Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hachette backs Amazon's use of Text-to-Speech

Publishers Weekly reports that Hachette backs the use of Text-to-Speech in the ongoing controversy over the Authors Guild insisting on Amazon's disabling that feature, for fear a very mechanical voice that doesn't even pause at end of headings or chapter endings will take revenues from their professional human reader editions (this is so myopic I can hardly believe it).  Hachette's statement protects its own audio book group while supporting use of the text-to-speech with the "vast majority" of its books.

Jim Milliot, who wrote the story July 2 explains that the Hachette Book Group
'issued a statement outlining its position on the text-to-speech question.  Text-to-speech arose as an issue earlier this year when Amazon’s Kindle 2 added the capability; the Authors Guild challenged TTS, saying Amazon was taking an unauthorized audio right.  Groups representing the visually impaired then charged that the Authors Guild was being insensitive to its needs.  Amazon, after first saying it had no plans to kill the function, changed its position and said it would do whatever the rightsholders wanted.

Hachette pretty much follows the Amazon position, saying that unless its authors object, it has no issue with adding TTS for the vast majority of its books. The only exceptions, HBG said, would be for 'books that fall within our audio publishing program or specialized circumstances like memoirs, where the author or character’s voice is an artistic element of the work.  Under such circumstances HBG reserves the right to request that the functionality be disabled.'

...Hachette further noted that TTS  'technology is likely to be a feature on an increasing number of devices in the coming months, and HBG recognizes the value of such functionality to individuals with impaired vision or similar disabilities.' "

Related blog articles
Here's a prior entry on 'Tom' the voice of Kindle 2, reading a personalized script.

Also, the first article here about the Authors Guild and the Kindle 2.

More Background:
1.  Copyright Advisory Network's web article on the Authors Guild Kindle 2 Proclamation...
2.  A detailed summary by Bufo Calvin to the Amazon forums recently.
2.  Small Kindle book ($1) The Disabled Deserve to Read: The Controversy Over the Amazon Kindle's Voice (revised), by Bufo Calvin.
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  1. Congratulations on your blog, Andrys.

    I can't imagine consumers buying and using Kindle primarily for its text-to-speech feature and as a replacement for audio books. TTS is a separate medium from audio books and doesn't pretend to offer the same readerly experience. I haven't tried TTS on my Kindle yet, but the conversations on the Kindle Boards suggest that Kindle users make a distinction between the Kindle books and audio MP3s they download to their Kindles and other devices. Count on Hachette, whose Livre de poche collection transformed postwar publishing in Europe and eventually the US, to appreciate the needs and desires of contemporary readers in a changing marketplace.

  2. Exactly, on all you said, Susan, on the TTS. I forgot to add a link to a sound files made of the Kindle 2 voice. Will do that now.


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