Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Authors Guild Views on "Kindle Swindle"

Roy Blount, the President of the Authors Guild, has an op-ed in today's NY Times enticingly entitled "The Kindle Swindle?" It concerns the latest version of Amazon's portable book reading device that can read aloud using a computer synthesized voice (choice of male or female), in contrast to a classic "audio book" that will be read by one or more professional actors or the author. Previous Kindles were designed primarily for reading from the screen.

The new Amazon Kindle can "read" the book using speech synthesis technology, which is hardly a new development as such. However, the Authors Guild is concerned about its deployment in the very user friendly (except to blind people) Kindle format:

Blount says:
What the guild is asserting is that authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books. For this, the guild is being assailed. On the National Federation of the Blind’s Web site, the guild is accused of arguing that it is illegal for blind people to use “readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio.”

The guild is also accused of wanting to profiteer off family bedtime rituals. A lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation sarcastically warned that “parents everywhere should be on the lookout for legal papers haling them into court for reading to their kids.”

For the record: no, the Authors Guild does not expect royalties from anybody doing non-commercial performances of “Goodnight Moon.” If parents want to send their children off to bed with the voice of Kindle 2, however, it’s another matter.



  1. Mr. Blount needs to get a new job. It seems to me like he’s trying to find a new way to fleece the consumer. As a consumer, I’m tired of getting ripped off by the publishing industry. $30 for a new book? Give me a break. I can’t afford that kind of hobby…it would cost me $900 a year if it wasn’t for the public library. Everyone wants to be a millionaire overnight, especially at the cost of the working slobs and the consumers. Give me a break Mr. Blount.
    -joe miklovic

  2. The Authors Guild claims it supports the rights of the visually impaired, it's actions show otherwise.

    I'm very concerned by the Authors Guild's position against the disabled.