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Pubs start disabling TTS on Kindle books

updated 12:50 pm EDT, Thu May 14, 2009

Kindle Books Lose TTS

Book publishers have started exploiting the text-to-speech kill switch feature enabled by Amazon for Kindle books, reports show. At least 40 e-books from Random House, including major titles from Toni Morrison and Stephen King, can no longer use the Kindle 2's TTS feature to read the books aloud. Random House hasn't officially announced the move on its own.

The restrictions were prompted by concerns from the Author's Guild that TTS violated author's rights for audiobook performances. Its head and publishers argue that TTS is nearing the quality of a real, human performance and that authors are therefore either entitled to extra royalties or else should have the right to switch the feature off. Amazon initially resisted but made it optional later.

Challengers of this view, however, note that text-to-speech doesn't involve a human performance of the book and contend that current technology is not nearly as capable of replicating the human voice as suggested. Most such technologies often have difficulties with complex formal names and lack stress on particular words.

Concerns have also been raised that the Author's Guild position sets a dangerous precedent for any device capable of converting the text of a digital book to speech, such as the voice reading features in Mac OS X and Windows.

by MacNN Staff



  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I would have really thought Random House would have sent out a huge press release announcing this move, too. You almost get the impression they're trying to keep it quiet for some reason...

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    it sucks... be blind.I guess Amazon discriminates against certain segments of the population and it allows the Publishers it contracts with to bully it into doing so.Good for them!

  1. carloblackmore

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Mac TTS is very natural

    If you live in the world of MS Windows then yes, text-to-speech is FAR from replicating anything that remotely sounds like a human voice; Kindle borrows that same horrible robotic MS voice.

    But the default text-to-speech voice available on Macs is surprisingly natural - it even mimics inhale/exhale breaths for paragraphs. So I could easily see this becoming a concern to authors in the near future.

  1. ricardogf

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Authors should just shut the f*** up. It's amazing that they base their arguments on de facto considerations, instead of on a coherent and consistent legal rationale. They allow it when it's not that good, but forbid it when it's "natural" sounding? Just STFU and stop presuming that copyright is an absolute right of ownership. It's NOT and was never meant to be (at least until the stupid DMCA was enacted by moronic US legislators, of course).

  1. ZinkDifferent

    Joined: Dec 1969



    MacNN's habit recently of aiming for a hipper way of writing headlines, by mimicking the way Variety writes about the movie industry is getting more than annoying... Products don't 'bow', and publishers aren't 'Pubs'.

    At first glance the headline implied that British pubs restricted the TTS, since it interfered with other patrons (a reasonable objection) - then I note it's just MacNN trying to be cool...

    Here's a suggestion - be accurate, and reliable, then worry about 'cool'.

  1. Eldernorm

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I think that all "text speakers/readers" must cease and desist since their voice mimics mine. And any work that they do will decrease my work since they are mimicking my voice. Or they could all pay me when they read a book for audio books. Just a thought. en

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "...stop presuming that copyright is an absolute right of ownership. It's NOT and was never meant to be..."

    and who, according to you, does own it?

    as someone who made a big chunk of cash two years ago on a copyrighted work i'm most curious as to whom i should be sharing that with.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: huh?

    as someone who made a big chunk of cash two years ago on a copyrighted work i'm most curious as to whom i should be sharing that with.

    Well, me, obviously.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    testudo, i'm going to give you a thumbs up on that one. the first, and most likely the last, i'll give to you. there's just no denying that when i got the check i thought to myself, who would appreciate some of this? and you sprang to mind.

  1. Velshar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Too far

    So, a person has already spent $10 bucks to purchase a book that cost virtually nothing to produce. And, now they can't have someone (or something) read it to them?

    So, if a parent reads a book to their kids, is the author entitled to royalties because they lost money on the audio version?

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