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Authors Guild Silent Over iBooks Text-To-Speech

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the selective-interest dept.

Books 187

Last year we discussed news that the Authors Guild took issue with the Kindle's text-to-speech function, claiming it was illegal for the device to read their books aloud. Amazon disagreed, but said they were willing to disable the feature upon request from rightsholders. Now, jamie notes a recent article by David Pogue at the NY Times in which he points out that Apple's free iBooks app does the same thing, yet the Authors Guild has remained silent. Quoting: "... Now swipe down the page with two fingers to make the iPhone start reading the book to you, out loud, with a synthesized voice. It even turns the pages automatically and keeps going until you tap with two fingers to stop it. Yes, this is exactly the feature that debuted in the Amazon Kindle and was then removed when publishers screamed bloody murder. But somehow, so far, Apple has gotten away with it, maybe because nobody's even realized this feature is in there." That said, the feature was certainly noticed during the launch of the iPad, so perhaps the Authors Guild has other reasons for holding their peace.

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187 comments

Why are they silent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344538)

They should use Text-To-Speech so that we... oh... THAT was the joke.

Soulskill. Crappy punches for crappy headlines.

so apple does not like blind people? (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344570)

so apple does not like blind people?

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344896)

How did you get that impression?

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (2, Insightful)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345064)

How did you get that impression?

The touchscreen interface should have been a big clue.

As a general rule, touchscreen interfaces are not vision-impaired friendly.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1, Insightful)

scatterbrain (89153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345212)

There's Accessibility settings to allow for VoiceOver, Zoom, Large Text, Speaking auto corrections,etc... at least in iOS4. I'm fairly certain at a minimum that VoiceOver, Zoom and Large Text are in 3.2, but I don't have an iPad to test. They do try to make it accessible.
Unfortunately most app writers don't test their app with those settings turned on.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (2, Insightful)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346324)

So who thinks a _touchscreen_ is a decent choice for someone visually impaired? Something that relies on hand eye coordination, with no physical feedback?

I know I'm probably going to be proved wrong in a minute by the blind iPad fanbois.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346538)

There's Accessibility settings to allow for VoiceOver, Zoom, Large Text, Speaking auto corrections

Using zoom and large text for blind people is sort of like yelling at deaf people.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

scatterbrain (89153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346652)

true, but i'm sure those just legally blind or visually impaired appreciate it.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345326)

General rules applied to specific examples? Nice try. Go turn on VoiceOver and get back to us about how much Apple dislikes blind people.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345514)

Yeah, I like the way the keyboard slides out so blind touch typists can use it too. What? It has a Braille feature? No? Oh. Never mind.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345982)

There is a Braille feature in the accessibility page. It allows a person to use a Braille Bluetooth device with their iOS4-running iDevice.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346212)

You're just calling it in, aren't you? BT Braille devices will connect to an iPhone.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345610)

How does a blind person turn on VoiceOver?

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

hesiod (111176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346190)

How does a blind person turn on VoiceOver?

The same way Billy Shears gets by.

("With a little help from [his] friends", for the confused.)

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345358)

More people are partially blind than totally blind. They can manipulate a touch screen with big button icons but the text is too difficult to read for them to read a book comfortably. But you are correct - As a general rule, touchscreen interfaces are not vision-impaired friendly.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (3, Informative)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345500)

So that is why the National Federation of the Blind posted this press release [nfb.org] after the iPad's launch commending Apple for how accesible the iPad is to the blind ?

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345946)

You know nothing about how the blind actually interact with modern technology. Touchscreens (along with audio cueing) are one of the best things to happen to blind accessibility in recent history.

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (4, Interesting)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346000)

I have a friend who's totally blind and is incredibly adept at technology. He runs his own web site, uses his iPhone daily, and compliments/complains daily to companies who don't have accessibility features on their apps and gadgets. He also plays video games and records himself playing and posts the videos on Youtube.

Here's his contacts if anyone is interested in reading stuff from him:
http://twitter.com/liamerven [twitter.com]
http://www.youtube.com/liamerven [youtube.com]

Re:so apple does not like blind people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345838)

Wait, so is it illegal to read stories to my daughter now?

