February 28, 2009  ·  Lessig

adobe_read_allowed.jpg

Amazon has caved into demands from the Authors Guild that it disable the ability of the Kindle to read a book aloud. This is very bad news.

We had this battle before. In 2001, Adobe released e-book technology that gave rights holders (including publishers of public domain books) the ability to control whether the Adobe e-book reader read the book aloud. The story got famous when it was shown that one of its public domain works — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — was marked to forbid the book to be read aloud. (Here’s a piece I wrote about this in 2001).

Now the issue is back. The Authors Guild has objected because Amazon’s Kindle 2 has a function built in that enables the book to be read aloud. So when, for example, you’re commuting, you can plug your Kindle 2 into your MP3 jack and have the book read aloud.

Amazon rightly argued that this did not violate any of the exclusive rights granted by copyright law to the copyright owners. In that, Amazon is exactly right. But nonetheless, it will now enable publishers to decide whether the Kindle books they sell will permit the book to be read aloud. And of course, that includes public domain books.

So here we go again — How long till we can buy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and be told that this book “cannot be read aloud”?

But the bigger trend here is much more troubling: Innovative technology company (Amazon (Kindle 2), Google (Google Books)) releases new innovative way to access or use content; so-called “representatives” of rights owners, Corleone-like, baselessly insist on a cut; innovative technology company settles with baseless demanders, and we’re all arguably worse off.

We’re worse off with the Kindle because if the right get set by the industry that publishers get to control a right which Congress hasn’t given them — the right to control whether I can read my book to my kid, or my Kindle can read a book to me — users and innovators have less freedom. And we may be worse off with Google Books, because (in ways not clear when the settlement was first reported) the consequence of the class action mechanism may well disable users and innovators from doing what fair use plainly entitled Google to do.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    You don’t have to BUY Alice in Wonderland since it’s in the public domain

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ddQIbwrBBd0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=alice+in+wonderland#PPA3,M1

    If you want a more modern book with better typsetting and grapics, (perhaps a minimal transformation argument) then the copyright owner for the changes has an argument.

    Since there are no right owners to the original, Amazon is not going to limit it.

    Another case of Lessig on the way to becoming another Ralph Nader, except that Nader did somethings useful when young.

  • http://blogs.sun.com/blu Brian Utterback

    @steve baba
    Of course you have to buy Alice in Wonderland if you want to have it on your Kindle. Since the Kindle does not use an open format you must get your e-books from one of the participating publishers. And just as VolumeOne did, any kindle publisher is likely to protect their interests by flagging it as “do not read aloud”.

    The sad thing here is that I can sympathize with all of the people involved here. The Author’s Guild is afraid that the read out loud feature is going to cut off the revenues for audio books and so are the publishers. Amazon must bow to the wishes of the publishers because it depends on them to supply the books. And the consumers will not give up their Kindle’s because a feature that wasn’t originally available is not as useful as it might have been.

    Of course, the losers here are the consumers. Once again the big business interests are trying to mandate the actions of the consumer via oppressive licensing and scare tactics. If the value add of a true audio book performance by a trained actor/reader cannot compete with the machine reading by a piece of hardware, then the audio book industry’s time is past. But I don’t believe it. As an avid audio book listener, I highly doubt that the new feature would add much attraction at all.

  • Adrian Lopez

    Computers have featured unrestricted “read aloud” functionality for many years now. The Kindle’s read aloud feature is just another implementation of that principle, but for some reason the copyright holders feel justified in preventing what is simply another way to display the same work. They want to pretend it’s a derivative work, when in fact it’s just a temporary rendering of the work in a particular format (in this case, audio).

    I’m extremely disappointed that Amazon, like Adobe before it, has chosen to cater to the demands of book publishes at the expense of its customers. Perhaps it’s time for a law to protect the interests of the disabled? The idea of such a law wouldn’t be to force publishers to publish books in audio format, but to hold companies such as Amazon harmless for allowing its users to choose a rendering device other than a graphical display.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Almost as if code were law … :-(

    But I don’t think this is much like Google Books. It seems to me this is a DMCA/EULA type case at heart, or at least ends up as one, while in contrast Google Books is/was a bona-fide copyright issue (whether salami-slicing books added up to a copyright violation in total, or was transformative enough to be fair use).

