to give rights holders DRM for Kindle 2’s text-to-speech

Seattle (WA) – “Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to the convenience of listening to books and thereby grow the professionally narrated audiobooks business,” begins their press release. However, that’s not the end of the story as downshifts into compliance.

The concern stems from Kindle 2’s ability to convert text to speech, enabling Kindle 2 to read downloaded e-Book to their user. Content rights holders from the Author’s Guild have complained, saying that this Kindle 2 ability may undermine the audio book market, even going so far as to say that Kindle 2’s ability violates the writer’s copyrights.

Nevertheless, wanting to play well with others, will modify its Kindle 2 software so that content right holders will be able to determine on a title-by-title basis whether or not Kindle 2’s text-to-speech features are enabled. Amazon is betting that most authors will desire to have this feature enabled as it will result in more e-Book sales.

From the press release:

“Therefore, we are modifying our systems so that rightsholders can decide on a title by title basis whether they want text-to-speech enabled or disabled for any particular title. We have already begun to work on the technical changes required to give authors and publishers that choice. With this new level of control, publishers and authors will be able to decide for themselves whether it is in their commercial interests to leave text-to-speech enabled. We believe many will decide that it is.

“Customers tell us that with Kindle, they read more, and buy more books. We are passionate about bringing the benefits of modern technology to long-form reading.”

See’s press release.


It’s interesting to see how has done this. They’re not saying “Sure, we’ll go full-throttle into DRM.” What they’re saying is “We’ll give you the ability, and then sit back quietly and watch as your complaints are rendered completely impotent by the market place.”

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the market. I know I would be less inclined to purchase an e-Book with DRM features limiting my ability to have the Kindle 2 read it back to me. However, even more so than that, I would be less inclined to pay over $300 for an e-Book reader, so it’s probably a moot point.