Amazon Caves in to Authors Guild Whining

Late Friday, Amazon.com announced they would disable the Text-to-Speech feature on the Kindle for those authors who want it turned off.

Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rights holders 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.

I can understand why Amazon did this as a business decision. I still think the Authors Guild is overreacting.

The Authors Guild might want to read this enlightening post from the blog Buzz, Balls, & Hype.

Rail companies once made the mistake of thinking they were in the railroad business. They weren’t: they were in the transportation business, and the advent of the interstate highway system, which amounted to free “tracks” for long distance trucking, crushed rail transport (just as the airplane and the car devastated rail company passenger profits). Publishers who believe that a paper book and a story are the same thing, and that what consumers want isn’t stories, but rather the paper books that are currently used to deliver them, will be making the same mistake the rail companies made, with the same results.

It’s a good insightful post about the inevitability of ebooks. The change will be slow. People don’t consume books the same way they consume music. My guess is that fiction and non-fiction will migrate fairly quickly, along with textbooks, once the reader technology gets down to about $200 a device. Art books and children’s books will remain in the bookstores until the technology is able to render those full-color illustrations as accurately as a printed page. That might be a ways off.

Meanwhile, this comic from XKCD just about made this fan of the HGTTG buy a Kindle as soon as he read the last panel.

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