A few weeks ago, whoever the fuck the Authors Guild is proved they’re just another association filled with complete idiots unable to comprehend adapting their business model to current realities. Unfortunately, their threats to shift their industry’s revenue stream to the lawsuit market have caused Amazon to cripple the Kindle 2′s text-to-speech abilities. Now, instead of allowing the Kindle 2 to read anything aloud to visually impaired users, children, or anyone else who might need or want such a thing, this option will be up to the book publishers.
Let’s think realistically about this for a second. Amazon hasn’t removed the feature entirely, so as long as a publisher allows it, their book can certainly be read aloud in a robotic, monotone voice. Still with me on this realism thing? Okay, now tell me how many publishers are likely to do this? To be fair, we don’t know. But looking at precedents set by the digitization of music and movies, I’m guessing the number of publishers allowing that will be less than or equal to the number of independent, smaller publishers selling Kindle books through Amazon.
I really hope, though, that I’m wrong. I hope, to the bottom of my heart, that the publishing industry has about as much respect for the Authors Guild as, well, any author I’ve ever met. I would be so happy if publishers prove me wrong and universally offer the text-to-speech option, because they know that negative reinforcement doesn’t make a customer want to buy another “license” from you. But I am not at all optimistic.
I should note that my argument about the visually impaired doesn’t seem to jive with the Guild; they state in their “rights alert” thingy that “Kindle 2 isn’t designed for such use” by people with bad vision or blindness. I could question who the hell the Authors Guild is to question how useful something is for visually impaired people, but I think the National Federation for the Blind can do that better than me.
But oh well. Looks like there’s nothing we can do but fire up our BitTorrent clients in protest.