Rarely do I get so worked up about an issue but few are as strangely controversial as this one. I'm talking about the text-to-speech feature of Amazon's Kindle 2. (Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I own a Kindle 1 and I have no plans to buy a Kindle 2. I think Amazon's closed platform is a huge mistake and I hate how they're alienating their Kindle 1 early adopters with no discounted upgrade offer.)
Let me come right out and say it: I strongly believe text-to-speech is a good thing for everyone.
Earlier this week, Roy Blount wrote this misguided article about the feature in The New York Times. This industry is looking for innovative ways to get people to read more book-length works and this knucklehead takes a swing at one of the few interesting developments that shows promise. Did Blount just wake up from a 10-year nap at an RIAA meeting?! Seriously, dude, please don't encourage authors and The Author's Guild to start acting like the music industry!
Let's be clear. The text-to-speech feature is only going to make Kindle editions more popular and usable. Will it cause some fence-sitters to make a purchase? Probably. Will it really hurt the audio book market? I seriously doubt it. And so what if it does?! How many people really buy both the print/written version of a book and the audio version? That number has got to be incredibly tiny, a rounding error on a rounding error. Don't forget though that Amazon owns Audible.com now. Maybe they want to "eat their young" with this feature, but I'll bet Amazon isn't too concerned about cannibalization of the Audible program.