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Amazon Caves On Kindle 2 Text-To-Speech

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the unexpectedly-generous dept.

Books 370

On Wednesday we discussed news that the Authors Guild had objected to the text-to-speech function on Amazon's Kindle 2, claiming that it infringed on audio book copyright. Today, Amazon said that while the feature is legally sound, they would be willing to disable text-to-speech on a title-by-title basis at the rightsholder's request. "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. We believe many will decide that it is."

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370 comments

Enough of the speech (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022227)

Some people just like to hear themselves talk. I prefer fornication. It is pleasant.

Hackable (5, Interesting)

Walzmyn (913748) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022243)

considering that this thing is running linux, I'm going to just set my timer and see how long it is before /. is posting a story that the TTS feature has been opened up to any book.

DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (4, Funny)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022291)

Even if the encryption algorithm and hardware were "unhackable", how hard could it be to set up a robot finger to press "Next Page" + a digital camera to photograph each page + OCR if desired????

Have a Kindle title which you want TTS (and it was forbidden)? Just convert it to regular text, as above, and poof, TTS.

Unless Amazon is going to start checking the files you TTS/read on your Kindle for copyright violations, I suppose.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022437)

That is the dumbest fucking thing I have read all week.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022451)

"how hard could it be to set up a robot finger to press "Next Page" + a digital camera to photograph each page + OCR if desired????"

Most people cannot set that up. The point of DRM is not to be un-hackable, it is to be un-hackable by most people, and a system that requires the assembly of a robot is beyond what most Kindle users can set up. In fact, Kindle would be the most successful DRM system ever if it required a robotic finger to defeat, because that is a circumvention measure that cannot be distributed as a file over the Internet, the way systems like deCSS can be.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (5, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022557)

irrelevant. It takes *ONE* person to do it and distribute the file. You missed the "and OCR it".

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022749)

irrelevant. It takes *ONE* person to do it and distribute the file. You missed the "and OCR it"."

Which is not a DRM break, it is an exploit of the last mile problem. It also fails to grant TTS functionality to anyone who wants it; it really grants to anyone who wants it for the specific media that someone with the equipment to scan the book has decided to scan.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022961)

It's not a complete DRM break, but it is significant -- especially considering that it means the only way to get the version you want is to download it.

This means that if Amazon ever successfully forces it to get to that stage, as some forms of DRM are at the moment (Blu-Ray), you're also forcing anyone who wants a bit more freedom -- or a feature you've disabled -- to pirate the media in order to get it, whether or not they were ever a legitimate customer.

And once they go pirate, they might not go back.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022469)

Sounds like a lot of work. I'd rather just buy the amazon.com book, and then download the pure text file off bittorent as a "backup" that I can conveniently play in my laptop or Iphone or Kindle. Ya know, there are several organizations that read books to the blind, and release them as audio. Like this one: http://www.readingsfortheblind.org/ [readingsfortheblind.org] - I wonder why the Authors' Guild doesn't complain about them?

Perhaps amazon ought to re-package their marketing. Instead of calling it "text to speech", call the Kindle "handicap accessible" and "reads aloud to our blind patrons". Then it would make the Authors' Guild President look like a dick. "He wants to stop blind people from enjoying books? What an ___."

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (3, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022497)

"I wonder why the Authors' Guild doesn't complain about them?"

Because by law, the blind must have access to TTS, and therefore the authors' guild cannot make money on it. In this case, they see a money making opportunity, and want to capitalize on it at the expense of consumers.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022537)

I realize you're just giving this as an example, but the better thing to do here is "Stop giving these companies your money!" if you truly believe DRM should be stopped. Where possible, buy from paces that do not support it.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022609)

I don't think DRM (we called it "copy-protection" when I was a lad) should be stopped because I think authors should have a right to protect their labor from theft. How would you like to spend a year creating a document, and then your boss decides to take the document without paying you? In essence that's what happens to authors every time someone takes a book. It's stolen labor.

