[nfb-talk] The Kindle Swindle

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Wed Mar 4 02:29:37 UTC 2009

While there may be grains of truth in some of what you say -- there 
is also a danger.  I suspect the Writers' Guild didn't mean to 
exclude us in its statements, but what is to stop them from putting 
limits on something we really do need and use in the future.  In the 
long run they aren't going to gain anything by restricting new 
technology, or fighting their customers.  Look where it has gotten 
the music and movie industries.


At 04:24 PM 3/2/2009, you wrote:
>Actually, it is different.
>Have you noticed that you don't get a free copy of the audio book 
>when you buy the print book?
>I think the guild is correct in seeing synthetic speech as 
>potentially destroying the audio book market.  Not this year, but in 
>5 years, I think it is perfectly reasonable.
>If you read the actual statements from the Author's Guild, rather 
>than the news headlines and NFB statements taken out of context, you 
>will see that they understand the implications for the livlihood of 
>authors and want to protect that.
>There is even a very eloquent response to the NFB statement on the 
>subject, showing just  how a few sentences were taken out of context.
>Brian Miller wrote:
>>How in the world can the Writer's Guilde make the case that a syntehsized
>>speech program constitutes a performance that would in essence require a
>>mechanical reproduction lisence to play?
>>This is really taking royalty protection to an absurd level.  One should pay
>>for the access to the content, not the format of that content.  Is this
>>really any different than someone taking a written copy and reading it
>>Brian M
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
>>Behalf Of Michael Bullis
>>Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 6:18 AM
>>To: 'NFB Talk Mailing List'
>>Subject: [nfb-talk] The Kindle Swindle
>>This from today's New York Times.
>>Mike Bullis
>>OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR. The Kindle Swindle?.  By ROY BLOUNT Jr.. Roy 
>>Blount Jr. is the author, most recently, of 'Alphabet
>>Juice. BEING president of too many well-meaning organizations put my father
>>into an early grave. The lesson in this was not lost on me. But now I am
>>president of the Authors Guild, whose mission is to sustain book-writing as
>>a viable occupation. This borders on quixotic, given all the new ways of not
>>getting paid that new technology affords authors. A case in point: Amazon's
>>Kindle 2, which was released yesterday.  The Kindle 2 is a 
>>portable, wireless, paperback-size device onto which
>>people can download a virtual library of digitalized titles. Amazon sells
>>these downloads, and where the books are under copyright, it pays royalties
>>to the authors and publishers.  Serves readers, pays writers: so 
>>far, so good. But there's another thing
>>about Kindle 2 -- its heavily marketed text-to-speech function. Kindle 2 can
>>read books aloud. And Kindle 2 is not paying anyone for audio 
>>rights.  True, you can already get software that will read aloud 
>>whatever is on your
>>computer. But Kindle 2 is being sold specifically as a new, improved,
>>multimedia version of books -- every title is an e-book and an audio book
>>rolled into one. And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm,
>>audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing. Audio rights are not
>>generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book
>>from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers,
>>afloat.  You may be thinking that no automated read-aloud function 
>>can compete with
>>the dulcet resonance of Jim Dale reading 'Harry Potter' or of authors, ahem,
>>reading themselves. But the voices of Kindle 2 are quite listenable. There's
>>even a male version and a female version. (A book by, say, Norman Mailer on
>>Kindle 2 might do a brisk business among people wondering how his prose
>>would sound in measured feminine tones.)  And that sort of 
>>technology is improving all the time. I.B.M. has patented a
>>computerized voice that is said to be almost indistinguishable from human
>>This voice is programmed to include 'ums,' 'ers' and sighs, to cough for
>>attention, even to 'shhh' when interrupted. According to Andy Aaron, of
>>I.B.M.'s Thomas J. Watson research group speech team: 'These sounds can be
>>incredibly subtle, even unnoticeable, but have a profound psychological
>>effect. It can be extremely reassuring to have a more attentive-sounding
>>voice.  When I read that quotation, it hit me: Hey, I know Andy 
>>Aaron. Years ago, he
>>said he was working on some sort of voice simulation, and asked to work my
>>Southern accent into the mix. I don't remember whether we got around to that
>>or not, and this new I.B.M. software is designed, at any rate, not for audio
>>books but for computer help lines. So no part of my voice is competing with
>>my own audio books yet. But people who want to keep on doing creative things
>>for a living must be duly vigilant about any new means of transmitting their
>>work.  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.  In fact, publishers, 
>>authors and American copyright laws have long provided
>>for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for
>>technologies that expand that availability. (The federation, though, points
>>out that blind readers can't independently use the Kindle 2's visual,
>>But that doesn't mean Amazon should be able, without copyright-holders'
>>participation, to pass that service on to everyone.  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.   _______________________________________________
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