Amazon lets authors mute Kindle books read-aloud feature

March 1, 2009
A man holds the new Amazon Kindle 2 at an unveiling event at the Morgan Library & Museum February 9, 2009 in New York City. Amazon is yielding to concerns of authors by letting them selectively silence a read-aloud feature in Kindle 2 electronic book readers that hit the market in February.

Amazon is yielding to concerns of authors by letting them selectively silence a read-aloud feature in Kindle 2 electronic book readers that hit the market in February.

The US Authors Guild had warned that the new Kindle feature could pose a "significant challenge" to the publishing industry and hinted at possible legal action by saying they were studying the matter closely.

"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," Amazon said late Friday in an announcement posted online.

"Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat."

Amazon said it is making modifications to allow those holding rights to written works to decide on a title-by-title basis whether to allow Kindle 2 devices to read passages aloud using text recognition software.

"We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice," Amazon said in the written release.

"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."

Amazon contends that Kindle devices encourage reading, and that the more people read the more books they will buy in an outcome beneficial to authors and copyright holders.

The Authors Guild maintained that while it considers the quality of the Kindle 2's audio feature "serviceable" it feared that Amazon was "undermining" its members' exploits in a billion-dollar audiobook market.

"Bundling e-books and audio books has been discussed for a long time in the industry," it said. "It's a good idea, but it shouldn't be accomplished by fiat by an e-book distributor."

Amazon said the experimental "Read-To-Me" feature "converts words on a page to spoken word" so customers have the option to read or listen.

(c) 2009 AFP

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6 comments

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etabeta
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2009
That is a very nice feature that was added, to let the authors block the text-to-speech engine at their will. Very useful for vision-impaired readers.
Amazon can keep this garbage.
WWill
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2009
"Amazon can keep this garbage"

Do you own one? Have you tried one? Have you heard their text to speech in real use? If not, your opinion is simply uninformed.

I do own one (two now), I have heard the text to speech in real use, and although it is not perfect, it is perfectly usable for short times (like a commute). The device itself it fantastic, I have the V1 and just bought a V2 for my wife. I read more and different things now as a consequence.
MGraser
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2009
Next course of action - "Authors ban reading aloud!" I can't believe that having their book overheard by other people is something that concerns authors. Isn't that supposed to be a good thing? I happen to read some of the books I used to like to my children. I guess that means I'm stealing from the author, right?

Let me ask - If you overheard part of a book that someone you didn't know was playing with kindle and you liked what you heard, what would you do? Would you follow that person around until the book was over? Or, would you simply ask the person what the book was they were listening to and go out and buy it?

I wish I knew who the authors were who complained so I could specifically NOT ever buy their books (yes, it's the Author's Guild, but they're representing people who complained). They don't deserve to publish.
superhuman
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2009
I can't believe that having their book overheard by other people is something that concerns authors

It's not overhearing that concerns them, they simply want to charge extra for audio books and they don't like that now people can buy cheaper ebook and listen to it using Kindle.

This is the key part:
The Authors Guild maintained that while it considers the quality of the Kindle 2's audio feature "serviceable" it feared that Amazon was "undermining" its members' exploits in a billion-dollar audiobook market.

"Bundling e-books and audio books has been discussed for a long time in the industry," it said. "It's a good idea, but it shouldn't be accomplished by fiat by an e-book distributor.
daqman
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2009
I've heard the Kindle text-to-speech feature and it isn't good but there is a point to be made here. Amazon sold a device with a text-to-speech feature that was available for all content. Having sold probably many thousands of devices they now partially withdraw that feature. No matter how poor the feature was in the first place there are possibly many people out there who took text-to-speech into consideration when they bought the Kindle. These people have been short changed.
earls
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2009
The industry's lack of generosity will cause them much suffering and trauma. Apparently some simply can't learn by example, and must experience the price of greed for themselves.

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