What I object to is when a product stops working. Like when Walmart turned-off their DRM music servers. In that case consumers should have a right to demand a refund since the product is no longer functioning as advertised. Billion-dollar walmart can certainly afford it.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (3, Informative)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022733)

DRM (we called it "copy-protection" when I was a lad)

No, you didn't. You called *COPY PROTECTION* "copy-protection". You didn't call DRM anything because DRM didn't exist.

I think authors should have a right to protect their labor from theft.

And this is why you fail - DRM is not about "theft", it's about control.

As in "I made something, so I get to control what you do with it after I sell it to you, even if the law *EXPLICTLY* grants you the right to do something, I want to stop you from doing that."

Take your straw man somewhere else.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022883)

I'm not seeing any difference between "digital rights management" and the MicroProse C=64 disks I used to buy which used digital errors to block copying. It seems they both achieve the same goal: Stop copying and also block the user from uploading the Microprose game to a friend.

>>>even if the law *EXPLICTLY* grants you the right to do something

I am not aware of any law that allows copying a game. Not even for backups. Please provide a citation.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (5, Insightful)

Raenex (947668) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022995)

I'm not seeing any difference between "digital rights management" and the MicroProse C=64 disks I used to buy which used digital errors to block copying.

"Digital rights management" goes beyond just copying, though that is the primary driver. It includes not being able to use "region encoded" DVDs that you bought elsewhere. It means they don't want to let you skip over the copyright warning when you play your movie. It means they don't want to let you have a computer read a book that you just paid for. What does any of that have to do with "copy protection"?

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (1)

fracai (796392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022739)

So you're for DRM, until it's no longer convienent. It's a broken system from the start and will only ever keep "the honest people honest" and inconvienenced. I agree product developers deserve control over the distributio work, but that control ends once the work is in my hands. At that point I can do what I like to it in my own personal space.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022755)

I've yet to see a working DRM system. Every single one of them that I've come across has the effect of inconveniencing at least some legitimate customers for one reason or another, and I have yet to find a piece of DRM protected content that is not available freely and illegally in its DRM free form.

Basically, DRM artificially increases the value of the (already free) infringing content, at the expense of the legal content.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022959)

Wow. How many libraries have you burned to the ground?

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022805)

I agree. I personally always buy my media from this store called Pirate Bay. They never have any DRM. It's very convenient. They have lots of titles. Good prices too.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (1)

jonro (764443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022839)

This is the type of thing that will doom eBooks to failure. How can anyone equate a mechanized text-to-speech voice to a human being narrating an audio book? Sorry, Amazon, but it's this kind of crap that's going to keep me from buying a Kindle anytime soon.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (1)

jt418-93 (450715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022865)

the AG made a point that they 'allow' the blind to do this for free, but don't want everyone to have that option (was in the original article a few days back). seems to me (iANAL) that if you open it up to one group, you have to let everyone.
but again, iANAL

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022889)

I agree. Even without the obvious possible statement from Amazon, the Authors' Guild comes off as heartless, selfish, and not very bright....as text-to-speech would make many more books accessible to the visually impaired.

When customers buy books on Kindle, that is a sale. If a book doesn't allow maximum use of Kindle features, then readers might find another book to purchase. I certainly don't find text-to-speech of near the quality of an audio book. When I want to listen to a book, I buy the audiobook version.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022513)

Even if the encryption algorithm and hardware were "unhackable", how hard could it be to set up a robot finger to press "Next Page" + a digital camera to photograph each page + OCR if desired????
Sounds like a lot more work than just buying a paper copy, gillotineing the spine off and shoving it in a sheet fed scanner.

Being moderately effective against the casual copiers is about the best a DRM scheme can home for. The geeks and the serious pirates will always find a way to get an unprotected copy.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022655)

DRM is like gun control laws. They keep honest people honest, and that's it.

Re:DRM for text is a really ridiculous idea (2, Insightful)

MrZaius (321037) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022719)

You're right at the current price point. When the publishers and Amazon are raking in $10-20 for an ebook with no physical substance, sometimes 50-100% more than the cost of a paperback, it certainly does seem worth breaking.

