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Amazon and Sony lobby FCC to recognize difference between e-readers and tablets

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Kobo Arc, Glo, Mini hero
Kobo Arc, Glo, Mini hero

Three of the world's biggest e-reader manufacturers are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exempt their devices from disability laws that could change the way they operate if they were enforced. While e-readers include limited apps, Amazon, Sony, and Kobo all assert their devices are built for the purpose of letting users read books and should not have to include accessibility features implemented in tablets.

The three companies have formed a single legal entity and given it an alluring name: the Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers. It argues that e-readers do not feature LCD screens, a camera, or ship with built-in email and instant messaging apps like iOS or Android tablets, so they shouldn't be grouped in the same class as them. Under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, equipment used for "advanced communications services (ACS)" should be "accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities."

"The functional differences between tablets and e-readers have been clear and steady for a number of years."

Amazon, Sony, and Kobo believe they should not have to comply with disability laws in the same way as other ACSs — which also include IP-enabled TVs, set-top boxes, and gaming consoles, services and software — as it would detract from the core experience and push up the price. To further enhance its argument, the coalition says many Americans are now choosing to own both a tablet and an e-reader and that the differences between them are widely understood. The FCC says it needs help forming a decision and invites people to comment before its September 3rd deadline.