Amazon said it will modify its new Kindle 2 E-book device to let authors and publishers decide if it can read a particular work aloud. Kindle's text-to-speech feature had come under fire from authors who said it trampled on their rights to sell audio versions of their books.
There was nothing illegal about the feature, Amazon insisted: "No copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given." Instead, the feature will "introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business."
Maybe. But the Kindle made audio a little too convenient, and cheap.
It seems obvious the feature would cut into sales of audio books, when they exist for a title. A friend told me text-to-speech was a big reason he wanted to buy the Kindle, even though the voices sounded tinny and mechanical in demos he'd heard.
Despite its protest of having done nothing illegal, Amazon said, "we strongly believe many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat."
Authors who don't have audio versions might be fine with the feature. But I'd be surprised those with recorded editions, or the possibility of one, would let the Kindle steal their business.