In the buzz about the new Kindle 2, you might have missed an interesting feature: Read to Me. Here’s the scoop from the Amazon press release:
New Experimental Read-To-Me Feature
Kindle 2 offers the experimental read-to-me feature “Text-to-Speech” that converts words on a page to spoken word so customers have the option to read or listen. Customers can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and their spot is automatically saved. Pages turn automatically while the content is being read so customers can listen hands-free. Customers can choose to be read to by male or female voices and can choose the speed to suit their listening preference. Using the read-to-me feature, anything you can read on Kindle, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and personal documents, Kindle 2 can read to you.
It appears that this will be available to any & all material downloaded to the Kindle. Text-to-speech is nothing new, as most computers have the ability to translate text into sound using a robotic voice like the weather radar lady on TV. Not something I’d call a threat to a professionally-voiced audiobook. But certainly a benefit to the vision or otherwise impaired reader who wants to hear today’s newspaper. A possible legal twist to the feature was noted in this Wall Street Journal article on the Kindle 2 by Geoffrey A. Fowler and Jeffery A. Trachtenberg:
Some publishers and agents expressed concern over a new, experimental feature that reads text aloud with a computer-generated voice. “They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” An Amazon spokesman noted the text-reading feature depends on text-to-speech technology, and that listeners won’t confuse it with the audiobook experience. Amazon owns Audible, a leading audiobook provider.
Want to judge for yourself? Here’s a demo: