Protests Against The Authors Guild For Forcing Amazon To Disable Kindle TTS

from the freedom-to-innovate dept

We were surprised and disappointed when Amazon gave in to the Authors Guild’s baseless claim that the TTS somehow violated its copyrights. It looks like a lot of others are disappointed as well. A group is now organizing a protest against the Authors Guild for trying to determine whether or not Amazon was allowed to innovate. As the EFF notes, “The publishing industry shouldn’t have veto power over new technology.” If you’re in New York City, you should look into the details of the protest on Tuesday.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: amazon, authors guild

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Protests Against The Authors Guild For Forcing Amazon To Disable Kindle TTS”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
anonimoose says:

Again, you and other clueless bloggers missed the point. Authors need their contracts renogiated to compensate for this use of their work. Bad enough they have taken a huge pay cut on Kindle ebooks, now they are expected to give up all their audiobook royalties too?

Imagine if one of your hardcover books on which you previously made $.61 when it sold for $24.95, now sells on the Kindle for just $9.99.

Do your homework!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Again, you and other clueless bloggers missed the point. Authors need their contracts renogiated to compensate for this use of their work

Can you point out where, in copyright law, there’s a separate “reading aloud” right? If not… then, you are wrong.

Bad enough they have taken a huge pay cut on Kindle ebooks, now they are expected to give up all their audiobook royalties too?

First of all, this does not give up all audiobook royalties (nice try, though!). Audiobooks are derivative works, because they are recorded (in fixed form). Having a computer read aloud is not a derivative work because it’s not in fixed form.

Finally, you are not granted a right to a stream of income. I’m not sure why you think you have.

Do your homework!

I did. You, however, obviously have not.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re:

Again, you and other clueless bloggers missed the point. Authors need their contracts renogiated [sic] to compensate for this use of their work.

One, Microsoft Sam (or kindle equivalent) reading a book is nothing close to an Audio Book. Not only that, but having a computer scan the words and synth a voice to read a book costs the Author absolutely nothing. No extra work on their part, so why should they get paid? Audio books, on the other hand, require actors, studio time, etc.

I’m sick of the entertainment industry and their entitlist attitudes thinking that they should get paid 15 times for one act of creativity. It’s disgusting.

Two, The books on the kindle are *over-priced* at $9.99, seeing as they cost $0.00 to reproduce. I would venture to say since they do no extra work for putting a book in ebook format, getting any money at all would be a bonus.

An Author says:

Re: Re: Re:

The vast, vast majority of authors out there cannot even make a living at their work (I am lucky enough to be one that does, and part of that is from the sale of audio rights). So are you suggesting that the authors that write books should just write their book, get paid a flat fee once, and then flip burgers until creativity hits them again?

This issue becomes far bigger as technology advances. It reminds me of Google Books’ balls in going and just taking content until someone says “um, hey, now, did you notice that isn’t yours?” You can’t just release content in different forms until someone tells you to stop.

TheStupidOne says:

Re: Re:

Pay cut for Kindle books: I haven’t done any math on the subject, but it seems to me that without the cost of printing and distributing the books the cost to the end consumer can be lower and the author gets as much (maybe even more) money. (You can feel sorry for the printing companies if you want to)

Audiobook royalties: I haven’t heard the kindle’s computer voice reading the books, but I can imagine it does character voices, proper inflection, carry emotion with the words. Plus it isn’t a celebrity voice. Audiobooks are only worth anything if it is more than just the words being read out loud.

Ariel (profile) says:


Do YOUR homework!

Authors don’t take any pay cut from Kindle versions. Amazon is selling most of them at a loss. The publishers set the same price for Kindle version that they do for print versions, and Amazon has to pay.

Before spouting nonsense, take a look at a Kindle book on Amazon… See that “Digital List Price”? That’s the price on which the royalty is based… See how it’s the same as the print price?

TTS is *vastly* different than an audiobook. If you’d ever listened to them both, you’d know that. People who like audiobooks aren’t going to be satisfied with TTS.

TriZz (user link) says:

Re: No!

Not only that…but the Kindle doesn’t take the digital book and recreate it with an audio copy of the book. It reads what is on the screen. It’s no different than me reading the book out loud.

I do agree though in one sense. I mean, the authors guild did agree that the chances are that someone is going to listen to the TTS are slim, however, if the tech keeps progressing…it’s only a matter of time before the quality does get good enough to compete with the audiobook market.

Legally, this is a no-brainer. However, I do see the point of the author’s guild in a sense of where this could potentially go if left unmentioned.

another mike says:


Tech companies should just go ahead and innovate, and let the content companies decide if they prefer obscurity over piracy. Make the device capable of showing content with any feature customers want, and if the content providers don’t like it, they can stop producing content. These should be separate decisions by separate industries.

