I wasn’t fired up by Kindle’s initial launch largely because it only comes in white and ignores poetry. However, Kindle 2 looks more interesting. It’s thinner, lighter and offers more features including a text to audio function. The text to audio function allows users to hear books instead of reading them. It’s worth pointing out that Amazon who own and sell Kindle (in the US at least), also sell audio books. In fact Amazon accounts for 95% of the on-line audio book market.
This didn’t sit right with the Authors Guild (of America). Their executive director reckons that Amazon, “don’t have the right to read a book out loud. That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” Of course, parents reading to their children or children reading to their parents are covered under “fair use” so parents/children don’t have to pay an audio fee.
Evidently the Authors Guild’s executive director is not visually impaired or a working parent which a hectic schedule which means sometimes it’s just easier to hear books than read them. Has anyone successfully ironed a shirt and held a book at the same time?
Amazon didn’t have a problem with the audio feature because they clearly see the audio book market as a different segment to the Kindle market. The former likely to be people prepared to pay for a professional reader who can voice characters and vocalise the nuances of the original text because they want the audio instead of a book. The latter likely to be early adopters of gadgets who don’t mind that a computer can only do male or female for the whole book and will not voice characters or vocalise the nuances of the original text because they want the audio as an optional extra and still want the book to read.
Amazingly, Amazon backed down and have decided that authors and publishers will decided whether or not the text to speech feature should be allowed for Kindle downloads of their books. I wonder how many will insist it’s turned off.