Amazon Kindle 2.0 Text-To-Speech Feature Has Author’s Guild Using Fighting Words

Amazon had just announced the Kindle 2.0’s features and the reviews were still coming out, when Author’s Guild stated that the Kindle’s ability to read text aloud, violated copyright laws.

“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.”

But both Amazon and many casual observers were quick to point out that the Kindle doesn’t create a recording of the book being read, but rather converts text to audible speech on the fly. Hence there is not a separate version which could be passed along to another person.

And while some say that the high-quality of the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature, could reduce audiobook sales, here is my take on it. I rarely have time to sit and read a book on paper or on the screen. Ninety percent of what I ‘read’ is in audio format. Currently this means there are books that I don’t purchase, because there is no audio version. If these were titles, particularly non-fiction titles, that I wanted, I would be MORE likely to purchase them now that the Kindle has a text-to-speech capability. Hence some book’s sales could increase, not decrease because of Kindle 2.0.

At any rate, common sense and some jests about whether Author’s Guild would next challenge reading-at-bedtime as being a copyright infringement, seems to have softened Author’s Guild’s stance. Mr. Aiken’s more recent statement on the issue: “This is new, so we are reviewing it and discussing the potential implications.”

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