Friday, February 27, 2009

Voice Expert: Kindle 2 No Threat to Audiobooks

The Authors Guild seems to be of the opinion that the Kindle 2's Read-to-Me feature is ripping off authors in terms of audiobook rights. They used a quote from an audio expert as ammo, but that expert doesn't agree with their ideas about Read-to-Me.

On Wednesday Roy Blount, Jr., president of the Authors Guild, posted an op-ed piece in the New York Times that pretty much said the Amazon Kindle 2 was swindling authors in terms of audiobook revenue, because of its Read-to-Me feature. He even used details of this story I wrote, about IBM's new human-sounding voice tech, and quoted Andy Aaron of IBM's Thomas J Watson research group speech team in their article, where he said:
"These sounds can be incredibly subtle, even unnoticeable, but have a profound psychological effect. It can be extremely reassuring to have a more attentive-sounding voice."
But that same expert, when asked by C|Net, said that if you compare Read-to-Me to an audiobook, there's no real choice between the two.
"I'm a big believer in (text-to-speech) and a booster of it. But I don't think at this point, or for the foreseeable future, it's going to compete meaningfully with a professional book reader...Am I going to sit down and put my feet up and listen to text-to-speech read 'War And Peace' or Harry Potter for six to eight hours? For someone who has the choice, I think they would rather get an audio book."
Now, perhaps sometime in the future, a text-to-speech feature like this might pose a real threat. But for now, any such "reading" is monotonic and robotic, and sure is heck doesn't pose a threat.

Listen to the demo below posted by a YouTube user named KindleJunkie. As he rightly says, "it's not bad for what it is, but it's not going to take the place of audiobooks."





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