Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Someone's Blinded

Did you hear the one about the blind person that shelled out $350 to buy a Kindle just so they could listen to a book rather than buy a braille version? Assuming they could find the book in a braille version. Deciding the approach is far more convenient for them despite the tinny voice-over, they decide to spend their book dollars on Kindle eBooks rather than Braille books and as luck would have it, they spend more on books now that they have more choice and a far more convenient option. So every one wins: the consumer, the publisher, retailer and author - right? Apparently not.

Even though it could be legitimately argued that enabling the speech to text functionality on the Kindle could actually increase revenues (reasons above), the Author's Guild has 'persuaded' Amazon (who uncharacteristically folded like a deck chair) to disable the tool. AG believes they are protecting the economic rights of their authors. Yes, this is a real and legitimate function of the AG: View their work protecting authors in the Google book scanning suit, but no sooner had the shine on that agreement begun to dull that they stepped into this mess of their own making.

This is not about the Blind but they are now the unwitting victims of this misguided action by the AG. And realistically, who could believe the AG would ever want to take on Blind people? I'm confident there are even some blind member authors of AG. (I wonder how they feel). On the other hand, it is about the AG attempting to maintain an authors right to royalties from audio versions of their books. Yet, I must be missing something. If I buy a book for the Kindle how many times am I going to also buy the audio version? Never, is the answer. Just like if I buy an audio book for my drive commute I am unlikely (never) going to also buy the print version.

Now I am sure some will say "Oh, I did do that once," and on a few occasions I have found my self in the middle of a hardcover book and not wanting to tote it on a trip have bought the paperback at the airport. But rarely; that is, effectively never.

My point is I don't see where the author is out any royalty. It is hard to believe there is any appreciable overlap in formats purchased of the same title that makes this concern of AG's even remotely valid. On the other hand, maybe more people would buy more books if they had more options available in the manner in which they consumed them. Blind people included. Everybody wins.

For the record, if you want to read this aloud to someone -even yourself - go right ahead.


Bookstore Guy said...

This just in...

Amazon has announced that they are increasing the DRM on all future Kindle2 devices. New units will ship with DNA encoded covers and microphones. The DNA device will cause the Kindle screen to shut down if anybody other than the licensed owner of the eBook atempts to read it. The move was made at the request of the Actor's Guild and is intended as a method of defeating ancillary biological reading devices. We have yet to receive any comment from the Children's Bedtime Association, but sources indicate that they are outraged that they will have to read themselves to sleep.

Again, at the request of the Author's Guild a microphone device was installed on the Kindle to prevent the owners of the eBooks from using any form of auto-auditory reading. The Author's Guild claims that that right is not covered by the original copyright. According to Joe Schmough, President of the Author's Guild, "If the original author intended you to read the book aloud to yourself, he would have telepathically implanted the story in your brain."

No comment has been received from Amazon.

rgm2007 said...


I think you need to ruminate on this one a bit longer. To me, it looks a lot more like the AG is concerned about Amazon setting a precedent for the future, rather than hobbling ebook revenues right now.

Whose to say Amazon wont add (or suddenly drop) other nifty features to the Kindle that really do eat away at other income streams with higher margins? Why should Amazon set the rules?

Now, about the disabled. The AG clearly stated they would be willing to find an accommodation, including leaving speech output enabled for any disabled person who owns a Kindle. Why not pursue that option before picking up the picket signs?