  • Tom

    PLEASE REMOVE THE “POPULAR SEARCHES” WIDGET FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE SCREEN (WHEN USING IE).
    http://img338.imageshack.us/my.php?image=21117387.png

  • http://surf.as Mark Surfas

    If a professional speaker or the author him/herself cannot do a much better job reading the book aloud and creating a compelling experience, then the audio book does not represent a viable product.

    This concept of creating a separate product out of the same content that I have already purchased, with no value add, is what gave us the indignity of itunes charging me to create a ringtone from a song I already own.

    Silly.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    There is also the Coase Theorem – that the initial assignment of property rights don’t matter – that will likely lead to the efficient outcome if lawyers (or transaction costs) don’t get in the way.

    If a publisher is not planning an audio book (and there are no added risks to pirating a computer read version), publishers and authors will add value to their books by allowing them to be read.

    If a publisher is planning an audio edition of the book, he can deicide if computer-read versions will cut into human-read audio book sales. Forcing publishers to sell the computer-read version with the Kindle version (at $10?) is interfering in the market, which one should not do unless one has a good reason that there is some market failure.

  • example

    The Kindle is a hot mess of DRM anyway, I don’t feel too badly for them. They chose to deal directly with the rights holders, and crippled the Kindle (you can’t load your own PDFs, for example). Obviously they need lots of books to make the thing useful, and if authors aren’t happy they won’t get ‘em.

    It’s hard to imagine anyone giving up an audiobook recorded by real people for a machine voice, thought.

  • Adrian Lopez

    Forcing publishers to sell the computer-read version with the Kindle version (at $10?) is interfering in the market, which one should not do unless one has a good reason that there is some market failure.

    Forcing publishers to sell “the computer-read version”? What?!

    The audio is being generated from the exact same data stream as the text version. The only difference is the manner in which the information is rendered: as text, or as audio. There’s no separate versions here, except for the ones that Amazon will now artificially create.

  • Dennis

    I’m no expert, but it seams to me this discriminates against people with disabilities. I know people that are legally blind that require special software to read what is on the computer, in fact I am needing to use text to voice software more & more myself.

  • http://fabricio.org Fabricio Zuardi

    I think amazon’s decision to back off, and clearly state that TTS is perfectly legal was a clever move, I’ve write about it on my blog:
    http://fczuardi.tumblr.com/post/82326150/amazon-backs-off-text-to-speech-feature-in-kindle

    Sure, it would be nice to see Amazon going into a lawsuit and winning, and it would be amazing to have this precedent settled once and for all, but courts aren’t the only place to fight for innovation, they don’t move fast enough and the market can do a much better job into getting your message across (like the CC licenses did).

    The way I see it, here is what will happen:
    - Amazon implements the opt-out choice for the right-holders(not the publishers) to choose
    - most authors will allow TTS since it is just a machine robot-voice reading the text, and it is a nice feature
    - the very few authors that choose to force a restriction on a work will suffer because users will flood the book reviews with “1 stars” stating how idiot it is to try to prevent automated reading and calls for boycotts
    - the Author’s Guild gets totally discredit for it’s original bully, without the need for a legal battle and life moves on

  • http://hennessynet.com Denis Hennessy

    For me this confirms the problems with buying into a proprietary platform like kindle. We’re handing over our rights to Amazon and they’re showing that they don’t have the balls to stand for what they claim is right.

    Like the DRM’d music scene again, things will only get better when consumers vote with their wallet and wait until a vendor puts consumer rights first, instead of cow-towing to publishers in order to grab some early market share.

    Shame on you Amazon.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    Every version is artificial.
    I can buy a DVD at Target and legally watch myself.
    If I want to show at a club for money, I can’t say but it’s the same DVD.
    If I want to transform/remix, I can’t say I bought one DVD.
    And why do you people who own Kindles get a lower price on books if it’s all from the same data stream?

  • Tim James

    Much ado about nothing. I buy audio books and a key element of the entertainment value is an actor (example: Peter Coyote) reading the book with flair and feeling. I doubt if a piece of hardware in Kindle reading a script can add the entertainment value of a person being recorded that is reading the book.

  • Greg Lindahl

    Device-makers sucking up to content producers is nothing new — DVD and Blu-Ray are two big examples. Region-free DVD players are very similar to ebook readers with computer-generated audio — movies sell rights for different regions separately, book owners sell rights for audiobooks separately. But the consumer is denied fundamental rights when device-makers enforce these sorts of rules.

    In short: new day, same crap.