Only by loosening the bounds that hold 'em and substantially dropping the price will they ever be able to effectively compete with the printed word, piracy, and free content without completely stripping out the DRM. Tightening up the DRM and raising the price (by forcing duplicate purchases in some cases) seems like a ridiculously ill-thought out move.

Not Hackable (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022335)

Amazon could easily disable TTS in an un-hackable way. Assuming these books are PDFs, Amazon could replace every other word with a picture of that word; it would look identical to the original, but would kill TTS. I do not know the hardware specification of Kindle, but I assume it has enough storage space for that and that OCR would be tough on its CPU.

Personally, I would demand lower prices for TTS-disabled books. I should not be paying the same amount that I would for a non-disabled book, and I certainly should be paying more for a book that is not disabled. Maybe I'll just go back to reading books from Project Gutenberg until this all settles down...

way to cave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022533)

Boo! Amazon was in a good position to fight this and knock some sense into the book industry before they follow the music industry in fighting their customers.

Re:Hackable (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022635)

Any idea what package is being used for the text to speech? If it's any good it might be a nice addition to my desktop.

As most text to speech is pretty poor I doubt it is much better than an aid to blind kindle users.

Actually perhaps the best computerised voice would be anthony hopkins doing his hannibal lector voice. or maybe nelson mandela. wonder how long it would take to produce a large lexicon of words with minimal computerised substitution

Re:Hackable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022651)

RealSpeak Mobile by Nuance

Re:Hackable (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022691)

see how long it is before /. is posting a story that the TTS feature has been opened up to any book.

Doesn't matter. Any blind user who wants to hear a book will still be a criminal.

Frankly, I'm shocked at this. Organisations representing blind people have already written open letters to point out the discrimination involved here (although it should have been obvious), and amazon are nonetheless caving to pressure from big corporations who want to undermine citizens' rights under copyright law.

Time will tell (1)

jeruvin (909380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022249)

This is the feature I was most excited about. Being able to buy a book and let it be read to me. I guess I'll have to wait and see how many publishers are disabling the text to speach feature on their books.

Re:Time will tell (5, Insightful)

peculium.infirmus (1261356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022319)

All of them, now that they know they can charge extra for it. But honestly, how many people want Stephen King to sound like Steven Hawking ?

Re:Time will tell (1)

Drumforyourlife (1421647) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022405)

you raise a legitimate point, sir. I can barely stand the news as read to me by "Our robotic overlords", much less an entire book. Now if they put Morgan Freeman as the default voice, It would be just like watching a movie, and awesomely entertaining instead of painfully boring.

Re:Time will tell (4, Funny)

peculium.infirmus (1261356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022431)

I need more coffee, I spelled Stephen Hawking wrong..... Dont worry, I have already taken the appropriate amount of points off my geek card.

Re:Time will tell (3, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022515)

>>>many people want Stephen King to sound like Steven Hawking ?

I've never heard King read any of his books, but I have heard Toni Morrison. In that case, the robotic voice would be an improvement. Toni reads her books as if she's taking downers. That's a flaw lots of authors have; they may be great writers but their speech leaves a lot to be desired. Give me Hawking instead.

Seriously... (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022251)

Talking book machines for the blind is one thing, but isn't there something just totally wrong about a book that reads itself to you?

Re:Seriously... (4, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022333)

This would be that sort of thing without any special version thereof.

The big deal here was that it was cutting out another revenue stream (which was more per unit than the books were...) and cutting out the pay to the person doing the book reading. Unfortunately, not all books are converted to audio. Most are not, actually.

Now, if Kindle can do audio books, it's sort of fine- but it's going to be an overpriced media player that one could accomplish this limited result with a smaller, cheaper device. The thing that made the Kindle even more special is that you didn't NEED someone to read out a book into audio format, it was going to open up a larger space up for the blind. That is now up in the air that there will be any such thing.

