Cory Doctorow’s post on gaurdian.co.uk views Amazon’s Kindle 2 text-to-speech feature is not so much violating authors’ copyright but rather basic consumer rights. On the subject of text to speech:
But ultimately, the legality of the feature is irrelevant – as is the nonsensical discussion about whether the Kindle’s text-to-speech is (or will someday be) as good as a commercial, human-generated audiobook (the answers being, “No,” and “The day that artificial intelligence gives us perfect Kindle readings, we’ll have bigger fish to fry than audiobook rights”).
The reason it’s irrelevant is that Amazon wants to get licenses from members of the Authors Guild in order to sell their books in the Kindle store.
And when Amazon goes to those members, they can simply say, “No, I won’t let you sell my books because the Kindle has a text-to-speech capability and I don’t like it.” No need to go into bizarre, long-winded speculations about whether copyright law requires Amazon to build copyright enforcement into its devices, or whether Jeff Bezos’s crack team of AI wizards at Amazon are about to unleash an army of superintelligent artificial voice-actors, sandwiched within the Kindle’s slender chassis.
Robert Darnton tries to unravel the implications of the ‘Google Books Settlement’ and its impact on the future by looking at the past:
When I look backward, I fix my gaze on the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment, its faith in the power of knowledge, and the world of ideas in which it operated—what the enlightened referred to as the Republic of Letters. The eighteenth century imagined the Republic of Letters as a realm with no police, no boundaries, and no inequalities other than those determined by talent. Anyone could join it by exercising the two main attributes of citizenship, writing and reading. Writers formulated ideas, and readers judged them. Thanks to the power of the printed word, the judgments spread in widening circles, and the strongest arguments won.
Engaging read in The New York Review here.
There’s a growing trend towards providing free downloads of books that are published in print. These books are often licensed with Creative Commons
a non-profit organization that provides tools for creators to specify varying copyright usage for their material.
Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”
Corry Doctorow, popular BoingBoing blogger publishes all of his books this way, in addition to publishing in print. He’s quoted on Forbes as saying “I’ve been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money”. He notes that downloaders are not necessarily buyers, but is also confident that downloads do not compromise sales. It was a tough sell for his first publisher, but providing free downloads has opened doors for many other opportunities.