* Amazon will allow disabling of text-to-speech function
* Stresses the feature is legal
LOS ANGELES Feb 27 Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O),
responding to criticism that a text-to-speech feature on its
new Kindle book reader helps it sidestep royalty payments,
plans to allow the audio function to be disabled.
The online retail giant pledged to modify the Kindle 2 so
that authors, publishers or any holders to a novel's rights can
choose whether to turn on the feature, which takes written text
and converts it to human speech.
"Kindle 2's experimental text-to-speech feature is legal:
no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no
performance is being given," the firm said in a statement on
"Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rightsholders will
be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are
in the driver's seat."
In an editorial titled "The Kindle Swindle" that appeared
in the New York Times Wednesday, the president of the Author's
Guild, Roy Blount Jr., took Amazon to task for the function on
the new Kindle, which began shipping this week.
The new Kindle can read books aloud, but unlike with audio
books, royalties are not paid to authors. Blount argued the
technology Amazon uses to turn text into a human voice is
quickly improving, and authors need to be "duly vigilant" about
this novel means of transmitting their work.
The guild, which is studying the issue, has called the
Kindle's speech function a "significant challenge to the
publishing industry." It has recommended its members bring up
the issue of the Kindle when negotiating book contracts.
On Friday, Amazon said rights-owners will be allowed to
decide -- title by title -- whether to enable the function.
Though a tiny fraction of Amazon's business, the Kindle
draws strong, regular interest from investors and gadget
aficionados, amid speculation the device might eventually be
enhanced to compete with all-rounded, hand-held devices like
Apple's (AAPL.O) iPod. [ID:nN09542865]
(Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Bernard Orr)