BookFinder.com Journal reader Wayne Somers took exception to my being surprised that the Authors Guild would want to force the removal of the read-aloud feature in the Kindle ebook reader:
"Your reaction seems to me to display what I would least expect from you: naivete about technology. The "canned computerized sound" these things have now will be replaced by better and better sound, but if the authors don't protest now, they will lose an asset that has been covered by negotiated contracts. The vast majority of authors make pathetically little for their hard work, and booksellers have historically been shamefully indifferent to copyright issues."
I'd like to address this by analogy. My neighborhood bookstore sells a wide variety of reading accessories. For a one-time cost of about $10, a reader can use a vinyl full-page magnifier to see the text of any book in larger print than was originally intended, effectively an unauthorized large print edition. But I've never seen the Authors Guild condemn bookstores for selling magnifiers.
If it's OK to spend $10 at a bookstore to turn virtually any book ever published into a serviceable large print edition, why is it so wrong to spend $359 at Amazon.com to turn a recently purchased ebook into a poor-quality audiobook?
This clearly isn't about helping readers. If the goal were to help readers, one would think the Authors Guild would encourage the development of more convenient modes of reading.
This clearly isn't about money either. Unlike ordinary books or audiobooks, ebooks with DRM generally can't be shared or passed along, meaning buyers need to pay for every single book they read. One would think that overzealous advocates of authors' rights would act like the RIAA or MPAA, working to support fully monetized DRM schemes that reduce potential profit loss from pass-along. If major ebook systems end up looking like the iTunes Music Store, there will be no market for used ebooks; shouldn't that delight authors furious with used books, and the right of first sale?
But that's not the case either. What's left then? Defense of status quo? If publishers aren't giving authors a fair shake, let's talk about that. Maybe technological change means that there will be increased blurring of the lines between print, audio, and ebook formats; if that's what readers want, the industry needs to adapt appropriately as it allocates and prices those rights. As an avid reader and book shopper, I'm just not ready to give up my right to resell used print books, or use third-party tools like magnifiers, booklights, or read-aloud systems.
[Now reading: The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial by Susan Eaton]