Re:Seriously... (3, Informative)

gkearney (162433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022819)

The issue i much bigger than just the blind. Both the MacOS and many versions of Linux have screen readers for the blind as part of the OS and there are similar products for sale or download for Windows.

These screen readers can be activated and used by anyone, not just the blind. So is this technology illegal? Should the users of such be required to prove they are disabled before it can be activated on their computers?

While the voices on the Kindle 2 were not that great there are very high quality voices which are more useable the MacOS Alex voice for one. To see where this all might go you can visit an experimental talking book library in Western Australia www.cucat.org/library/ which permits the public to download DAISY digital talking books (www.daisy.org) recorded in higher quality voices.

So Amazon wins anyway (4, Interesting)

sheehaje (240093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022257)

Which title would you buy, one that has the text 2 speech or one that doesn't? Seems like this is a value add, and any publisher would be loosing out by asking Amazon to withhold kindle.

So, Amazon in a sense wins, because I'm willing to bet most titles will end up with text 2 speech anyways.

Then again, some people buy operating systems when there are perfectly good operating systems available for free. So what do I know?

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022283)

You're a fucking idiot. People buy windows because they're familiar with it. Linux isn't ready for the desktop. When it finally manages to weed it's way into the workforce as a common OS, will you faggots stop circle jerking over pictures of Tux?

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022329)

Why is the word "faggot" OK, but the word "nigger" is not? I'm sick to goddamned death of that. If a person like yourself could experience firsthand that word coming out of someones mouth while they're beating the shit out of you, maybe you would choose your own words a little better.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022571)

Maybe cause he is the type of person to beat the shit out of "faggots".

  I don't understand why people would want to beat the shit out of a bunch of sticks, or call someone a bunch of sticks.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022285)

So what do I know?

Not enough to spell "losing" correctly, apparently.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022525)

Picking on people's typos is a cheap shot.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (3, Informative)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022617)

Not pointing it out and letting them go through life with the misguided impression that nobody cares that they sound like a fucking idiot is even worse. It's the same level of social apathy as letting someone walk around with a kick me sign taped to their back.

Only douchebags think that's acceptable.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022735)

>>>Only douchebags [sic] think that's acceptable.

It's a TYPO. Instead of "losing" he typed "loosing". That's just a finger stumble, not stupidity. Correcting someone because they mis-spelled a word is one thing, because it helps to educate them, but nitpicking an obvious finger stumble/typo is a cheap shot. It's the online equivalent of laughing at someone when they trip and fall on their face. It makes YOU the douche bag.

Or grumpy old man ("Do you find yourself saying 'get off my lawn'? If so, then you may be a grumpy old man.").

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022365)

Wrong. There is a BETTER operating system available for free.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (2, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022377)

Which title would you buy, one that has the text 2 speech or one that doesn't? Seems like this is a value add, and any publisher would be loosing out by asking Amazon to withhold kindle.

So, Amazon in a sense wins, because I'm willing to bet most titles will end up with text 2 speech anyways.

I agree - I think it will give authors and publishers an opportunity to experiment to determine if T2S has any value to consumers.

For example, if the tech allows it, you could offer two tier pricing - with T2S costing a little more. Tinker with pricing and see what happens to sales.

No close substitutes (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022423)

Which title would you buy, one that has the text 2 speech or one that doesn't?

Novels tend not to have close substitutes. Say both Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer decide to turn off text-to-speech. Would someone who depends on text-to-speech (but doesn't qualify for a section 121 device) have to switch from vampire stories to something else? Or how would you work around having text-to-speech turned off in the textbooks that your instructor has assigned?

Then again, some people buy operating systems when there are perfectly good operating systems available for free.

Because operating systems aren't perfect substitutes either. There are plenty of apps and devices that run on Windows, but they neither run nor have close substitutes on Wine/Linux or ReactOS.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022493)

Which title would you buy, one that has the text 2 speech or one that doesn't?

