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.