What's the problem (3, Insightful)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344588)

How does this hurt them on books where there is no audio version available?

Re:What's the problem (4, Insightful)

savanik (1090193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344716)

Because of poorly written contracts. Most current contracts don't have a distinction between 'audiobook' and 'text-to-speech conversion'. If the authors don't defend their copyright on the text-to-speech conversion, it can be legally argued that they don't mind if the publisher has rights to produce audiobooks - or that they actually sold the right to the publisher in the first place, even if it wasn't explicitly stated in the contract. Considering that we're typically talking about significant amounts of money, that an author may have to live on for the next few years while they write their next work... yeah, it can hurt them, because the original contracts didn't take future technology into account.

Re:What's the problem (5, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345236)

I'm not sure that's the issue. An author is under no obligation to defend a copyright or risk losing it, the way he might be obliged to defend a trademark or risk losing it. He can sue for copyright infringement today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now (under the current regime).

I think the debate is more about whether a text-to-speech process actually produces a derivative work. Authors have argued in the past that it does. But one could also argue that a computer reproducing a work via text-to-speech is no different than reproducing it by displaying its text on a screen -- and therefore it does not violate copyright.

Authors, on the other hand, don't want to lose the ability to sell audiobook editions because devices exist that can read books aloud automatically. Audiobook sales account for a large amount of royalties.

Re:What's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345590)

Wait wait. I know trademarks you have to defend or risk losing them, but unless the author's contract specifically states it; you do not have to "defend a copyright." The only way to lose a copyright is by it expiring or by signing it away.

Re:What's the problem (4, Insightful)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345870)

Or....

Have you bought an audio book lately? Most the ones I have seen cost a lot more than a paper back book.

If I have the ability to buy a 10$ paper back book and have it read to me, why the hell would I buy the 40$ audio book?

Another example of industry not keeping up with technology and trying to use the courts and copyright laws to enforce their business model.

This is about greed, pure and simple. Considering the type of people that most buy audio books (blind and/or old people) I find it kind of despicable.

Before paying what you paid for a service you could really only get one way it was hard to feel bad about the premium. Now that it is available more readily for cheaper and for all titles, and they want to force you to still pay more for the privilege? Sick.

Re:What's the problem (5, Insightful)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346206)

If I have the ability to buy a 10$ paper back book and have it read to me, why the hell would I buy the 40$ audio book?

Have you listened to a audio book read by a person compared to the same work done by a computer? The person doesn't even have to be very good to win that battle. It's an interesting conversation in light of the potential of future tech, and to be sure it's getting better, but there's a long way to go before professional book readers will be looking for work.

Re:What's the problem (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346224)

I haven't used any of the text-to-speech applications, but I assume a voice actor would do a much better job. That might or might not be worth $30 to you.

Speak & Spell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33346276)

"If I have the ability to buy a 10$ paper back book and have it read to me, why the hell would I buy the 40$ audio book?"

Would you sit through a 3 hour movie where the main actor was a speak & spell?

It may be an inflated price, but that is what your extra $30 is partly going to, voice acting.

That being said, I don't know what the Author's guild is up in arms about. I don't think that people who want to sit through 4+ hours of monotone text-to-speech translation is their market anyways. God knows I couldn't stand that.

Re:What's the problem (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346436)

To be fair, audiobooks do involve a degree of work. Most audiobooks are abridged, so you need to edit the book and get the edits approved by the author. You need to hire a celebrity reader. You need to rent a studio to record the reading in, with an audio person present to make sure everything is warm and punchy. A producer needs to edit everything together. None of that is cheap. And all of that is chasing a niche within a niche.

Of course, text-to-speech is basically free. And means the old audiobook process is obsolete for most titles. But charging more for the audiobook version makes sense.

Re:What's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33346654)

Authors, on the other hand, don't want to lose the ability to sell audiobook editions because devices exist that can read books aloud automatically. Audiobook sales account for a large amount of royalties.

But that's just it! I'm not going to not buy an audiobook version of a book I want just because I can get it text to speech -ified. Why the hell would I want to listen to a monotone voice for 20 hours, most likely screwing up names all along the way? I get the audiobook version because I want to hear an actor playing those voices, just like I do in my head when I read a book. Sure, if you can't get anything else, text-to-speech is better than nothing. But if I want to listen to an audiobook, a text-to-speech book is not going to suffice.