I buy books because of the content, not the technological features.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (1)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022539)

its not a valid comparison. If I want the latest trek novel, I want the latest trek novel, and the fact that it will not allow me to do TTS is not going to have me think to myself..."well, since I cen't get that novel, let me get the latest star wars novel, that's an acceptable substitute." They are not equivalent. If I want the latest trek novel, then it is buy it or not, it is not buy it or buy something else, and in that case, I would buy it.

Re:So Amazon wins anyway (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022871)

It's possible that Amazon may have waved an offer in front of the Author's Guild that will allow both a Kindle e-book file and an Audible spoken word file download at the same time.

DRM wins again! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022287)

So you can't "buy" the title, can't sell it or loan it out, can't give it away, and now they can control precisely how you consume it. Is it any wonder why devices like this are doomed to fail when it comes to the mass market. People aren't complete stupid.

Re:DRM wins again! (4, Insightful)

damaki (997243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022569)

Yeah, people are so intelligent that they have been buying DRMed files for years on iTunes while CDs exist for a similar price.
And Then they are again so intelligent that some pay premium to strip the DRM from their old iTunes tracks instead of downloading these from another source.

Yeah, people are not completely stupid...

Re:DRM wins again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022931)

I stopped buying entire albums years ago. iTunes lets me legally cherry-pick the songs I want without having to buy the whole crappy disc.

As for DRM, it doesn't faze me. The only device I play these tunes on is my iPod. Behind every person complaining about DRM are three others who just want media without having to pay for it.

Re:DRM wins again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022591)

People aren't complete stupid.

ORLY?

Yay! (4, Interesting)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022297)

Why am I cheering about what seems to be a complete breakdown of what geeks want?

Simple - for most books, the "rightsholder" is the AUTHOR, not the publisher. (This is the opposite situation from the music industry.)

So authors will need to contact Amazon to disable this, and I'm betting that generally they won't bother. If the book publishers tell Amazon to do it, Amazon can just point out that the copyright is not in their control.

Re:Yay! (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022547)

If that's true, why was the book form of the RIAA (Authors Guild) doing the suing? And if the Guild can presume to speak for authors in court, can't they do the same when they demand amazon block the text-to-speech feature? I'm not really seeing that the Guild will act any differently than the RIAA has acted.

Serious impacts... (5, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022303)

Although seriously questionable legally, if the authors guild was able to prove that Text-To-Speech of copyright books was copyright infringement then that would be absolutely huge.

Tons of disabled people already depend on text-to-speech and with an ever older populace this is only going to become even more important to everyone.

Plus, where does the copyright end? If someone makes a book reference in public will they get their butt sued? Or will we have to get a public display licence to have a conversation now?

Ultimately Amazon shouldn't concede on this. In fact I want this to be legally tested and put to rest asap.

17 USC 121 (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022381)

Tons of disabled people already depend on text-to-speech and with an ever older populace this is only going to become even more important to everyone.

People with disabilities can use specialized devices, which are made available only by prescription to people with a qualifying disability, that play copies of works produced under an exception to the U.S. copyright statute (17 USC 121 [copyright.gov]). Kindle 2, being available to all, does not meet this requirement.

Re:17 USC 121 (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022477)

That exemption doesn't extend to text-to-speech. It is in reference Tactile Paper, Books, and other materials.

Note the sentence - "specialized format exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."

As text-to-speech is in no way specialised it isn't inclusive. Also you don't need a prescription to get hold of a tactile interface.

Re:17 USC 121 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022587)

People with disabilities can use specialized devices, which are made available only by prescription to people with a qualifying disability, that play copies of works produced under an exception to the U.S. copyright statute (17 USC 121 [copyright.gov]). Kindle 2, being available to all, does not meet this requirement.

It's too bad that sight impaired people are, in essence, prohibited from getting full utility from the Kindle 2. Just as well, because the Kindle is too small for the blind to be able to use. They stay at home playing the piano all day, like a homebound Ray Charles.

Re:Serious impacts... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022489)

Although seriously questionable legally...

Are you a lawyer?

Tons of disabled people already depend on text-to-speech and with an ever older populace this is only going to become even more important to everyone.

Guess not.

