Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Kindle 2 week - part 4: the Authors Guild and the read-aloud feature

One interesting feature of Amazon's Kindle 2 is its text to speech function, or in other words Kindle 2 can read books aloud. This has also become an issue of dispute between Amazon and the Authors Guild.

Roy Blount Jr., the President of the Authors Guild explained in a column on the New York Times ("The Kindle Swindle?") that the Guild has a problem with the fact that although Amazon is paying royalties to the authors and publishers for the ebooks sold through the Kindle 2, it is not paying anyone for audio rights. The Guild said Amazon doesn't have the right to essentially turn e-books into audio books.

Blount Jr. explained that "What the guild is asserting is that authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books."

Even though the function is actually based on a robotic voice reading the books and not professional readers like we usually have on audio books, it looks like Amazon decided not to fight the Guild ant to look for a compromise.

And it found one. The LA Times reported on February 28 that "Amazon lets publishers and writers disable Kindle 2's read-aloud feature".

Amazon, according to the article, said "it had already begun to alter its systems to give publishers and authors the choice to disable the text-to-speech function, and that they could decide for themselves whether it was in their commercial interests to leave it enabled."

We'll have to wait and see now how many authors and publishers will choose to leave it enabled and how many will cancel the option to hear a friendly robotic voice reading their story.

What we had on Kindle 2 week so far:

Part 3 - How much money it will make?

Part 2 - Bezos on the Daily Show

Part 1 - David Pouge and the final battle

Raz @ Eco-Libris