limitation on their part, especially since the existing Victor Reader Stream does allow the content to be played. It would seem that Humanware are more than willing to discuss this further with you.

If your company’s view is that other devices are available on which your content can be played (such as those running Apple’s I O S or Android platforms), so there is no need to allow such devices to play your protected books, I have to tell you that not everyone has the ability to access them. This may be due to a combination of factors, including being unfamiliar with the manner in which complex technology functions, recent loss of vision or poor coordination, to name but a small number of aspects. Becoming elderly or suffering with conditions such as diabetes often bring about loss of vision and difficulties with hand movement. Players developed for the visually impaired, such as Humanware’s product, contain a specially designed tactile interface to guard against such difficulties and to aid orientation. In short, the fact that modern technology now contains speech output in itself would not lessen the need for such specialist players to fill a great need and could in fact mean that Audible memberships and one-off purchases may no longer be possible for people because of this restriction.

I would like to thank you for reading and I would ask the company you represent to please reconsider your decision and to allow specialist devices to continue to play your ever expanding library.

With very best wishes:

Brian Hartgen