    It’s kinda funny to read Baba’s arguments; apparently he doesn’t believe in rights, only markets. Guess what? That’s not the planet we live on.

    – greg

  • Adrian Lopez

    @Baba:

    Your examples involve public performance and the creation of derivative works, which are exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder under copyright law. Copyright law does not, however, grant any rights with regard to the particular form in which digital works are ultimately rendered. It is no more a violation of copyright to render text as audio than it is to change the font size on my browser so that websites appear more legible.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley;;

    Brian Utterbeck, you are in error. Public domain books can be loaded on to the Kindle through a process of conversion, if it hasn’t already been converted and is available at any number of sites in Kindle-ready non-DRM format.

    And since public domain works do not have a publisher, per se, there’s nothing to stop read aloud capability with a public domain work like Alice in Wonderland.

    As for having this capability to have the book read while you’re driving, I thought this capability was more to appease the open accessibility people who have asked for tech-to-speech with the Kindle.

    Regardless, the uproar is making a mountain out of a molehill, because if you really want an audio book you’ll buy (or download) an audio book. And no, this has nothing to do with your reading books aloud to your kids. I would expect a learned law professor to know better.

    The real problem with DRM and the Kindle is that it supports a proprietary format which isn’t licensed to other readers, and which doesn’t support other formats, DRM or not, natively. This state creates a locked in system for Kindle owners. It’s rather silly, too, because you’d think Amazon would do better if it could sell ebooks to many different readers.

  • fulltext

    Again, just like with music or films, here we have the creative artist fighting for their rights, and income, and being bashed by both sides. They currently receive some monies for rights to audiobooks and are trying to preserve that income.

    The publisher of course keeps most of the money from all rights, and Amazon could care less, especially since it is selling what could be a $25 hardback reduced in electronic format for $9.99. How much of that do you think an author gets?

    This will continue to be a problem until all author contracts are rewritten with the new technology, and price points, in mind.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    If, taking your word since I don’t know for sure:

    “Copyright law does not, however, grant any rights with regard to the particular form in which digital works are ultimately rendered. “

    means that NEITHER users nor the copyright holders have “any rights” explicit in the law and it’s OK to either allow or not allow by contract.

    You need a law or court case that says something like “hard copies of books can be sold used 2nd/3rd-hand” regardless of what the publisher wants to ignore the publisher and do what you want.

  • http://www.joshchandlerblog.com Josh Chandler

    Well, if the Author’s Guild turn out to be half as good as the RIAA at making this silly mistakes then we should have a good copyright battle on our hands, I just think with the increase in E-Book sales, where have the Author’s guild suddenly found the premise to start chasing Amazon down over little niggles such as the Text to Speech!

  • http://malicelabs.com/agenda/ Arcturus Kirwin

    Well, I’ll be sure to vote with my cash and only buy books that allow TTS. I spend a LOT of money on books (I am a bookworm) and would like the ability to listen to them sometimes.

    And as for the publishers who disallow TTS, we’ll.. there’s always certain IRC channels and bittorrent networks. If they intend to fuck me over, they I likewise them, I say!

  • Adrian Lopez

    @Baba

    At this point, I don’t even understand what you’re trying to say.

    Amazon has caved in to pressure from the Authors Guild to cripple the Kindle’s capabilities. The TTS functionality is not illegal, but Amazon has chosen to side with the copyright holders’ interests over those of its customers by adopting technological measures intended to restrict use of a copyrighted work.

    For me, it’s just one more reason to completely avoid the Kindle.

  • http://www.aleax,it Alex Martelli

    “fulltext”, you ask “How much of that do you think an author gets?”. That will of course depend on the specific contract — however, as an author of books published by a tech-savvy publisher, O’Reilly, I can offer one data point: I get more royalty money when one of my books is sold in electronic format, than I do when the same book is sold in paper form. E.g., one of my books was just released in iPhone format, for $4.99 as opposed to the discounted $32.97 it costs at amazon.com in paper form — yet, even so, each copy sold of the new release yields (a bit) more royalties to me (in dollar terms, not just as a fraction) than a copy of the old one. If that was not a common and widespread situation, wouldn’t the Authors’ Guild be screaming about THAT, rather than about small change such as audiobooks royalties?!

