Amazon Limits Kindle 2's Text-to-Speech Feature

When it comes to the new Kindle 2, publishers will decide whether or not you will be able to use the new text-to-speech feature on their books. Amazon.com has decided to allow copyright owners to opt out of the feature, but may not be telling everyone the real reason why they're limiting one of the new reader's most attractive features.

"Kindle 2's experimental text-to-speech feature is legal" asserts Amazon at the start of a Friday announcement. Despite this claim, the company is clearly concerned about how the publishing industry views the feature and the potential copyright implications, and is willing to cede some control.

"We strongly believe many rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat," the document reads. "We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice."

Could a publisher successfully sue a company for selling a machine that reads written text out loud? Most likely no. But publishers and authors don't need to go to court to threaten Amazon, which needs their cooperation to make Kindle a success. And those publishers and authors have their own audiobooks to sell -- often through Amazon.

If Amazon has been threatened, the company isn't saying so. "It's our practice not to comment on any discussions with other parties," Director of Communications Drew Herdener told the Industry Standard in an email exchange.

And if there are no threats, why the change? "We just believe rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat," Herdener explained.

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