The Reading Rights Coalition, an advocacy group that represents the blind as well as disabled readers, held a protest outside the offices of The Authors Guild on Tuesday. The organization hopes to get the Guild to reverse its stance on the Kindle 2's "Read-to-Me" functionality.
The Authors Guild earlier placed a lot of pressure on Amazon.com over the Kindle 2's "Read-to-Me" feature, which it claimed infringed on the rights of authors by providing a unauthorized audiobook version of a book on the device. Amazon.com eventually caved into their demands.
"Read-to-Me" is a text-to-speech feature, but a voice expert said (and an example below clearly indicates) that the feature is no threat to audiobooks.
The Reading Rights Coalition was by "30 nationally recognized organizations that represent those who can not read print." Here's part of their mission statement:
The Authors Guild’s threatened removal of text-to-speech from its books and its proposed alternatives – a burdensome registration system or extra charge for people with print disabilities to read their books – constitutes discrimination against people with print disabilities, censorship, and is bad business for authors and publishers. We want to pay for and read books like everybody else.
The Authors Guild responded to the protest with the following statement:
"The Authors Guild will gladly be a forceful advocate for amending contracts to provide access to voice-output technology to everyone. We will not, however, surrender our members' economic rights to Amazon or anyone else. The leap to digital has been brutal for print media generally, and the economics of the transition from print to e-books do not look as promising as many assume. Authors can't afford to start this transition to digital by abandoning rights."
On April 8, the Coalition sent a letter requesting a meeting with the Executive Director of The Authors Guild, Paul Aiken, but has not heard back yet. Meanwhile, there is a petition you can sign, and a Facebook group you can join.
Listen to an example clip yourself, and see what you think. Does this infringe on audiobook rights?