  • http://grok2.com Grok2

    One thing I don’t get in all the argument is why nobody argues the fact that the electronic text-to-speech is not exactly “audio book” quality? For the authors or publishers to have the ability to turn off TTS doesn’t really help with audio book sales. People who buy audio books will always prefer properly prepared audio books rather than a text-to-speech electronic voice. Doesn’t anybody get this? To me it seems like the Author’s Guild is trying to protect something else in the guise of cribbing about audio book sales…Also something that people don’t seem to get is that with the Kindle, sales of the book is incremental and in addition to whatever paper books is sold — atleast in the current environment, paper versions of books still vastly outsell electronic books.

  • Greg Spira

    Grok2 – I don’t think it is impossible that technology will eventually enable a computer voice to be as good as a human reader. That being said, we’re nowhere near there yet and since virtually no one buys both an audio book and a hard copy, the Authors Guild position is absurd.

  • http://blendedpurple.blogspot.com/ purple

    I wasn’t aware that the Author’s Guild were bullies going up against defenseless Amazon.

    this seems more true: fulltext: Again, just like with music or films, here we have the creative artist fighting for their rights, and income, and being bashed by both sides. They currently receive some monies for rights to audiobooks and are trying to preserve that income.

  • http://bytesnbikes.blogspot.com/ John Gill

    As others have mentioned, this is really a hit at disabled people.

    I think more should be made of how the greed of the publishers is making their products less accessible for the disabled.

    That, and pointing out the hair splitting difference between a person reading a kindle book aloud and having the kindle read it in a synthetic voice. The former is ok (presumably because they haven’t figured out a way to charge for it yet), the latter they want to disable.

    My other pet copyright hate at the moment are the attempts to extend the duration of copyrights (mostly driven by the prospect of a lot of great music going into the public domain). I’m against any such changes, but in particular, they should not be retrospective: people published works and accepted the time limits at the time, why allow an extension now?

  • http://www.LanguageAndPeace.com Josh SN

    If I’m the author of a book, and someone sells a device that reads aloud the contents, and the program which reads aloud, because of its own limitations or my inscrutable writing style, totally mangles my meaning, emphasizes the wrong material, and otherwise gives the listener the bass-ackwards impression of what I meant, all the while the seller is making a profit passing this off as _my_ material, I’d be more than peeved. I will call this the “emphasis not in the original” argument.

    If I speak in simple sentences, and relate simple ideas, and the computer does a good job repeating it aloud, then I should get something for the extra rights associated with the dual-presentation format, which should earn the seller some extra revenue.

  • http://lastmileblog.com Tom Stitt

    Why not extend the commercial logic (or perhaps, lack of logic) of the Author’s Guild and some of the authors who have commented by requiring payment of additional royalties for any computer generated audio performance? Let’s also require publishers and authors who insist on controlling audio and want compensation from Amazon, Sony, Apple or others for computer generated audio to pay a royalty to the creators of the software that renders the audio presentation of the book. Heck, why not also require that a royalty be paid from the author/publisher share to the creators of eInk and the various electronic components that render a book for eReading. Isn’t turning bits and bytes into legible text or audio also a kind of performance? A digital performance?

    And to those who are concerned that computer generated audio subverts the creative intent of the author or publisher, I have more bad news. Sometimes I don’t read your book on my Kindle in the way that you might have imagined I should based on the paper version. I have been known to start reading chapter one (or, gasp, at any chapter of greatest interest to me) without first reading the flowery introduction that you or a respected author wrote. Sometimes I make electronic notes or set electronci bookmarks for later reference. When I think you have written something of interest to friends and colleagues, sometimes I clip that short segment and send to my colleagues. This eSharing sometimes results in my friends and colleagues purchasing the book.

    Here’s a money making idea for authors and publishers in tough times. Offer the eBook version at a substantial discount if purchased at the same time as the hardcover or paperback version. $1.99 to $4.99 would be logical price points for most bundled eBook versions. My guess is there would be a 5-10% attachment rate for eBook add-on purchases to print purchases. Yes, I can already hear the objections about how eBook/paper book bundling at these price points might create a lower value impression for a print book sold at bricks and mortar retail. Or worse, how the bricks and mortar book resellers might boycott a book if eBook bundling was the norm. So in the spirit of TARP, let’s give 50% of all eBook bundled revenue to the bricks and mortar resellers but require the bricks and mortar resellers to hire well paid, knowledgeable employees who actually like talking face-to-face with customers about books.

