Posted in books, Publishing, writing

Chokehold on Publishing

Huffington Post has a sobering article on the state of publishing today:

What looks like a simple price war between Amazon, Target, and Walmart over a handful of bestsellers is symptomatic of a much deeper problem in the book business. The larger fight is really over what you get to read.

One of the dirty little secrets of the book business is that publishers often check in advance with the buyers for the chain stores and mass merchandisers before agreeing to publish a book. If the answer they get is no, the book may never see the light of day.

I have to admit I had no idea the situation was THIS bad. When Target decides what I can and cannot read, it surely is a sign of the Apocalypse. We’ve got three of the Horsemen: Let’s call Walmart Pestilence, Amazon can be War, and Target can be Famine. All we need now is Death. Can’t be far behind.

Posted in books, writing

Kindle 2 does text-to-speech, but is it legal?

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?