Disabled folks get a legal pass around the Copyright law specifically for this.

Plus, where does the copyright end? If someone makes a book reference in public will they get their butt sued? Or will we have to get a public display licence to have a conversation now?

What?!? What are you talking about?? Any kind of reference or quotation is covered by fair use, and "public performances" are already strictly defined. (hint: "conversations" don't qualify) Why are you fear-mongering?

In fact I want this to be legally tested and put to rest asap.

You need the rest. If Amazon is smart they will charge extra, on a title by title basis, for the speech-to-text function, and give the author a percentage of the difference. Most people couldn't give a damn about hearing the book (and those that do are already downloading them from Audible.com, read by actual humans, into a device much more portable than a Kindle), and so the majority of folks will find themselves buying the "discounted" version of the book, and feeling better about it. Good marketing. Everybody wins.

Except of course the technology-for-technology's-sake non-creators screaming "Buggy-Whip!! Buggy-Whip!!" who view photo-shopping, HTML, and fan-fiction as artforms.

Re:Serious impacts... (1)

DMalic (1118167) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022625)

Exactly! A drawing, text or combination of sounds only represents some form of art if it was constructed using officially approved tools. That is why Musique concrÃte has been so thoroughly and totally rejected in every form. The very fact you ridicule any medium you don't understand shows that you truly are a luddite at heart, and subverts every argument you make. Good job.

Re:Serious impacts... (2, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022551)

I wonder what would happen if the Kindle suddenly got a couple thousand 1-star reviews complaining about this. It worked for Spore.

Re:Serious impacts... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022707)

Ultimately Amazon shouldn't concede on this. In fact I want this to be legally tested and put to rest asap.

Your mistake is expecting a company, also known as "another group of people", to fight the legal battles YOU care about.

Having worked closely with Amazon in the past, I'm certain if you approached them with a promise to assist in paying for the legal proceedings, they would do their best to satisfy this yearning of yours.

Kids these days.. Back in my day, we funded the things we cared about instead of whining on these instant messengar boards. :rolleyes:

Re:Serious impacts... (1)

forrie (695122) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022849)

Very well put, I completely agree with you. Especially in regard to the disabled.

I think the Author's Guild may have just shot themselves in the foot on this one.

Goes to far (2, Insightful)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022321)

Copyright does not give the property holder the right to tell users what color/brand glasses they are allowed to wear when reading a particular title and this is really no different. Amazon/Kindle should stick to their guns and let the end user decide to turn on the TTS engine or not. Besides, most people can read a lot faster than even the fastest discernible speech.

Re:Goes to far (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022439)

Amazon/Kindle should stick to their guns and let the end user decide to turn on the TTS engine or not.

Then the authors who complained to the Guild would stick to their guns and withdraw some works from Kindle entirely. Would you want such an outcome?

Re:Goes to far (1)

I cant believe its n (1103137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022717)

Then the authors who complained to the Guild would stick to their guns and withdraw some works from Kindle entirely. Would you want such an outcome?

Yes.

Re:Goes to far (1)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022913)

Then the authors who complained to the Guild would stick to their guns and withdraw some works from Kindle entirely. Would you want such an outcome?

Yes, I would.

*BSD is dead (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022337)

Mr. BSD, a 57-year-old construction worker, was found lying in a pool of blood with bruises all over his body, said police Major Amnaj Sirichantanond. Mr. BSD is believed to have been killed by the penguin when he got too close to the animal, which had been tied to a tree behind the conference centre on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Fact: BSD is dead

a 10 year old lab top with Linux running festival (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022351)

As a way to fund slashdot
you really ought to require
the money-whore-banker-lawyers
who usurp common technology and
then announce that it is 'there idea'
and post BS about their 'functionality'
and how they are going to play-nice with
people who they are stealing copyrights from . . .

that those money-whore-banker-lawyer companies
ought to pay slash-dot for the free advertisements.

