March 2, 2009. At the end of the business day on Friday, Amazon announced that it would allow publishers (and thereby many authors) to block text-to-speech audio functionality on a title-by-title basis for its Kindle 2 reading device.
This is a good first step. Amazon’s Kindle 2 can convert text to audio through text-to-speech (TTS) software, making it a combination e-book reader and low-quality audiobook device. (The quality of the audio will improve, of course, as TTS software is refined.) Amazon’s initial implementation of Kindle 2 would have added audio playback to your e-book regardless of whether Amazon had properly acquired audio rights. For most of you, Amazon’s announcement means that it will now respect your contractual right to authorize (or not) the addition of computer-generated audio to your e-books sold for the Kindle. We will be sending recommendations to you shortly on your TTS audio rights.
One important consideration in those recommendations will be to ensure that visually impaired people have access to this technology. Book authors have traditionally authorized royalty-free copies in specialized formats intended for the visually impaired, and copyright law provides a means to distribute recordings to the blind. We can work this out.