The Amazon Kindle 2 Text to Speech Controversy

As an audio book listener and someone involved in the industry it has been pretty hard to escape the Amazon Kindle 2 Text-to-Speech feature controversy.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to enter the fray since both sides, the authors and disability advocates have very legitimate issues.

I read an article this morning written by Lee Gomes which was titled “Author’s Lament” in the March issue of Forbes but has since been changed to “Kindle Software’s Close Call“.  He came down on the side of the authors which apparently even surprised him.  This is his closing paragraph and what prompted me to write this post:

But with the Web ingraining itself into every nook and cranny of culture, this is a new era, one that might be called the postcontent period of history. In the mid-1990s the Internet was seen as something like the printing press, an invention that would radically transform society. Who back then could have guessed the extent of the economic destruction it would inflict? From making it trivial to ship white-collar work overseas, to eliminating the economic basis of industries like newspaper publishing, the Internet has proved itself to be a kind of neutron bomb, causing massive damage even while it leaves buildings standing.

I love the internet.  I love technology.  It has greatly improved our lives but content creators have rights.  As can be seen in the Movie Industry and even more so in the Music Industry it is getting harder to make a living creating content.  Amazon did the smart thing by amending the Kindle’s audio feature.  This may seem like a selfish move on their part because they own Audible but this issue deserves a broader discussion before it can reach a final resolution.

That is why I see this text-to-speech controversy as an opportunity for smart people to discuss different options that will satisfy everyone.  There should be accommodations made so that the blind or any other disabled person can access books, that is not what the debate should be about.  The debate shouldn’t even be about the quality of the the text to speech feature.  The bigger debate is the how do we create a way to make a decent/fair living by creating content.  If we don’t the rich content provided by musicians, movie makers, writers and audio book producers will dwindle.

There is no greater example of that as can be seen by the continuing disappearance of the daily newspaper.  Where will we get the real news with balanced reporting if there is no one to write it?  Furthermore where will we get quality audio book productions if there is no money to finance it?

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