Let's see, software tablet with text to speach:

a 10 year old lab top with Linux running festival

Override legally required? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022367)

And will there be an override for people with disabilities? If not, I hope that the blind and other people with disabilities sue Amazon for removing a capability that should legally be required, By law, it is not a violation of copyright for a blind person to use text-to-speech for any book.

Re:Override legally required? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022419)

Do paper book publishers get sued for not having a talking book?

Re:Override legally required? (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022505)

The rest of the Kindle interface is entirely visual, so I doubt any blind people will be using it in the first place. Text-to-speech isn't much use if you can't navigate to the option to turn it on, or select a book for it to read.

Did I miss the memo? DRM is OK now? (4, Interesting)

nloop (665733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022373)

This may be flame bait, but does anyone else really not care about this DRM laden device? I feel like people here generally agree that the DMCA, DRM, RIAA, and a lot of other acronyms are bad, however, the Kindle seems to break the rules and suddenly be cool? When someone jailbreaks it and allows the use of admittedly nice looking display without being tied to Amazon's DRM I will be interested. Until then, stop, please.

Re:Did I miss the memo? DRM is OK now? (2, Insightful)

base3 (539820) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022531)

It's like the iPod. All the Apple fanboys loved Steve for putting the DRM and vendor lock-in into a pretty velvet glove--and of coursed blamed it on the evil record companies. The Amazon fans are doing the same thing with the Kindle and the publishers. I personally would feel like a moron to pay nearly the same price as for a paper copy of a book (which I can resell, give away, or do whatever else I see fit with) as for a digital restrictions laden electronic copy tethered to one device.

Re:Did I miss the memo? DRM is OK now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022687)

Obviously you care. After all, you bothered to read this thread.

Re:Did I miss the memo? DRM is OK now? (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022793)

For me it's to expensive and I want the books for free to be interested.

But one can always whine on DRM even if one don't care for the device =P

Why DRM is wrong (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022411)

This is a perfect example of why DRM is wrong in all respects. Hey, I agree, authors need a revenue stream, but damn it, people who pay money for a work shouldn't have to keep paying to use it.

Copyright is a balance between the rights of an author and the good of society. We have lost "the society" as a stake holder in the discussion.

If you produce a medium that prevents the "fair use" of the content, then I believe you should not have the force of copyright to protect you.

A true shame (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022425)

While one can argue about the impact on music, books, reading, spread of knowledge, has always been a singularly important practice, this whole scandal has been about greed, and nothing more, people want their money. Its a shame that as a society we cave to monetary demands and forget the importance that information should be free.

Re:A true shame (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022723)

While one can argue about the impact on music, books, reading, spread of knowledge, has always been a singularly important practice, this whole scandal has been about greed, and nothing more, people want their money. Its a shame that as a society we cave to monetary demands and forget the importance that information should be free.

Really? Information should be free? According to who? Sounds like greed on your part as well, assuming that your information should be free. You don't want money... you just don't want to pay your money for something. That's greed, too.

Subvocalization FTW (2, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022481)

Publishers won't be makin' a penny offa me for this "added value" anyway... I have to subvocalize when I read, so I wouldn't want to hear anyone but the voices already inside my head. Ooops, gotta go, one of them wants something....

Big blow for future AI development! (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022507)

This is a big blow for future development of AI!

As with everything in capitalistic scientific advancement, and foremost in the military, development works best if there is a future practical application in sight. So far NLP (NOT [god beware] Neurolinguistic Programming, but Natural Language Processing) and AI research didn't make big strides because they are just fiddling around with no real idea what to use this for. But with the Kindle 2, we have the first actual application which would benefit from near-perfect text-to-speech. So this will (or would have, or still will, after Amazon now caved in?) spur development of t2s systems that can actually understand what they are saying, on a certain level. And further from that, that's my prophecy, true AI systems will develop because you just have to start somewhere. But now.. well I guess they will still do research on how to read the books that they may the best way.

