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Amazon makes Kindle 2 text-to-speech voluntary

updated 08:45 pm EST, Fri February 27, 2009

Amazon Kindle TTS Change

Amazon this evening said in a statement that the Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature for reading audiobooks will be strictly voluntary. The move will let individual book publishers decide whether or not individual titles can be read aloud by the e-book device and will change the book formatting to selectively disable the feature for those that object to it. The change follows objections from the Author's Guild which argued that the feature effectively violated the commercial rights of authors to charge separately for voiced editions of their books.

The online retailer maintains that the text-to-speech feature doesn't tread on the Guild's rights and believes that it would spur the growth of audiobooks by encouraging people to use the format. However, the company adds that it sees permission as a compromise between its own position and those of book publishers in the hopes that more will come to see the speak-aloud ability as beneficial.

"We strongly believe many rights-holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat," Amazon says.

Critics of the Author's Guild have pointed out that the quality of the Kindle 2's conversion still isn't strong enough to effectively replace a professional audiobook performance and thus doesn't qualify as a threat to author's rights or to existing audiobook services like Audible. They have also warned that agreeing to restrictions sets a dangerous precedent which could lead to similar warnings about operating systems and third-party apps that achieve a similar objective, such as the text-to-speech features in Mac OS X and Windows Vista.

by MacNN Staff



  1. nicedivot

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Oh well........

    I had been talking to a co-worker today that just got the new kindle and I love it! Especially the txt to speech aspect of the unit. Then I read this post so I guess I will hold off on purchasing it now. Damn.. I was going to purchase it this weekend. :-(

  1. jpellino

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Dumb move.

    A human reader is no contest with the Kindle 2 TTS.

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If I bought a K2 for the Text-2-Speech feature, I can return it? Silly collapse on Amazon's part.

  1. aspooner

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Kind of silly

    Anyone who's ever listened to a produced audiobook with a competent reader will know that text-to-speech is not the same thing--not even close.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So am I violating their commercial rights if I read a book aloud to my father? And what if someone is the "mumble while you read" type?

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If you charge your dad to listen to you, then yes: if not, no. The mumblers are also safe, if annoying.

  1. tortenteufel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    reading to dad

    Hmmmm, I think your reading to your dad will probably violate human rights.

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