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The executive director of the 9,000-member guild isn't taking all or even most of the credit for Amazon's abrupt about-face on Friday. The retailer announced that it would allow publishers to disable the Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature on any titles of their choosing.
He says while Authors Guild managers were "vocal" with their objections to the Kindle's speech technology, including publishing an op-ed piece in The New York Times, much more powerful entities were leaning on Amazon to make changes: large book publishers.
There was one more reason Amazon was prompted to make changes, according to Aiken.
"Amazon realized the magnitude of the contractual problem," Aiken said Monday morning. "Many of the author's publishing contracts give publishers the right to publish e-books, but only without enhancing audio. A reasonable reading of those contracts shows that publishers didn't have the authority to sell e-books for use in a Kindle device with audio enhancement."
Excerpt from blog entry at Bookfinder.com:
I'd like to address this by analogy. My neighborhood bookstore sells a wide variety of reading accessories. For a one-time cost of about $10, a reader can use a vinyl full-page magnifier to see the text of any book in larger print than was originally intended, effectively an unauthorized large print edition. But I've never seen the Authors Guild condemn bookstores for selling magnifiers.
If it's OK to spend $10 at a bookstore to turn virtually any book ever published into a serviceable large print edition, why is it so wrong to spend $359 at Amazon.com to turn a recently purchased ebook into a poor-quality audiobook?
Amazon announced today that it will let publishers decide whether they want the new Kindle e-book device to read their books aloud.
The text-to-speech feature allows Kindle owners to have books read to them in a male or female computerized voice. The president of the Authors Guild, Roy Blount Jr., recently contributed an essay to the editorial page of The New York Times laying out the guild’s objections to the feature, which he said undermined the market for the professional audio books that are sold separately.
Where's the beef?
In today's New York Times op-ed. Blount, author of the popular title Alphabet Juice, confirms that "Kindle 2 is being sold specifically as a new, improved, multimedia version of books — every title is an e-book and an audio book rolled into one."
He continues, "And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm, audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing." His beef is that the authors and members of the Author's Guild, where he currently holds the position of president, are not receiving audio rights to Kindle 2's robotic audio versions.
Audio rights are not generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book rights. Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.
In the high-tech industry, you live for the day when your product name becomes a verb. “I Googled him.” “She’s been Photo shopped.”
Amazon, however, is hoping that its product name, a verb, becomes a noun. “Have you bought the new Kindle?”
The Kindle is the most successful electronic book-reading tablet so far, but that’s not saying much; Silicon Valley is littered with the corpses of e-book reader projects.
A couple of factors made the Kindle a modest hit when it made its debut in November 2007. First, it incorporated a screen made by E Ink that looks amazingly close to ink on paper.
Unlike a laptop or an iPhone, the screen is not illuminated, so there’s no glare, no eyestrain — and no battery consumption. You use power only when you actually turn the page, causing millions of black particles to realign. The rest of the time, the ink pattern remains on the screen without power. You can set it on your bedside table without worrying about turning it off.
Jeff Bezos was on "The Daily Show" discussing the Kindle 2. Piece has several good laughs in it.
Before you click the link to see the book take a guess at the cost. See how close you are.
Very expensive Kindle ebook title: Practical Variable Speed Drives and Power Electronics (Practical Professional Books)
The sales rank for the book is 32,000. I wonder if Amazon really sold a copy or if certain Amazon employees have free downloads and they got the book just to say they had a title this expensive or just to see what a book that cost this much looks like.
The college textbook is on track to becoming a relic of the paper-and-ink era. On campuses around the country, professors and students are selecting digital versions of books that can be read off of a computer screen.
Most college students are used to going online for music, videos and news — so why not textbooks?
One college in rural Missouri is the first trying to go entirely book-free.
From Shelf-Awareness, a discussion of e-books and print books from booksellers.
From Rachel Whang of Atomic Books, Baltimore, MD: I don't understand why anyone would go to a bookstore to download e-books, as some have proposed. Do people go to record stores to download music? No. People don't go to places to download anything. That's why they like it. And that's why music-selling stores are going away.
From Jodi Kaplan who runs Squidoo lens: For print and bookstores to survive, they have to add value. Bring authors in, host book groups, have authors blog on their sites (or connect to the authors' blogs). Send e-mails to loyal customers informing them of new books they might like to read. Invite people into the store to form connections with the store, the authors and other readers.
Michael Herrmann of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, NH: As not only a bookseller but a booklover, I can see why e-books would be priced lower than real books. Not only do you not have printing, storing and distribution costs at the producer's end, but you also do not have a permanent artifact at the consumer's end. That is to say, e-books are not collectible. They are ephemeral. There is no guarantee that they will be readable or retrievable in two, 10, 50 years. They have less value than a real book. So perhaps they should cost less. -- Read More
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that about 538,000 e-readers were shipped in 2008, representing 235 percent growth in the market from 2007. While this week's unveiling of Amazon's Kindle 2 makes the device the hot item in e-readers, the Kindle's hardly alone in the expanding market for e-reading devices and applications.
Channelweb.com saved you the trouble of rounding them all up by taking a long look at what's out there.
See pictures of the Jinke, Netronix EB-100, Readius, and other readers you may not have heard of.