Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is the Kindle 2 Infringing on Writers' Rights?

By Anthony S. Policastro

Sometimes you just want to smack someone on the side of the head and say, “What sa madda wit you!”

This is how I feel about the Authors Guild claim that Amazon’s new Kindle 2 text to voice feature is infringing on writer’s audio book rights. (See the Wired blog by David Kravets.)

"Until this issue is worked out, Amazon may be undermining your audio market as it exploits your e-books," the guild told its members in a memo, according to Kavets.

Amazon responded with, "these are not audiobooks. Text to speech is simply software that runs on devices and reads content," according to a report in the Publishers Lunch newsletter.

Now would anybody in their right mind pay extra to hear a book read to them by a scratchy, robot-like synthesized voice as is the case with the new text to voice feature on the Kindle 2? NOT.

Audio books are rich, professionally created productions with great sounding voices, all the right intonations, flourishes of music and sound effects, and the ability to play them on any CD or MP3 player. These productions are well worth the money and the full protection of the US copyright laws.

The Authors Guild is acting like the greedy music industry executives who went to Gestapo-like tactics to prevent people from downloading free music by suing kids.

If the Authors Guild takes this issue further and some ill-informed judge rules in their favor, it will hurt writers mostly because their ebooks will cost more. And if anyone remembers marketing 101, the higher price will decrease sales and it will be a lose-lose situation for everyone.


Ricky said...

I can only agree with you on this one. There is certainly a very large difference between text-to-speech and the fantastically high quality of audio books these days.

I would never dream of listening to a text-to-speech book in replacement of an audio-book.

There is only so much computers can do - replacing the human voice and all the emotions it conveys while reading is not one of them! :-)

Anthony S. Policastro said...

Hi Ricky,
I'm told that the unabridged versions of audiobooks are just someone reading the book without music or sound effects. And there is a small number of companies that do this for the hearing impaired.

In any event, Adobe Reader also turns text into speech similar to what the Kindle 2 does.

Ricky said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Anthony.