how to lose friends and irritate people

Apparently the Author’s Guild has hired a Bad-PR  firm to burnish their image and make authors appear venial, greedy, and stupid. And they’re doing a terrific job!

Their objection to the auto text-to-speech feature (used in all kinds of electronics) included in the Kindle 2 as a violation of authors’ rights has just shaved double-digit points off the public’s approval rating of writers. Gee, thanks. Next thing you know, they’ll claim e-books are an appropriation of film rights because, you know, there are images involved, and lights and stuff. Oh, and moving images when you turn the pages. I’m amazed they haven’t  yet launched a campaign to charge libraries higher prices for books as a kind of “site license,” something journal publishers have inexplicably gotten away with for decades. (Crap. I hope they don’t read this.)

Seth Godin has it right – standing in the way of change because you didn’t think of it or make it happen but you want to make sure every new way to find or enjoy a book becomes a revenue stream is no way to grow the market for books. And given the average earnings of authors (in the low thousands annually) trying to put all your energies into intalling toll booths in as many places as possible that will collectively earn over the course of years maybe a few pennies for the average author will not increase the flow of traffic. In fact, it will divert it to roads that are less of a hassle.

Lawrence Lessig points out how absurd this all is -and how these corporate squabbles and settlements forfeit public rights

We’re worse off with the Kindle because if the right get set by the industry that publishers get to control a right which Congress hasn’t given them — the right to control whether I can read my book to my kid, or my Kindle can read a book to me — users and innovators have less freedom. And we may be worse off with Google Books, because (in ways not clear when the settlement was first reported) the consequence of the class action mechanism may well disable users and innovators from doing what fair use plainly entitled Google to do.

One could also raise a disability issue – but there’s no way to use a Kindle to enable the audio feature if you can’t read print. A feature that might actually be useful to a blind person – especially for books that have no audio edition – isn’t accessible to blind people. Which makes me think that this speech-to-text feature was an easy to toss in feature that simply brought more attention to the product when the objections rolled in.

(Hat tip to Peg Brantley for pointing out the Seth Godin post to the Sibs.)

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