Authors Guild Wary of Kindle 2's "Text-to-Speech" Function
When Amazon.com introduced its Kindle 2 last week, one of the most touted new features of the second installment of the e-reading device was its "text-to-speech" capability. By utilizing the "text-to-speech" function, Kindle 2 will read aloud to users in an electronic voice. Users can choose to be read to by a male or female voice, and at varying speeds.
The Authors Guild, an advocacy group for writers, responded to the new feature by claiming that it could violate authors' audiobook copyrights. "This presents a significant challenge to the publishing industry," the organization wrote in a statement posted to its home page (www.AuthorsGuild.org). "Audiobooks surpassed $1 billion in sales in 2007; e-book sales are just a small fraction of that. While the audio quality of the Kindle 2 … is best described as serviceable, it's far better than the text-to-speech audio of just a few years ago. We expect this software to improve rapidly.
"We're studying this matter closely ... ," the statement continued. "In the meantime, we recommend that if you haven't yet granted your e-book rights to backlist or other titles, this isn't the time to start. If you have a new book contract and are negotiating your e-book rights, make sure Amazon's use of those rights is part of the dialog. Publishers certainly could contractually prohibit Amazon from adding audio functionality to its e-books without authorization … . Until this issue is worked out, Amazon may be undermining your audio market as it exploits your e-books."
According to the Associated Press, an Amazon spokesman said the company has the proper license for the "text-to-speech" function, which comes from Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications Inc.