Not so 'future' (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33346076)

> didn't take future technology into account.

I had a BBC Master in the early 80s with a ROM chip that did plain text to speech very effectively. It could have read out books if I had them as text files so for nearly 30 years the technology has been available.

It didn't have a touch screen though.

Re:What's the problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344766)

Why does it even matter what 'interface' (eye's, ears, fingers[brail] etc) you use to make use of a copyrighted work that you have presumably paid for.

Re:What's the problem (1)

XnavxeMiyyep (782119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344850)

This. Also, most computers have text-to-speech. Many scanners can identify letters. BAN TEXT-TO-SPEECH IN COMPUTERS!

Re:What's the problem (4, Insightful)

cygnwolf (601176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345032)

I never understood the first time around how TTS was different from setting it to render in oversize font or in a different typeface...

Does Apple sell books? (4, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344592)

Maybe the difference is that Amazon is seen as more of a threat than Apple?

Not being rhetorical here, I'm genuinely asking.

Re:Does Apple sell books? (2, Informative)

Bodero (136806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344724)

With a statement like that, you'd almost expect Amazon to be selling eBooks at a 60-to-1 ratio [boygeniusreport.com] compared to rival Apple.

Re:Does Apple sell books? (3, Insightful)

Karlt1 (231423) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344882)

With a statement like that, you'd almost expect Amazon to be selling eBooks at a 60-to-1 ratio compared to rival Apple.

Wow, a whole sample size of one author.....

Re:Does Apple sell books? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344932)

Or they realize that moving against Apple would be exponentially worse publicity, to the point that the mainstream news might pick it up.

Re:Does Apple sell books? (4, Insightful)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344934)

I'd think it's because Apple is a scarier target. They were able to bully Amazon, but Apple has a top-notch legal team and a demonstrated disinclination to budge when pressures like this are applied.

Re:Does Apple sell books? (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346670)

Mostly likely it is that Apple is more of a threat then Amazon. At the moment if they leave it alone they can let it sit in legal limbo and allow themselves to build up the case then push forward (something they might have learned from Amazon) and try to make it illegal in the future. If they went for the legal attack now and lose to Apple they run the risk of the law stating that this is a legally acceptable option and would allow all future devices to allow for this. So waiting would more or less be a good move for them at the moment I feel, because while current TTS isn't that great and doesn't hold up well against a real speaker, the technology will improve with time. Now with the TTS moving forward and improving with time there runs a chance that TTS systems can sound pleasant and possibly understand word usage enough to make them just as good (or even better) then the audio version (lets be honest, some audio book readers could stand to sound less bored and more into what they are reading). When this happens and TTS is on par or better then the real thing then people won't want to buy the audio book version and if they lose now then they won't be able to do anything legally about it, but if they wait and build a solid case to make it illegal then this won't be a problem in the future.

The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (5, Interesting)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344610)

Maybe the Authors Guild has learned a lesson in how not to be pricks.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344640)

I find that an unlikely explanation. It's more likely that there's something going on between the Guild and Apple.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (4, Funny)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345114)

It's more likely that there's something going on between the Guild and Apple.

Unlike Amazon, Apple stays out of the Guild's way. One Infinite Loop is crawling with Strangers. Who do you think arranged their contract with Foxconn? You think all those "suicides" were from worker stress? Keep dreaming. Guild work is clean, professional. It's surgical with them. In a way they're the only organization Steve Jobs still respects. And they don't get dames get in the way!

