After learning of the ebook reader's text-to-speech function, wherein the voice of a particularly dispassionate robot reads your book to you, the Author's Guild called foul. The Kindle 2 is supposed to be for e-books, not audio books, the group protested.
"They created a hybrid product," Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in a Los Angeles Times article. "It was being used in a way they had not been given permission for."
So now publishers and authors can opt out of the feature, allowing those with copyright concerns to silence the device.
Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman called the guild out on his blog, saying that when you buy a book, you buy the right to read it aloud, have it read to you, even to record yourself reading it, and "without the ability to do the voices properly ... no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook."
He certainly has a point. I know many people buy and borrow audiobooks just as much for the performer as for the subject matter. And no one is going to confuse that atrocious robot voice for a professional actor.
But I think this fight is more a reflection of the fact that technology has outstripped the traditional book, audiobook and e-book divisions.
Maybe it's time, as Gaiman's publisher suggests, to stop selling the rights to different formats as if they are entirely different productions, since more and more we're going to see devices that can provide not only those formats, but play you the made-for-TV movie based on the text, as well.
(Photo from Amazon.com)