Several friends in the last few days have sent me messages from Author's Guild and/or news stories from Publisher's Weekly about the message from AG concerning the fact that the Amazon Kindle 2 will read e-books to you. I can sum up my reaction in one question...
Would anyone be offended, if I called this man an idiot?
Oh, you want more definition on my reaction. Since several people have asked me to make this one a blog post, I will happily do so.
First of all, Amazon isn't EXPLOITING anyone's e-book rights. Books don't magically appear on Kindle. They are placed there by authors or publishers, and the distribution of books is a publisher's purview, if you're working with a publisher. If you don't want Kindle books, you need to discuss that with the publisher beforehand, but if they do it, expect to make a choice of not signing the contract or of accepting that it will be distributed there.
And, I've been able to have an e-book read to me by no less than three programs I can name (ReadPlease, Adobe Acrobat, and MSReader) for YEARS (at least 4 years). This is not a new development to Kindle. Nor is it somehow news that it's possible. Unless the book is a secured format, this was always possible for e-books.
Take note. It hasn't killed audio sales yet. Know why?
I can give several reasons. The people buying audio books are purchasing them for the voice actors (not the tinny computer voices, good as some of them are, and the errors in pronunciation computers make in reading), for ease of using them in Mack trucks, etc. None of these things have been effectively overcome by computer text-to-speech/voice yet.
While I have been busy making a big deal out of the fact that you can text-to-speech many e-books (not all), and they are much cheaper than recorded audio books, it hasn't caught on yet. It won't, until computer can match or exceed what they already get for quality and ease of use, and it can't yet.
If it DOES take off, it will simply mean that people who need audio books will have a much wider choice of reading material, unsecured e-book formats that may never have professional voice actors doing "real" audio books of them. And those publishers who don't want this to happen will simply have to invest in DRM that stops text-to-speech, as they already can.
This isn't the time to start negotiating your e-book rights? Snort. I'm sorry. For them (the ever-wise voices of AG), it's NEVER the time. The doom-saying these people do is fairly amazing to me. We haven't seen this sort of uproar since Gutenberg unveiled his great machine. And it's no more helpful now.
Oh, and his footnote is even more ridiculous. Blind people USE computers. Perhaps not the Kindle, but text-to-speech as a computer software is not new, and there are all sorts of accessories and software to make computers accessible to the blind. Rolling eyes.
IMO, telling the blind that they cannot use perfectly legal text-to-speech programs to read their e-books to them IS infringing on their rights to access (legally) books they bought for their own enjoyment. I'm sorry. As an author, if a blind reader wanted to enjoy my books, why would I balk at them using such a program? As long as they aren't pirating the copies (audio or e...and Kindle won't allow that), why should it be any of my business how someone "reads"/accesses a book he/she bought? It shouldn't be Author's Guild's business either.
These people should join the 21st Century for a few days.