Friday, February 27, 2009

Amazon bows to Authors Guild, to allow disabling of Kindle 2 audio feature

In a stunning move in the dispute between Amazon and the Authors Guild over the legality of a text-to-speech feature in the new Kindle 2 e-reader, Amazon announced today that it will let publishers decide whether they want the electronic device to read their books aloud. Here’s the full text of Amazon’s statement, taken directly from the website of The New York Times:

"Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business.

Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rights-holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat.

Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rightsholders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title. We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice. With this new level of control, publishers and authors will be able to decide for themselves whether it is in their commercial interests to leave text-to-speech enabled. We believe many will decide that it is.

Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books. We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading."

This story is still developing, so see reports from other news sources, including the Los Angeles Times and Reuters UK.

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