Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

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Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:02 pm

Hi, Everyone.

The Amazon Kindle (as of the Kindle 2) allows users to have ebooks read to them via text-to-speech technology. When Amazon released the device, the Author's Guild raised holy hell about it, because (they claimed) it violated their copyright agreements. So Amazon changed the Kindle 2's firmware to allow publishers to opt out of the text-to-speech technology, if they wanted to.

I'm curious about what people think of this. Should Amazon have just said "screw it", and let text-to-speech remain mandatory for all books, or do the publishers have a point? I firmly believe that Amazon struck the right balance by letting the text-to-speech be voluntary, given that the publishers would've just pulled out of the ebook market, setting a terrible precedent, but I know others who blame Amazon for caving on the issue. What do you think?

Here are some links for reference to the issue:

readingrights.org
CNET News
electronista
Jim Hines' Blog
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Marie5656 » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:10 pm

:dontknow: I see both sides of the issue, I guess. But what about the Text to speech programs on computers that people with vision impairments use? If you use the Guild argument, than copyrights are violated if the user has the program convert the online newspaper or something like that. One article sugested folks who have impairments could register something that would unlock the block. Sounds too much like singlig out those with impairments...
There is definatly a lot of grey area here.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:37 pm

Marie5656 wrote::dontknow: I see both sides of the issue, I guess. But what about the Text to speech programs on computers that people with vision impairments use? If you use the Guild argument, than copyrights are violated if the user has the program convert the online newspaper or something like that. One article sugested folks who have impairments could register something that would unlock the block. Sounds too much like singlig out those with impairments...
There is definatly a lot of grey area here.


I don't mind the registration idea, but the problem with it (at least, as it's been proposed) is that the publishers would charge extra for them. Most uncool, if you ask me.

The thing is, the text-to-speech function isn't making an additional copy. It's using strictly what's there. And it's not even using it particularly well. Sure, speech synthesis has come some way from the SoundBlaster Pro I had back in college, but it's still a pretty crappy reproduction of a human voice, and nothing even close to what you'd get on an audiobook.

The problem, as I see it, is that if Amazon didn't cave to the Authors' Guild's demands, no publisher would touch a Kindle w/ a ten foot pole. That would've killed the Kindle. So they kind of made this deal where the text-to-speech was voluntary, but having Random House opt out of it puts a serious hindrance on the technology, because Random House is so much of a giant in the publishing industry.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Linnea » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:13 pm

You've already covered the point I was going to make about the voice quality of the Kindle versus the actual performance by a trained actor real audio books have... there's no comparison at all. I don't understand why the book biz would be concerned about it, they're not even in the same league.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby spot » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:14 pm

It's why Digital Rights Management conventions exist, to allow restrictions in use. If publishers choose to use it then it simply reduces the value of their work to a minor extent. Some people will mind, others won't. Just as with locking handsets in the cellphone market.

The more restrictively and obtrusively it's done, the more people will end up illegally using unlock sites just as they have with their cellphones. Publishers will no doubt want to balance their own instant gratification with an awareness that if they push too far there'll be a backlash to some extent. If they're out to maximize income they need to be cautious.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:21 pm

Linnea wrote:You've already covered the point I was going to make about the voice quality of the Kindle versus the actual performance by a trained actor real audio books have... there's no comparison at all. I don't understand why the book biz would be concerned about it, they're not even in the same league.


It's all got to do with rights. When pressed, the Authors' Guild will usually say something like, "Well, sure the voices aren't good now, but we have to think about a few years from now."

I still think that's a bad argument, because a computer is never going to be able to read with mood and inflection from straight text -- let alone do things like accents and dialects.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:26 pm

spot wrote:It's why Digital Rights Management conventions exist, to allow restrictions in use. If publishers choose to use it then it simply reduces the value of their work to a minor extent. Some people will mind, others won't. Just as with locking handsets in the cellphone market.

The more restrictively and obtrusively it's done, the more people will end up illegally using unlock sites just as they have with their cellphones. Publishers will no doubt want to balance their own instant gratification with an awareness that if they push too far there'll be a backlash to some extent. If they're out to maximize income they need to be cautious.


As a Kindle consumer (and someone who will, in a matter of hours, have a published work in the Kindle Store), what worries me is the idea that the publishing industry may not want to maximize their ebook income. The paper book industry vastly outsells the ebook industry right now, so if the ebook industry fails, it'll suit the publishers just fine. In fact, they may view it as dodging a bullet -- the same bullet that almost felled the music industry.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby spot » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:30 pm

Brian wrote:I still think that's a bad argument, because a computer is never going to be able to read with mood and inflection from straight text -- let alone do things like accents and dialects.


Back in the 80s I had a reader which had been profiled with the accent and characteristics of the BBC's prime TV newsreader, Kenneth Kendall. It made for an uncanny and startling performance.

We've had markup for visual appearance since the mid-nineties. Markup for accent and dialect is only a matter of time. Add better parsing of grammar and it'll sound good so long as it's written grammatically. I do hope it refuses to vocalize smilies though. lol. eww.
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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Brian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:13 pm

spot wrote:
Brian wrote:I still think that's a bad argument, because a computer is never going to be able to read with mood and inflection from straight text -- let alone do things like accents and dialects.


Back in the 80s I had a reader which had been profiled with the accent and characteristics of the BBC's prime TV newsreader, Kenneth Kendall. It made for an uncanny and startling performance.


spot wrote:We've had markup for visual appearance since the mid-nineties. Markup for accent and dialect is only a matter of time. Add better parsing of grammar and it'll sound good so long as it's written grammatically. I do hope it refuses to vocalize smilies though. lol. eww.


Okay, I can see what you mean. Accent and dialect, I'm sure they can program into the system. There are GPS systems right now that will read off directions to you in the voice of Mr. T, if you really want them to. I still think mood and inflection are going to be harder to nail down, though. It's difficult for me to believe that a computer voice could ever be refined to the point where it didn't sound like it was just stringing words together from an internal dictionary. Human language has a continuity that computer language can't match, for that very reason.
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About the things you could not show her."

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Re: Text-To-Speech in the Amazon Kindle

Postby Linnea » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:32 pm

How is OMFG ROTFLMAO pronounced by a computer? Would it say each letter or would it sound like it was speaking Mongolian?
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