  • http://www.coldorbit.org etherspirit

    Let’s hope open-source hardware becomes mainstream and brings this functionality with it.

    *

  • http://www.LanguageAndPeace.com Josh SN

    Tom Stitt wrote:
    “And to those who are concerned that computer generated audio subverts the creative intent of the author or publisher, I have more bad news. Sometimes I don’t read your book on my Kindle in the way that you might have imagined I should based on the paper version. I have been known to start reading chapter one (or, gasp, at any chapter of greatest interest to me) without first reading the flowery introduction that you or a respected author wrote. Sometimes I make electronic notes or set electronic bookmarks for later reference.”

    You are welcome to read my book starting at the last sentence, and proceeding to the first, upside down, or after having first running it through Babelfish English->Chinese->French->English. I’d argue that if you have your own computer software for reading it aloud, you can do that, too.

    But, as far as I am concerned, you certainly couldn’t be able to pass off the results as something I did, as my work product. I have no control over it, so you can’t sell it labeled it as something I did.

  • Jonathan

    The Authors Guild claims blind people can’t use Kindle’s on-screen controls. As a non-owner I don’t know if this is true.

    It seems unproven as to whether the feature would increase or decrease income for authors and publishers. It would most likely undercut the business of those who read books for audio books, if the feature is good enough, but it could even increase audio book sales if people discover they like the convenience but would rather have better readers. I wonder if careful research on the impact was carried out.

  • http://www.aleax,it Alex Martelli

    Josh SN: “I have no control over it, so you can’t sell it labeled it as something I did” — well, I have no control over the typographical layout, typeface choices, etc, in which the books I write get published, yet the book as a whole IS “labeled as something I did”. There is no relevant difference between the book’s typography and it being read out loud.

    More generally, trying to tag “having your reading device render the book in audio” as somehow different from “having your reading device render the book in typographically different forms” (different typefaces, larger fonts, colors, etc), borders on the insane.

    If a reader chooses to arrange their reading of my book as happening under intense yellow light, that may strike me, the author, as a weird choice — but, it’s the READER’s choice to make, just as it would be (equally weirdly) to privately sing the book’s contents to the tune of “Mary had a little lamb”.

    For me to try to invent a new right for myself, such as, to control the color of the lighting striking my book during its reading, or to what tune those words may be privately sung, is more or less a caricature of what many “IP owners” have been trying to do for years now to fight innovation in order to squeeze every last possible cent out for themselves — by applying the laws, by distorting and bending them and having them changed in crazy ways (e.g., retroactive copyright-duration extensions), or, as in this case, by inventing completely new and non-existent laws out of the blue.

  • Anna Ravenscroft

    Does this mean it’s also illegal for my husband and I to read aloud to each other from the same book?

    If you’ve heard the text-to-speech on the kindle, you know that it’s a very different animal from an audio-book performance. There is no infringement here. The ability to have the book read-aloud when you’re in a low-light situation, for example, means that you can read and potentially buy *more* books!

    Amazon should not have caved in. But more importantly, the Author’s Guild was JUST WRONG in their demands.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    Cnet article on how

    Amazon misread book sector on speech feature

    Amazon chose to keep secret from much of the publishing sector the text-to-speech feature built into the Kindle 2.

    Instead, Amazon sprung the feature on publishers and the retailer is now taking public-relations hits that it might have avoided if it hadn’t been so tight lipped.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10184765-93.html

    For all you legal experts, even if it’s legal for two people to have sex, it’s not legal for one to force the other. You just can’t say it’s legal, but forget to add that you need permission (to have sex, to sell on Kindle, maybe to convert to audio).

  • http://twocroissants.wordpress.com Bertil Hatt

    I would prefer everyone on this tread to realise that:

    1. Amazon did this as a gesture of good will, part of a legal strategy; all the lawyers on this blog (author included) are welcome to send their understanding of the case to the identified parties. There are tons of good legal arguments to justify this: I know the ‘handicapped reader’ will work, but I’d prefer a funkier one: should pay extra to have the right to change the police font of a book.

    2. More importantly, does this have a real economic impact? I don’t thing may people based their decision to buy a book on price, and I’d try to do anything to encourage avid reader to read more, firstly because they are the main buyers, and second because sales to them are doubled by recommendations. Woudl anyone buy a TTS version alone? No, because you won’t be able to understand it. But really: does this compete against a wel recorded audio-book? On the contrary! It emphasize the quality of a professional interpretation! Showing a shitty version of your product makes is obvious to compare and trigger sales — especially for cultural goods that are so hard to evaluate. Ask Dan Ariely: between a great holiday to Paris, a great holiday to Rome and a crappy holiday to Rome, most people would prefer. . . Rome! Because it’s an easy choice.

