Authors Guild to Amazon Kindle: Shut up

Robotic reader riles writer

47 Reg comments Got Tips?

Amazon's new eBook reader, the Kindle 2, was just announced on Monday, but it's already drawing complaints from the publishing industry.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Kindle 2's Text-to-Speech capability is being called a copyright violation.

The WSJ quotes Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, as saying: "They don't have the right to read a book out loud." According to Aiken: "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."

Amazon has said that Kindle 2's Text-to-Speech feature makes it possible for the device to "read any book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you."

However, Amazon also notes that the feature uses text-to-speech technology, which no one would ever confuse with the dulcet tones of an author or actor's recitation in a recorded audiobook.

In addition, text-reading capability is already built into modern computer operating systems, such as the Text-to-Speech capability in Windows XP and Vista, and Apple's VoiceOver, which was greatly improved in the current version of Mac OS X, aka Leopard. If you want a computer to read to you, you've been able to do so for years.

Text-to-speech is an assistive-technology boon to the visually impaired, but we defy anyone to endure Moby Dick being read by a computerized voice if there were any other way for them to discover Ahab's fate.

In our opinion, Mr. Aiken should get a grip. Anything that increases the awareness of reading material should be welcomed by the Authors Guild, not attacked by it. ®


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