Kindle 2 text-to-speech angers Author's Guild

The Amazon Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature – which reads out ebooks on the device – probably isn't the best way to lull your kids off to sleep, being as it's a very obviously computer-generated voice.  However if the Author's Guild has its way, it won't even be around to distract you when your eyes get tired: the Guild is claiming that by including text-to-speech functionality, Amazon are impinging on audio book copyright.

"They don't have the right to read a book out loud," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."

An Amazon spokesman noted the text-reading feature depends on text-to-speech technology, and that listeners won't confuse it with the audiobook experience. Amazon owns Audible, a leading audiobook provider.

While Amazon's spokesperson plays the argument down, you can believe that behind the scenes their legal team is racing to clarify exactly what makes an audio book.  What's more bizarre, however, is the idea that Aiken appears to be suggesting, which is that a roboticized voice mindlessly reading out text is akin to a professional voice actor "performing" a title.

We're bound to hear from both sides of the argument over the next few days, including – hopefully – some authors as to what exactly they think of text-to-speech technology and whether it will impact on their audio book sales.  I'm thinking that most will immediately see the difference and rubbish the Guild's claims.

[via BoingBoing Gadgets]