Cory Doctorow on the Amazon Kindle’s Text-to-Speech Feature

First off, this art­icle by sci­ence fic­tion author Cory DoctorowWho will be in con­ver­sa­tion with Gareth L Powell at this year’s Eastercon. in the Guardian shouldn’t be called ‘Authors have lost the plot in Amazon Kindle battle’. Pressure is com­ing from the Authors’ Guild and from pub­lish­ers. Both might claim to rep­res­ent authors, but wheth­er they do or not is debat­able.

Now, I hap­pen to dis­agree with that pos­i­tion because I don’t think that text-to-speech is a sub­sti­tute for audiobooks for the major­ity of listen­ers, and because the value of text-to-speech is such that people will buy enough ebooks to off­set any losses from sub­sti­tu­tion, and, most import­antly, authors who oppose this fea­ture look like grasp­ing, greedy jerks and will ali­en­ate their read­ers.

Quite apart from the infringe­ment of audiobook rights, there an access­ib­il­ity issue. Plenty of read­ers who are par­tially sighted or have dif­fi­culty read­ing will bene­fit hugely from hav­ing the text spoken aloud. This tech­no­logy has the poten­tial to bring books to a wider mar­ket. Meanwhile, those with a ves­ted interest are con­tent to arse around like mid-1990s record com­pany exec­ut­ives and the RIAA.

Cory Doctorow: Authors have lost the plot in Amazon Kindle battle | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Audio Rights and Wrongs

Paul Aitken, dir­ect­or of the Author’s Guild isn’t mus­tard-keen on a fea­ture of the new Amazon Kindle 2.0. If you down­load a book in text form, the Kindle will read it aloud.

They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, exec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is deriv­at­ive under copy­right law.”

These are Neil Gaiman’s thoughts:

My point of view: When you buy a book, you’re also buy­ing the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by any­one, read it to your chil­dren on long car trips, record your­self read­ing it and send that to your girl­friend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the abil­ity to do the voices prop­erly, and no-one’s going to con­fuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors’ soci­et­ies or pub­lish­ers who are think­ing of spend­ing money on fight­ing a fun­da­ment­ally point­less leg­al case would be much bet­ter off tak­ing that money and advert­ising and pro­mot­ing what audio books are and what’s good about them with it.

I agree entirely with Mr Gaiman — as a read­er, a listen­er and an author.

Neil Gaiman’s Journal: Quick argu­ment sum­mary

Props Daring Fireball and Boing Boing.