.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345240)

I do not for a minute doubt the Guild and Apple have an understanding and that it plays a part in it, but I don't think that discounts the possibility that the Authors Guild learned a lesson from the Kindle incident. My own opinion is the Authors Guild were stupid to make a fuss over the Kindle read aloud (text to speech) feature to begin with. My sister has been legally blind since a car accident back around 1970. She can technically see, but not very well. Now approaching her 70's (I'm 60 myself and my eyesight is going fast - I have a 24" monitor and special "computer" glasses for when I want to go online), she has gotten audio books from the library for years - For free. I would think that would be a big selling point. I used to drive a lot before I retired and have a couple hundred audio books on tape in my closet. I have no desire for, or need for, an iPad, but I like the idea. And, so what if there is some sort of agreement or understanding between the Guild and Apple? Companies (and people for that matter) make agreements and establish understandings every day. I don't see them as necessarily 'evil'. I have no idea why you would say that the Authors Guild has learned a lesson is unlikely. Maybe they don't have their heads totally up their asses like the RIAA and the MPAA.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (4, Interesting)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345356)

I doubt the Guild has any special relationship with Apple. Unlike the MPAA and the RIAA, the Guild works directly on behalf of content creators who make up their membership. If the members don't make a fuss the Guild won't make a fuss. My guess is publishers, and therefore authors, are getting better terms from Apple since they're the underdog in e-books. With better compensation, publishers and authors aren't complaining.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (5, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345502)

Amazon did not negotiate audio rights for the book when they set up their contracts. They got into trouble because of it and disabled the feature until the could negotiate the audio rights. Apple saw this and, when they negotiated their contracts, made sure that they had the audio rights for all books in the iBook Store.

Apple, as the e-book follower, learned about this problem in advance from Amazon's leadership in the market and had the contracts set up to allow audio. There's no big conspiracy here.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (1)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346630)

To be honest... this is only affecting a very small proportion of the population. It's not a big conspiracy, but it is symptomatic of IP protection nowadays. The original rights holders are aiming to profit off of a tiny segment of the market, which will provide little to no profit in actuality - they know this. The amount of money involved here will be very small.

The problem is that authors and companies now seek absolute control over all their works, and this was not the case (as much) in the past. The more we acknowledge the IP owner's rights to do as they please, the less control we are going to have.

This is a minority market to visually impaired people - it's not a profiteering pirate ring. I don't want to sound patronising, but things like text to speech keep those with impairments able to choose easily. Restricting them only fucking hurts those who will use them, who are sometimes the most at need of access to them. It smacks of "mine mine mine" to me, with no consideration of the consequences.

Re:The Authors Guild has learned a lesson? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345628)

Perhaps, but then maybe the Authors Guild learned the meaning of the Streisand effect from going up against Amazon, and they're a bit more hesitant this time around. They may have 'won', but was the bad publicity worth it?

It's quite conceivable (although demonstrative of naivety on the Guild's part) that they thought nobody would care about a corporate dispute over copyright interpretation, or even that they were absolutely in the right and most people would side with them. Seeing the backlash from sites like this could have cautioned them against making the same mistake twice.

Publishers Loves Their DRM (4, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344616)

Since last year the LOC has made a rule [copyright.gov] that DRM breaks are legal if readers are shut out:

(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book's read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.

Re:Publishers Loves Their DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345022)

Hold up.

(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work ... contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book's read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.

So now that an ebook format exists on iOS that doesn't contain said access controls, DRM breaking on other devices is once again illegal? Perhaps that's why the League is letting the iOS version slide.

Re:Publishers Loves Their DRM (2, Insightful)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345110)

Yeah, the new rule is pretty limited.

If you can get the ebook legally from Amazon, B&N, and iBooks, but only iBooks has TTS enabled, but you only have a Kindle, then breaking the DRM would technically be illegal, even though the only TTS-enabled copy won't run on your device.

Not quite the same... (4, Informative)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344648)

FWIW, I had no idea the feature was there. The annoying thing is that you have to turn on Voice Over in the accessibility settings...for the entire phone. So the whole interface of the phone changes (you have to double tap buttons, etc) and it's quite annoying to have it on if it's not something you need. I guess you can turn voiceover on/off at will, but it's a decent amount of hassle.

Re:Not quite the same... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345098)

You can set the iOS device to turn on Voice Over with a triple tap, it's in the accessibility settings...somewhere. I use it when developing, but it can be annoying when I accidentally triple click instead of double.

Re:Not quite the same... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33346094)

If you go to Settings - General - Accessibility on the device, you can set it up so a triple-click of the Home button will toggle VoiceOver. It would be nice to have a more subtle way of activating it but this is probably a good option particularly for those who don't see well.

Re:Not quite the same... (2, Informative)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346542)

You can go into settings -> General -> Accessability -> Triple-click Home and set it to "Toggle VoiceOver".

So you're reading the book, you tripleclick the home button, swipe down with two fingers and it starts reading to you. Tap with two fingers to pause the reader. tripleclick home again to turn off VoiceOver.

Not something I'll probably ever use, but it works.

OH! i hope it stays (0, Offtopic)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344656)

Starting an ipad reading winnie the pooh at the slowest speed, then hiding it in an air vent at work is one of the greatest gags ever!

Re:OH! i hope it stays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344962)

Only if the persons you're trying to prank are actually blonde or deaf. Any normal person would identify the origin of the sound within seconds.

Its getting ridiculous. (5, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344662)

The douchers that are hamstringing the text-to-speech providers need to be bitch-slapped, twice.

Discrimination??? (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344700)

Is it possible for Amazon to open a discrimination lawsuit? I am just asking, it could be interesting to see how it goes on.

Josh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344734)

There's no comparison between automated text-to-speech (TTS) computer voice "read aloud" and a published audio book with a decent voice actor. It would like a company that makes leather-bound gold-leaf editions of classics getting in an uproar over the fact the project gutenberg makes the e-text available for free. It's really silly for the author's guild to give two flips about either one. I seriously doubt there's *any* evidence that people who buy audiobooks are going to stop buying them because the ebook readers will TTS their books.

Oh, that was the title field? labels r nice /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345210)

COMMENT FAIL

Sounds like Apple got em on the payroll (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344736)

Shut down competitors, give Apple a free pass.

After all, iTunes is now the only way to listen to music legally, it only follows iBooks should be the only way to listen to books legally.

I am not speaking to reality, however, as far as the average consumer knows, this is the truth.

These content cartels are always at war (in the press) against distribution services X, Y and Z -- and always praising the be all and end all genius of apple. End result? The consumer, terrified of being labelled a 'warez criminal', and being raided by the FBI, supports only Apple.

The authors guild had no case against Kindle, and they would have none against Apple. They can and do, however, stir up the appropriate hornets nests necessary to cast one in a bad light.

Re:Sounds like Apple got em on the payroll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345202)

I am not speaking to reality

Obviously.

Robots have Rights too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344738)

Is it then also illegal to read a book aloud to your children at night before they go to bed, or could this be an issue of robot rights?

Re:Robots have Rights too? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345258)

Interesting point. That depends on your interpreted definition of "performance" of the work.

When you purchase a book, you certainly have the right to read it aloud in a noncommercial performance. So, yeah, no one is coming after our respective copies of "Goodnight Moon".

However, Amazon doesn't own a license to read the book for profit. So selling text-only e-books on a device that can actually read them aloud is tantamount to offering a "free audio version" of the book with every e-book sold. That means that Amazon is, in effect, selling unauthorized audio versions of their e-books and not compensating the artist/publisher for same. Sort of.

I'm not saying I agree with this argument, because you could argue just as validly that making the font scalable should be considered unauthorized unless Amazon sells it as a separate large-print book edition.

You think you're buying a right to the text, but the publishers want limits put on those rights so they can sell you other rights separately. Is having a machine read you a book aloud considered an "unauthorized reproduction"? Is it giving you more book than the publishers thought they were authorizing Amazon to sell? Obviously the publishers seem to think so.

But buying a "licensed for text only" book along with a device that can turn it into an audiobook by reading it aloud is a whole new legal concept, and one that blurs the line between text-only books and their higher-priced brethren, audiobooks. And allowing it to be read in a synthesized voice could set a dangerous precedent (from the publisher's point of view) since Amazon could license some good voices and arguably make e-books better than the audiobooks the publishers produce (because you'd get your choice of voices), thereby cutting into audiobook sales, all for a cut-rate e-book margin.

Amazon could even sample an author's voice (as long as sufficient recordings exist) and use that to read the book. What would you pay for a Mark Twain-like voice to read Huck Finn? The publisher would see none of that income. The author might not even see it, unless we are copyrighting voices now, and that could get tricky because you could just hire a voice-actor who sounds similar enough.

