Open Letter to the Authors’ Guild re: Text To Speech on the Kindle 2

I read that, in response to your complaint, Amazon is preparing to give authors and publishers the choice of whether to offer their books with text-to-speech.

Fine.

But I’m writing to ask you to encourage your members to tell their publishers to say ‘yes’.

I understand the contract issues and the rights issues. I understand the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

From my own experience I say: I love to read. I sometimes buy audio books, but I really love to read. In fact I hate to stop reading. With the text-to-speech function, I don’t have to. I’m getting through books faster than ever because I no longer have to put them down when I cook dinner; do dishes; drive to pick up my pre-schooler…etc. etc. I’m already buying more books because of this.

I would not buy the audio book of every printed book I buy. You are losing not sales and it is not decreasing demand for audio books (yet, yes, I know you’re arguing for the future. I’m arguing for people like me who will always want to read the majority of their books).

Please encourage your members to think of this as a ‘value added’ feature for readers, rather than a competitor to their audio book rights. Please encourage them to say ‘yes’. Please encourage them to give this a chance. If it does turn out to be A Bad Thing, then you have your clause from Amazon. But please let your members know this could be an exciting new technology that readers might (or might not) love. Let us find out.

In addition, please consider my friend, a mother of two young boys, who has been losing her sight for years now. I am taking my Kindle over to ‘meet’ her this week. I know she’s going to be excited about the variable text size (Large Print doesn’t have its own license, does it?), and thrilled by the text-to-speech. She might have bought one and become a reader again, but now I’m not so sure, since I can’t guarantee her that all the titles will be available.

Thank you for all the work you do to protect the livelihoods of the authors who add so much to my life. Now, go and assure them there are honest readers out there who just want to squeeze a little more reading time out of each day! (And you could refer them to Neil Gaiman’s experiment where his publisher offered “American Gods” free at their website and saw a resultant jump in sales as people used the freebie as a ‘try before you buy’. Giving readers choices and flexibility and freedom can be a good thing).

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