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Authors Guild to Amazon Kindle: Shut up

Robotic reader riles writer

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Amazon's new eBook reader, the Kindle 2, was just announced on Monday, but it's already drawing complaints from the publishing industry.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Kindle 2's Text-to-Speech capability is being called a copyright violation.

The WSJ quotes Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, as saying: "They don't have the right to read a book out loud." According to Aiken: "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."

Amazon has said that Kindle 2's Text-to-Speech feature makes it possible for the device to "read any book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you."

However, Amazon also notes that the feature uses text-to-speech technology, which no one would ever confuse with the dulcet tones of an author or actor's recitation in a recorded audiobook.

In addition, text-reading capability is already built into modern computer operating systems, such as the Text-to-Speech capability in Windows XP and Vista, and Apple's VoiceOver, which was greatly improved in the current version of Mac OS X, aka Leopard. If you want a computer to read to you, you've been able to do so for years.

Text-to-speech is an assistive-technology boon to the visually impaired, but we defy anyone to endure Moby Dick being read by a computerized voice if there were any other way for them to discover Ahab's fate.

In our opinion, Mr. Aiken should get a grip. Anything that increases the awareness of reading material should be welcomed by the Authors Guild, not attacked by it. ®

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