Amazon to Authors Guild : "Read My Lips - no new taxes" - Microsoft goes Intel

The WSJ pointed out a potential legal battle around the Kindle ("New Kindle Audio Feature Causes a Stir" - 20090210) : Authors Guild's Paul Aiken denounces the new text-to-speech feature (see "Kindle 2 v. Print") as a copyright law infringement : "They don't have the right to read a book out loud. That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."

Amazon should know : it owns Audible.com, an audiobook shop which allows downloads for every platform. But today on Amazon.com, the link to downloads on the Audible FAQ page leads to the Kindle homepage. Business is business.

Where does audio book start and audio enabler end ?

The computerized reading of an article cannot be compared to a well edited audiobook. The user experience is generally painful, and if you can get the idea of a text, it is not as if someone actually read it to you*. Text-to-speech media only makes sense for practical reasons (ie you are visually impaired, or you don't have a divergent strabismus bad enough to drive and read your e-mail at the same time).

Let's consider an article you downloaded for 10c on Kindle. You shouldn't have to pay more if you listen to it through the device's text-to-speech enabler, a mere alternative way of accessing the information you paid for. But if the text-to-speech version of the article is say a mp3 file with a life of its own, then there is a DRM issue.

No DRM issue for Stephen King : ever the early adopter for innovative distribution channels, the author proposed "Ur" exclusively on Kindle.

Meanwhile, another champion of the late XXth century seems less successful in embracing the new millenium : Microsoft's lack of vision is clearly becoming an embarrassment, and its latest move in retailing echoes more Intel's admission of failure than Apple's (over)hyped extravaganzas.

* the only case where text-to-speech beats the real thing is for my articles : some can be downloaded in text-to-speech version, and they are as nonsensical to the ear as to the eye, but at least the computerized female voice sounds much sexier than my own (not exactly your James Earl Jones, Barack Obama, or Morgan Freeman... rather inaudible dot com).

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