If you’ve surfed into Amazon in the last week or so, you’ve no doubt been pummeled by ads for the new Kindle 2 (which is apparently not even available yet, but anyway…).
However, a new feature in the Kindle 2 is that it can convert text-to-speech on the fly, taking any document in the device and reading it aloud in a computerized voice. There are charges that this is copyright infringement, that it is effectively the same as bundling an audio book in with the electronic text version. The Authors Guild is leading the charge that this is illegal, that it will cut into sales of audio books. From Yahoo Tech:
The challenge revolves around audiobooks, which are treated separately from printed material from a copyright standpoint. A retailer can’t record a copy of a book on a CD and sell it or bundle it along with a novel without paying a separate fee, just as buying a copy of an audiobook doesn’t entitle you to a free copy of the printed version.
Amazon (natch) disputes this, as do some legal experts. Personally, I can’t imagine that it will cut into audio book sales that much and as you know I’m no fan of the Kindle. For one thing, if I were a user of audio books I don’t think I’d want to listen to the computerized voice for an entire book. I can see if you forget your glasses you might use this feature, but really I can’t imagine anyone much WANTING to use it all that much. If you typically use audio books, wouldn’t you prefer to listen to a human voice reading your book to you? I just don’t see it as a substitute.
I’m sure there are many aspects of this I haven’t thought of. Opinions?