Buckling under blistering criticism from the Author’s Guild, Amazon has made it possible for their controversial text-to-speech feature to be disabled on its new Kindle eBook reader.
The online book-shifting behemoths have now promised to modify the Kindle 2 so that authors, publishers or any holders to a novel’s rights can decide whether the feature will be available for their work.
Frothing like an overclocked cappuccino machine in a hurricane, Roy Blount Jr, the president of the Author’s Guild, penned an editorial for New York Times last week entitled, The Kindle Swindle” where he complained that the eReader wasn’t paying paying anyone for audio rights:
“True, you can already get software that will read aloud whatever is on your computer. But Kindle 2 is being sold specifically as a new, improved, multimedia version of books — every title is an e-book and an audio book rolled into one. And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm, audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing. Audio rights are not generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book rights. Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.”
“You may be thinking that no automated read-aloud function can compete with the dulcet resonance of Jim Dale reading “Harry Potter” or of authors, ahem, reading themselves. But the voices of Kindle 2 are quite listenable.”
Although Amazon argued that their text-to-speech feature was legal as no copy was being made, no derivative work created, and no performance given, rights-owners will now be allowed to decide on a title by title basis whether to enable the function.
You can hear the text-to-speech function in action below. Although it is quite impressive, we can’t imagine wanting to hear an entire voice in such an emotionless tone.