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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Kindle2

Okay, everyone else is posting on the Kindle2, so we might as well too. As anticipated, Amazon introduced the second generation Kindle at a news conference in NYC on Monday. According to the news release, the Kindle 2 has several enhancements over the first generation Kindle including: slimmer design, 25% longer battery life, faster display with 16 shades of gray, seven times more storage, instant dictionary lookup, and a text-to-speech feature that converts words on the page to spoken words.

There have been mixed reactions to the text-to-speech feature and the Authors Guild among others are questioning if the feature is legal. In an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Aiken, Authors Guild executive director explained, "They don't have the right to read a book out loud. That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” While Drew Herdener Amazon spokesman said, “These are not audiobooks. Text to speech is simply software that runs on devices and reads content.” Most other postings out there appear to agree with Amazon on this one. I think a pair of postings on Techdirt capture the perspective well, and with some humor. Although, once computers get good enough to read in a lifelike way, with proper intonation and interpretation, there could be an issue -- at that point, what is an audiobook? Maybe there is something of a true legal question here that should be addressed before the e-audiobook industry of the future is replaced. (Not saying that it should or shouldn't be replaced, only that if that industry wants to survive future technologies, it would be logical for it to take this development a little more seriously).

As for the future, Jeff Bezos commented on the ultimate goal for the Kindle and its library saying, “Our vision is every book ever printed in any language in under 60 seconds." Hmm... I wonder if instant translation to different languages by the device in the future is also a violation the Author's Guild will be concerned about?

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