How about an algorithm that assigns a voice to each character and reads it off, while dropping the "John said" and "Frank replied" bits, with a neutral narrator voice to fill in the background? That's not very hard to do once you have the book in electronic text format and a little processing power. It would compete with multi-actor complicated audiobooks that cost good money to produce.

  Once the words get out there in electronic form, we can do all sorts of electronic things to them.

Variants like this on written books are pretty much free money sitting on the sidewalk. The publishers want to make sure no one else can pick it up.

I don't think their arguments are correct, but I see where they are coming from and why they'd want to make those arguments, and there are vast cans of worms yet to be opened on this subject.

Re:Robots have Rights too? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345612)

However, Amazon doesn't own a license to read the book for profit. So selling text-only e-books on a device that can actually read them aloud is tantamount to offering a "free audio version" of the book with every e-book sold. That means that Amazon is, in effect, selling unauthorized audio versions of their e-books and not compensating the artist/publisher for same. Sort of.

They could provide you with Patrick Stewart to read your book to you, and they STILL wouldn't be violating copyright. No license is required to read a book for profit; the license is required for public performance, not for-profit performance. The 2nd circuit made this point in the Cablevision DVR case.

Re:Robots have Rights too? (2)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346642)

Amazon gets sued for providing read-aloud technology on its reader, and Target gets sued, and loses, for NOT having read-aloud capability on its website.

Whose rights dominate?

They are quite writerly to remain silent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344812)

On the other hand, the Authors Guild Choir makes a lot of noise.

A hard choice for many Slashdotters: (4, Funny)

Kurofuneparry (1360993) | more than 3 years ago | (#33344956)

Hate on Apple for having the feature while Amazon can't/doesn't or hate on litigious media groups for selective lawsuits?

Two very touchy topics in the /. world!

Me? Oh, I don't discriminate.... I hate everyone! Then again... I'm an idiot ....

Re:A hard choice for many Slashdotters: (2, Funny)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345432)

I may be the king of idiots, buy my kingdom is vast, and my subjects are everywhere.

The publisher license agreement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33344984)

Isn't it possible that Apple learned from Amazon's mistake and included a clause in its ebook agreement to cover text-to-speech?

Who knew? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345040)

Who knew pissing off disabled folks (like me) wasn't a good idea to drive up business? All they accomplished with their little tantrum was to ensure that any books I buy in the future will be from the used market, to avoid supporting them.

We do seriously live in a society where (if everything could be magically made accessible tomorrow for free), some predatory capitalist goons would still try and charge us disabled folks $1500 for equal access... all the wile claiming to support the rights of disabled folks.

Writers love Apple (3, Insightful)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345046)

Yes, I know there are still a few iconclasts who use Windows (or TeX for the hardcore) but all the published authors I personally know are Apple fanboys. MBPs, Mac Pros (for writing? I know, I know), iPhones, the works. I imagine they don't want to bite the hand that pets them... But I'll ask one why it's okay for Apple and not Amazon.

Amazon owns audio book company (3, Informative)

joabj (91819) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345076)

Also, fwiw, Amazon owns Audible, the largest purveyor of spoken word books (or "books on tape" as they used to be called)...

Re:Amazon owns audio book company (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345714)

Now if only Audible didn't suck ass. I'm guessing the authors hate Audible with a passion due to how shitty their products are.

Google Books/Scholar disputes over a decade (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345220)

I recall it boiled to down to significant "grey-area" books they were copyrightable (within the 120-year window) but no author or estate claimed the right anymore. Should Google be able to make money charging ads for page views of these books or should the publisher? The massive Google libraries digitization captured many of these grey-area books.
I suspect talking ebooks will take at least a decade to work out also.

Why the Author's Guild Shouldn't Care At All (1)

jguice (1885002) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345260)

There's no comparison between automated text-to-speech (TTS) computer voice "read aloud" and a published audio book with a decent voice actor. It would like a company that makes leather-bound gold-leaf editions of classics getting in an uproar over the fact the project gutenberg makes the e-text available for free. It's really silly for the author's guild to give two flips about either one. I seriously doubt there's *any* evidence that people who buy audiobooks are going to stop buying them because the ebook readers will TTS their books. [repost as myself]

Re:Why the Author's Guild Shouldn't Care At All (1)

TheDawgLives (546565) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345442)

To further this point, turning on the iPhone's "VoiceOver" feature required to listen to audio books makes the iPhone near impossible to use. Maybe the writer's guild decided that no sane person would turn it on unless they were REALLY visually impaired...