Hmm, whatever happened to those “criminal interference with a business model” lawsuits? If there were ever a legitimate reason for one, now is the time for Amazon to fire it off. “One-click” lawsuit launcher, lol.

TheOldFart (profile) says:

I don't think TTS is a threat

Just listen to Jim Dale read the Harry Potter books or Rob Ingles read the Lord of the Rings books. Gonna be a looooooooooooooooooong time before a chunk of software can do that.

TTS is not an audio book and vice versa.

Comparing cost of print books to electronic ones is disingenuous. There aren’t any printing costs, shipping costs, warehouse/inventory space etc. So a $24.95 print book vs. a $9.99 is probably a significant *increase* in profit for the publisher.

John says:

While I am very interested in Kindle and more than willing to pay for books, paper or electronic, I am still waiting for these books to be DRM free (which is a step further than being unhappy with the removal of text-to-speech). It’s just so much easier and “thought-free” when I don’t have to worry about DRM and how I use something. The higher the resolution, the better it is too. We are nowhere near true 300-dpi but that’s a technical limitation at this point.

Speaking of DRM-free, Amazon does have an awesome MP3 store that is DRM-free with a large selection and often good prices. It would be nice if they had the same thing with books.

On the note about Amazon, I recently came across an interesting table that details the discounts on Amazon.

It is at

Maybe someone will find it useful too.

Mika Pyyhkala (user link) says:

Association of Blind Citizens To Webcast Authors Guild Protest

New York City (Monday April 6, 2009)

The Association of Blind Citizens, ABC, will produce a live webcast of
the Reading Rights Coalition, RRC, protest being held at The Authors
Guild in New York City. The webcast will begin on Tuesday April 7th
between 11:45 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. EDT

Listeners around the world can access the web page:
which has information and links for listening to the live event. It
is recommended that you access this web page prior to the event so
that you can install the Talking Communities conference web browser
component in advance. A flash based and mp3 stream may also be
available at the above web address.

The Reading Rights Coalition is a joint effort made up of 27
organizations representing upwards of 15 million Americans who are
blind or otherwise unable to readily use traditional print. RRC
organizations and members will collectively protest the discriminatory
separate but not equal stance of the Authors Guild as it relates to
Ebooks and the Amazon Kindle 2 text to speech audio feature.

“The water company does not charge separate rates for the use of water
depending on whether the consumer is drinking it or using it to wash
dishes; it simply
charges for the amount of water used. By the same token, an e-book is
not inherently visual or aural, and to claim that reading it either
visually or aurally
should cost a different price is discriminatory.”

The RRC web site, above, has in depth information regarding the
protest, an electronic peitition, and other background and resource

The board of directors of ABC, as well as all RRC organizations
collectively, encourage you to sign the online petition, attend the
protest in person or virtually, and sign up on the RRC web page to
receive action alerts and updates.

Mika Pyyhkala
Vice President
Association of Blind Citizens
Google Voice/SMS: (617) 202-3497

This ended up being longer than I intended. says:

I know this is a bit late, but this post annoyed me…

The issue is not about the authors making more money from ebook sales, it is simply to ensure that they do not lose their right to make money from spoken versions of their work. If the precedent is set now, then in twenty years’ time when you *can* make your Kindle speak with the voice of Jim Dale or Rob Ingles, and standalone audiobooks die out because people can buy two formats for the price of one, authors – most of whom do *not* sell books in their millions like JK Rowling – won’t have a leg to stand on wand will lose a substantial source of income. I don’t know about in the US, but in the UK publishers are legally required to make available ‘accessible’ formats of all their titles for the visually impaired, and usually licence popular books for the RNIB to convert for a nominal fee as well (the fee being there to make sure that the transaction is legal), so the ABC argument doesn’t really stand up, either (this may be a stupid question, but why would a blind person want to buy an ebook over an mp3 anyway?).

The whole concept of royalties is that the more popular a book is, and the more people want to buy your words in the order that you put them down on paper, the more money you, as the creator of the work, get. Allowing the Kindle the ‘reading aloud’ rights (which do exist – they’re called ‘single voice reading rights’. Ever heard a book serialised on the radio? Paid money to see someone read poetry on stage? Any reading aloud done for profit is subject to royalty fees) without raising any queries would open up a whole can of worms as to what an author can or cannot expect to get paid for in future. As long as the rights are listed and sold separately to Amazon(probably, for now, the most obvious thing to do would be to sell them for a nominal fee as part of an ebook ‘bundle’ since the text-to-speech feature is still pretty basic) there is no problem; it’s only when spoken and written versions of someone’s work become legally inseparable that the problem arises. This is especially true if it’s resulting in increased profits for the retailer that don’t trickle down to the author.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...