Clever play (4, Insightful)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022523)

Although I find it abhorrent from a copyright law perspective, this might have been a very clever move by Amazon. These rights holders who can't make money legitimately have been going around trying to make money by making extortionate threats. Amazon just removed that card from the Authors Guild's hand. I wonder how the authors -- who are supposed to be served by the Authors Guild -- feel about it. Kindle and Kindle 2 were 2 of the best things that have happened to authors; nice to alienate Amazon.

I wonder how many of the authors will now 'opt out' of the text-to-speech feature. I'm guessing: none.

Amazon showed this threat for what it was: extortion.

Re:Clever play (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022607)

"I wonder how the authors -- who are supposed to be served by the Authors Guild -- feel about it."

John Scalzi
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/02/11/hello/ [scalzi.com]

Cory Doctorow
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/25/authors-guild-vs-rea.html [boingboing.net]

Neil Gaiman
http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/02/quick-argument-summary.html [neilgaiman.com]

Wil Wheaton
http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2009/02/wil-wheaton-vs-text-2-speech.html [typepad.com]

NOT author & publisher's choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022675)

What to do with the book is the choice of the person who buys the book once it is published and released. If they want to read it aloud to their children, they can. If they want to use a magnifying lens to view it, they can. If they want to use the pages as toilet paper, they can. Copyright limits the ability to make copies in a *tangible* form, but even there the author and publisher's wishes are not absolute because of "fair use" and the doctrine of first sale.

Amazon should not have caved to this ridiculous request. The final choice is with consumers, who should refuse to buy any book that they can't run through text-to-speech or any other device that enables them to use their purchase. Or they should avoid a device that is intentionally hobbled for no good reason. It's a stupid and arbitrary limitation that has no basis in copyright law.

If authors and publishers want this level of control, then they shouldn't distribute the works under copyright terms. They should make the purchaser sign an extended license of some kind.

Decreasing customer value (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022757)

This is fun. In my mind, instead of the value of titles with TTS enabled going UP, the value of those with it disabled went DOWN. Is this what the Writer's guild wanted? Lost sales? (Not that I was going to buy anything that can only be read on one device, from one manufacturer anyway, but still).

Good solution (2, Insightful)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022863)

This really makes the choices obvious for authors, as well as for the dim-witted authors guild:

Either you:

a) Think you can profitably produce and market an audio book version of your work, or

b) Realize the audio book market for your work is too small to be profitable, and you'd be better off taking advantage of Kindle's no-cost-to-you TTS enhanced sales of your e-Book, or

c) Both of the above. The truth being that TTS is decades away from sounding anything like an emotive prosodic human reading, and that the market overlap between true human read audio books and robotic sounding TTS is miniscule.

***

As far as how TTS will improve, I can only see two long-term possibilities that will allow it to approach human quality:

1) It'll be based on a human-level AI where it can interpret the text as well as a human. It'll happen, but not for a long time.

2) An expert system approach, based partly on language/speech expertise, and partly on limited semantic analysis (e.g. based on something like Cyc) where plain text can be analyzed and marked up with prosody/voicing/emotional, etc, annotation to be interpreted by a suitable enhanced TTS engine. This doesn't need to be done in real-time - e-Books and other content could be offline processed into this enhanced form. This option wouldn't result in as nuanced a performance as a human one (because it'd be based on minimal understanding of the text), but it could be a major step up from the minimal prosodic/etc rules built into TTS engines today, and the current lack of emotional/voicing control. We're still talking years if not decades of research and development though.

Unfortunate for many members of people. (0, Redundant)

EqualAccess (1489069) | more than 5 years ago | (#27022887)

This is very unfortunate development for the disabled, and aging community, among others challenged in other ways. The text-to-speech option opens up ready access to a wonderful array of information, documents, and literature to those individuals that are either not available or of limited availability. It is possible that the action is even a potential EEOC or ADA lawsuit material.

ADA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022943)

Does that not violate American with Disability Act?

Disability Discrimiation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27022993)

How would this bode with things like the disability discrimination act if done over here in the UK (does the US have something equal to this?)

In the case of a blind user the text-to-speech may be their only option, and denying them that through an entirely artificial limitation may fall foul of the law.

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