Authors Guild 1 – 0 Amazon

Well, despite stirring support from the likes of Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman, it seems like Amazon has lost its battle with the Authors’ Guild. As The Guardian reports, publishers and authors will now be able to ask for the Text-to-Speech feature of the Kindle 2 to be disabled for their works. I guess we now know who has the bigger lawyers.

11 thoughts on “Authors Guild 1 – 0 Amazon

  1. Just when the visually impaired could contemplate using a Kindle like everybody else instead of being stuck in the special-purpose device ghetto the Authors Guild wants to herd them into, the cup is dashed from their lips. And all because the Kindle voices are “quite listenable”. *Sure* they are. I appreciate that writers don’t want to be cheated, but nevertheless this makes me furious beyond words.

  2. It has been suggested that Amazon backed down because of the realization that having a Kindle able to read aloud would cut into their own business with Audible. I’ve also seen it suggested that in the long run, Amazon, not the AG, would be seen as having won this battle.

  3. It is telling that even though I hate the Kindle I find myself surprisingly on Amazon’s side on this one . . . precisely because of the rights of folks with disabilities which usually get ignored. I wonder if folks could attack this decision on ADA grounds…I’m no lawyer.

  4. I can’t find the argument at the moment, but if I recall correctly, it goes something like: Amazon, which owns Audible, realized that the speech function on the Kindle will cut into its sales via Audible. The idea is that The Author’s Guild lawsuit didn’t actually cause Amazon to change their stance, but rather provided cover for them to protect their own financial interests with Audible.

  5. Steven:

    I can accept that they may come out on top by accident, but any suggestion that they provoked the Authors’ Guild into an attack to cover their own greed smacks of conspiracy theory to me.

  6. I don’t think it is a matter of provoking the Author’s Guild. I think it is more a matter of belatedly realizing that they might be hurting their own self-interests and using the Author’s Guild attack as cover for backtracking.

  7. While it’s a lovely device due to the readability, storage, size, and efficiency. The Kindle 2 is still subject to the whim of the Author’s Guild it seems, and therefore any information that flows through the device will be ruled by a consortium of folks with an outdated view on media ownership and control.

    Publishers will control the text-to-speech feature.

    This type of feature change after the release of a product is frightening or at the very least damaging to Amazon’s market position for it’s Kindle Books.

    It amazes me that we are finding new ways to value information for it’s pertinence, quality, and timeliness on the internet but our vast riches of older written information must suffer in it’s availability due to old thinking.

    I suggest a simple solution, one media rule that rewards any media authors based on the popularity of their works as well as sociably redeeming qualities. The capitol can be generated via ads to free users, or by subscriptions to those that prefer to avoid ads.

  8. I’d be interested in knowing how many publishers will voluntarily let the text-to-speech function remain. I’m guessing just a few (Baen seems likely, given that they’ve included free text-to-speech books on free CDs in the past).

    I suspect Amazon decided they needed to pick their battles, and this wasn’t the place or (given the recession and trying to win in the war of the ereaders) the time. The more publishers go for it (and I’m presuming it can be book-by-book, so Gaiman could permit text-to-speech on his books), the better.

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