    Offer a free sample of the audio-book with it, while you are at it: sales for audio-book will rocket! For niche material that hardly gets considered for an expensive audio adaptation, can you identify the part of your readership that cannot read, would prefer an audibook and what content to record? Not yet, but with a TTS to signal themselves, you’ll know.

    Amazon is not an enemy of publishers or authors: the more money either make, the better — and Amazon needs to make good writing an interesting carrer if they want to stay in business. It’s just a shame they have to fight against them to defend their own interests. . . Hey, but we all have kids, so it’s not uncommon to us, anyway.

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    “but I’d prefer a funkier one: should pay extra to have the right to change the police font of a book.”

    The question is not should you have to pay extra/any to change font, hear.. but do we need laws, regulations, lawyers saying one way or the other or let the market decide.

    Or in the words of Lessig, “code is law” so I guess you are screwed since the code is on the side of the copyright holder this time since it’s a closed system.

    someone above: you can have your husband read to you, but you can’t force him to. If you want to force him to you have problems, both relationship and legal

    to someone else above: Jeff Bezos was on Charlie Rose saying may Kindle books were sold (at $10) “bundled” with paper copies. No numbers given but higher than expected. Could be that people with Kindles have high incomes. Don’t know if it will hold when prices fall in future for ordinary folks. But again no reason to get into, regulate market.

  • Brendan Podger

    I have the Microsoft Reader on a number of my devices. It has TTS included. has anyone sued them yet?

  • http://gridknowledge.blogspot.com Colleen Carmean

    There’s something afoot that’s not clear, and we can only wonder why Amazon caved. The text-to-speech (TTS) capability is no different than that found in so many forms and on so many devices. The fact that the Kindle is a single-application device (book reader) shouldn’t change the legality of access to TTS.
    This is fishy. And it’s wrong. Amazon should have fought back and the Author’s Guild should be ashamed.
    The public should fight back as well, but damned if I know how.

    Larry, you’re the lawyer. Help create mass action!

  • http://fabricio.org Fabricio Zuardi

    Colleen Carmean: “The public should fight back as well, but damned if I know how.”

    I tell you how: don’t buy e-books that does not allows TTS, and while there, leave a 1-star review telling how you would rather have been kicked in the nuts before bowing to a stupid Guild that does not represent it’s members best interests.

    I tell you that this is what is going to happen and Amazon knows it, that’s why this decision to back off on the feature making it opt-out is really not a big deal, the vast majority of the authors don’t care about having TTS enabled and will not opt-out on the feature (specially knowing the potential of backlash such a restriction can cause on book reviews). See what happened to the game Spore, Electronic Arts had to review their DRM because of the hundreds of bad reviews by customers on Amazon, not because of any class action lawsuit.

    Again, the market can be more effective than regulation on cases like this, and Amazon is aware of it.

  • Haggie

    If Amazon is willing to sell an inferior product, rather than take the action necessary to build the best product possible, I am willing to forego giving Amazon my money, rather than support a company that doesn’t have its customers’ best interest at heart.

  • Nat Segaloff

    I’m a print book author who has also licensed my work to audiobooks. Would this mean that I now have to lose the audiobook part of my income? Isn’t there a difference between written works, works created for public performance, and sound recordings?

  • D Marks

    What isn’t being considered is the fact that Amazon is the owner of two audiobook publishers: Brilliance and Audible. It is not in their interest to be in competition with themselves for a potentially lucrative sector of the market. Audiobooks are currently a much larger segment of the publishing industry than ebooks. I don’t think Amazon considered the text to speech function comparable to audiobooks. But after announcing it and the issue was raised, clearly they were more than willing to backtrack. I don’t believe this is really an issue of rights or being bullied by the Author’s Guild. This is about marketing and profit margins.

  • Carlos Osuna

    No problem guys. This kind of behavior is what really created this downfall. Don’t worry, “rights owners” could just bully so long as there’s demand for their books. Kindle would end being like Napster after it became “legal”. Nobody wants an limited service to become limited after a while. Then the tides changes, and we end up getting for free, things that were available in Napster and iTunes for 1 buck (just see the new releases from bands like U2, Metallica, etc)

    In the end, we all profit and in the long run, those works that were so jealously protected by their authors will end being forgotten by the whole of mankind, being replaced by features such-as Alice in Wonderland, written by authors more interested in sharing their wisdom, than making a quick buck.

