Amazon.com said it’s tweaking the Kindle 2 software to let authors and publishers decide whether their works can be audibly played with the gadget’s text-to-speech translator.
The company is responding to concerns that authors and publishers aren’t getting compensated for auditory play of their material. It’s going to modify the system so copyright owners can decide which titles will have the feature enabled or disabled.
Amazon didn’t back down completely; its statement insists the feature is legal:
“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 rightsholders 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.”