Kindle 2 Copyright Conundrum

The Kindle 2 will be here shortly. Mine is scheduled to arrive on release day and I’ll post my thoughts after I’ve had some time with it. One of the really interesting features that made me want to upgrade was the ability of the Kindle 2 to do text-to-speech of the book you’re reading. Of course, you’ll have to get used to a computerized voice lacking the emotion a real human performance has, but it sounds like a logical feature to include in an ebook reader.

According to various reports I’ve read (here, here and here, for example) the Authors Guild is charging that the Kindle 2’s ability to “read out loud could present a revenue-draining challenge to audio books” and says that ability violates copyright.

As a person who makes his living by creating things, I appreciate the Authors Guild wanting to be paid for the work they create, but making a distinction between whether someone “reads” with their eyes or their ears is greedy. Now that technology has eliminated the form factor that gave rise to that distinction, i.e needing to buy a book on a cassette tape vs. buying a physical book, the Authors Guild is following the same logic that the RIAA and the record labels made when the transition to digital music was beginning to gain momentum.

Business models are forced to change as technology changes the environments they live in. The fight record companies put up at that time lead to an entire generation being taught that the only way to enjoy music the way they wanted to was break the law. The Authors Guild should look at the RIAA and take a lesson.

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