Kindle 2 and text-to-speech: a worry for the Authors Guild?

With the release of the Kindle 2, a new market has been born:  the text-to-speech audio book. Yes, you read that correctly…the text-to-speech audio book.  For some reason, that truly eludes me, the Authors Guild really thinks that Kindle 2’s text to speech ability is somehow a new market and the authors should get royalties from it.  Huh? 

Engadget has a short but very interesting interview with Paul Aiken from the Guild.  In it, Engadget tries, to no avail, to get a clear reason why the Guild has taken the stance that they have.  Mr. Aiken tries, desperately it seems, to make his case but it just falls flat.  At one point, he is asked about the text-to-speech abilities of both the Macintosh and Windows.  Mr. Aiken dismisses them as being something totally different.  What?  He claims that they are general purpose devices whereas the Kindle 2 is a eReader AND an audio book player.  Well, since the Kindle and Kindle 2 can also:  surf the internet and play games (Minefield is a ‘hidden’ game), doesn’t that make it a more general purpose device? 

Mr. Aiken thinks that people would be willing to pay extra for the ability to listen to the book as read by the Kindle 2.  I wouldn’t.   Nor would I want to buy an audio book created in such a manner.  I would be willing to buy an audio book if it were PERFORMED by someone.  That’s the difference between a true audio book and one that is simply translated by a machine.  Make no mistake, the difference is huge and, no matter how good the software gets, it will never replace a human who would be performing the work.  And that’s what an audio book is:  a performance by one or more PEOPLE. 

People who listen to audio books are not likely to buy an eBook for the Kindle 2 and then listen to it.  No, those people MIGHT put the audio book on the device and listen to that. 

Mr. Aiken’s ‘concerns’ about the text-to-speech abilities of the Kindle 2 is just unfounded.  Amazon has not created a new market and the text-to-speech of the Mac and Windows is, fundamentally, no different than that of the Kindle 2.

You can read the interview here.

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