  • Adrian Lopez

    “For all you legal experts, even if it’s legal for two people to have sex, it’s not legal for one to force the other. You just can’t say it’s legal, but forget to add that you need permission (to have sex, to sell on Kindle, maybe to convert to audio).”

    What the heck are you smoking, Baba? There is no issue of force here. I don’t need a copyright holder’s permission to have a TTS device read a book out loud to me, nor do I need his permission to make a device that features TTS.

  • http://pterandon.blogspot.com Greg M. Johnson

    Okay, Lawrence, so endorse a book-reader product for us.

  • Steve Coleman

    If the Guild can say that playing the content of an ebook through a personal audio device is not legal, then what would ‘playing’ the same book contents through a brail reader be? In both cases it is merely transcribing the exact same binary contents into a medium in which certain people can use, but not the original. If one can not read a physical [e]book, and one can’t play it using audio, then what recourse would there be? No sane jury would deny a person the right to convert the purchased media into a brail readable format, yet the Guild will try to deny the audio format which serves the exact same purpose. This is clearly a double standard.

    In my case I bought the Kindle 2 to read me during my long commute each day. I did this because there is very little available in the way of audio books for subjects that I am interested in. It’s just not available, anywhere. I can’t buy what does not exist, so they are loosing sales by limiting my options. If I could buy the audio book in the first place I would not need the Kindle and I could have bought that many more audio books, but instead I have to plunk down $400 for a device that can sort-of-kind-of let me read the books I want. Go figure why the Guild wants to bury themselves as an ageing industry right when economically the writers really need the money. Their current stance is clearly not doing anybody any favours.

  • Lee

    Rights? When you buy any creative work you don’t have boundless rights. The creator has the right to restrict how the work is used in significant ways – so long as they’re upfront about it. If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it. That IS the world we live in, it’s just not consistent with how some see their purchase. They see it as ownership (it’s mine I can do with it as I please), but copyrighted work is more like a license. You don’t own it, you are purchasing the ability to use it in a prescribed manner.

    All that being said, I’m dumbfounded that the guild would want to restrict this. Does anyone want to listen to a synthetic voice read a book? Maybe as a last resort. Is it even remotely competitive to something well read? Of course not. Kindle has yet to present a compelling value proposition for the average consumer, with a fairly long ROI for most. So why would the guild, arguably the main benefactor, do something to hinder its proliferation?

    That answer is simple. Some people are not too bright. Some see lower sales and raise prices to compensate – some see a failing economy and raise taxes. There’s no accounting for foolish behavior. Just don’t subject yourself to it. Ultimately, you have money they want so if they think they can only get your money by giving in, by damn they’ll give in.

  • Chris

    Those who have observed that turning off text-to-speech discriminates against people with disabilities like blindness or dyslexia are absolutely right. Also, it’s bad business. Right now, as a blind person, I get most of my books from free services run by nonprofits or the government, so authors don’t make any money when I read their books. If I could buy a book and read it on my Kindle with text-to-speech, I would do so and the author would get royalties. I thought authors were supposed to be smart!

  • B. Good

    WHY does anyone want to buy this cr@p?? Did you look at the picture and notice the headings called “Lend” and “Give”? If I buy a paperback book, I can highlight it, dog-ear pages, tear out pages, sell it, lend it, or burn it and there’s nothing the author or publisher can do about it. (Doctrine of First Sale, IIRC) Why would I ever pay good money for something that I cannot lend, give away, transfer to another device, or heaven forbid, read aloud? People should shun this stuff until publishers and authors get serious about balancing their needs with the consumers’ needs. Besides, I can nap easily at the hotel pool with little care if someone steals my $9 paperback book or if it gets wet….

  • http://www.propertynow.com.au real estate

    Thanks for pointing that out Chris.

    Unfortunately you are not only blind but also in a minority. There just aren’t enough of you to have a marketing impact where it hurts them i.e the hip pocket. Still, I don’t know why they couldn’t make an exception and provide a product for those like yourself in addition to there normal range. From a PR perspective alone it would be a home run.

    Andrew. Australia

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