Shut Up, Kindle
Rather than argue with the Authors Guild over the text-to-speech feature of its new Kindle 2 e-book reader, Amazon is modifying the device’s software to make it optional. Authors and publishers will now be able to decide if they want the function enabled or not on titles for which they own the rights. Amazon (AMZN) announced the move in a statement released late Friday afternoon, in which it also said it believes the Kindle’s text-to-speech function to be legal:
Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business. Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat.
Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rightsholders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title. We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice. With this new level of control, publishers and authors will be able to decide for themselves whether it is in their commercial interests to leave text-to-speech enabled. We believe many will decide that it is.
The move comes on the heels of a meandering New York Times editorial in which Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild, argued that the Kindle’s roboticized nondramatic book readings are a threat to the audio book market.