Amazon Yields To Kindle Text-To-Speech Objections - InformationWeek

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Amazon Yields To Kindle Text-To-Speech Objections

At issue are the payment royalties for e-books vs. audio books, which are currently more valuable than e-book rights.


Amazon's Kindle 2

Amazon's Kindle 2
(click for larger image)

Amazon.com is giving individual copyright holders the option of turning off the text-to-speech capability within in the Kindle 2, the latest version of the online retailer's electronic-book reader.

While insisting the feature is legal, Amazon said it would make the technical changes needed to let copyright holders on a title-by-title basis enable or disable the feature that reads the content to the user.

"We strongly believe many rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat," the company said in a statement released Friday.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times titled "The Kindle Swindle?" Authors Guild president Roy Blount Jr. objected last week that Amazon wasn't paying writers for the audible rights of their works. The retailer does pay royalties to authors and publishers each time a person downloads a book.

Blount said e-books are not popular among mainstream consumers, but audio books have grown to a billion-dollar market, and sales continue to rise. "They are more valuable than e-book rights," Blount said. "Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat."

Despite yielding to the guild's concerns, Amazon said it believed text-to-speech introduced new customers to the convenience of listening to books and would thereby grow the audio-books business. "Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books," the company said. "We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading."

The guild's position drew heat from the National Federation of the Blind, which said the guild's position would make it more difficult for blind people to access audio books. The Kindle is among the most popular consumer electronics on Amazon.

Blount said American copyright laws provide for free audio to the blind, and the guild supports technologies that expand the availability of audio books to the blind. The Kindle, however, is not a device built for the blind, he said.

Amazon released the latest version of its e-reader, called the Kindle 2, a week ago. The device is slimmer and includes more storage than the original version. The Sony Reader is a major competitor.

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