Re:Why the Author's Guild Shouldn't Care At All (1)

jwalz (1609495) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346626)

Yes but what stops somebody from recording words for the computer to use as it converts text to speech? To make it even easier on the computer they could record the words in the same order they are written in the book.

The Kindle sells a lot more... (1)

BlackCreek (1004083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345274)

Anecdotal evidence from at least one author doing self publishing puts the Kindle selling 60x more than Apple's ibook: [blogspot.com]

Publishers might be looking at enriched or enhanced ebooks as their new big-ticket items to replace hardcovers. But the major ebook retailer, Amazon, isn't set up for video. Kindle isn't even able to do color yet. That leaves Apple, and according to my numbers Apple is a very small part of the ebook market. I sell 200 ebooks a day on Kindle. On iPad, I sell 100 a month.

Re:The Kindle sells a lot more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345750)

> Anecdotal evidence from at least

And, indeed, at most.

> one author doing self publishing puts the Kindle selling 60x more than Apple's ibook

Re:The Kindle sells a lot more... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346384)

Erm... his evidence showed that “at least” one e-book’s Kindle version was outselling the iBook version.

What evidence did you give to show that “at most” one e-book’s Kindle version is outselling the iBook version?

Oh... you didn’t.

The idea was bad, they had no right (2, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345330)

They had no business bring suit and I hope they have realized it. There is a difference between a copy of a book in a different format and a program that translates something into a different format. Is the rights holder of a German version of Harry Potter going to sue someone that writes a computer program that translates English into German? No of course not.

What is Text-To-Speech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345416)

What is Text-To-Speech? Speech synthesis, also called text-to-speech, is the simulation of human speech. Speech is the most important means of communication between humans. Sought after to improve communication and assist those with certain disabilities, text-to-speech has proven to be a challenging undertaking. Much progress has been made in recent years to improve the quality of simulated speech. You can read more about Text-To-Speech here [thefreeresource.com] . Its a great resource that I just found.

Re:What is Text-To-Speech? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345988)

Hmm, I took your post above and ran it through text-to-speech and all I got was this old screechy voice screaming "SPAM, SPAM, EGGS, AND SPAM! IT HASN'T GOT AS MUCH SPAM IN IT!"

I think the technology is further along than one might assume.

Perhaps Apple isn't afaraid of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345452)

Amazon likely cares more about the goodwill of the author's guild than they do about a single feature of the kindle (a product intended to promote ebook sales). Apple on the other hand probably cares a lot more about the feature list of the iPad than they do about the good will of the author's guild (since they only sell ebooks as a marketing tool to drive the sales of iPads). If the author's guild is aware of this, and their legal position on the matter is anything but rock solid they may have chosen not to stick their necks out.

Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!! (5, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345700)

My kindergartner is being exposed to this sort of copyright infringement EVERY DAY! Not only is there text-to-speech conversion at school (the teacher, who should be providing a better example) but they expect ME to convert text-to-speech at home and READ ALOUD to my kids! When will someone put a stop to this nefarious reading of books aloud?

It's pretty obvious to me... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345712)

Steve Jobs sucked the cocks of the Author's Guild. That's why they are staying silent. Nothing like a good ol' fashioned cocksucking from Mr. Jobs.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33345834)

Can't publishers see the difference between a synthesized voice and an audiobook?

It would be like the difference between Stephen Hawking and your grandmother reading you a book.

Removed? (2, Informative)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 3 years ago | (#33345872)

feature that debuted in the Amazon Kindle and was then removed

No, it wasn't. It was disabled on select books if and only if the publisher specificially demanded it.

The guild doesn't care because it sucks so bad (3, Interesting)

n5yat (987446) | more than 3 years ago | (#33346100)

Just for fun I enabled the text-to-speech on my iPad. It's so bad, it's laughable. The guild has nothing to worry about because only someone desperate would use that sucky text-to-speech instead of a good audio book.

Perhaps they got it past the guild using.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33346130)

Payolla?

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