Friday, May 22, 2009

The Kindle Too?

So much comment is swirling around Amazon’s Kindle 2, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good (yes even the bad). Let’s face it – everyone is talking about it – everyone is aware of the Kindle 2! It’s brilliant.

The controversy stirred by the text-to-speech (tts) feature, which was to allow the Kindle 2 to read any ebook “aloud,” is good, too! It put this topic right out front. It seemed to peak when Roy Blount, the President of the Authors Guild, wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times in defense of authors getting their fair share of the audio rights being infringed upon by the Kindle’s computerized voice. Amazon agreed to only activate the speech feature when authorized by the publisher.

I remain delighted and excited by the Kindle 2 and the literary experiences it can open to me (and to many millions).

With badly impaired central vision, my reading options have been drastically curtailed over the last few years. I am one of the people using “the software” Mr. Blount referred to, a program called ZoomText, which gives me the choice of magnifying print or having it read aloud. In fact, without it, his NY Times Opinion piece would not have been accessible at all to me. Even still, it would not be my favorite way of reading books.

I am an avid reader (buyer) of audio books. Although I revel in the thought and the reality of text turning to speech electronically, I would never choose a “tts” reader over the voice of the author or that of the professional reader. The voice of the reader can change everything for better, and sometimes not.

While I am quite fond of the voice in my computer, and the voice in my iPod, there are inevitably pronunciation errors, pregnant pauses, and instances where it just refuses to read a word entirely. At times, the lack of intonation and inflection becomes mind-numbing. Far from perfect and I dare say no competition for a human being.

Text-to-speech in the Kindle would solve a problem I’m facing right this minute; a couple of books I must read that are not available in audio version. I’ve attempted to convert “The Huffington Post Complete guide to Blogging” from “tts” with the KNFB Mobile Reader – one tortuous page at a time – I do not recommend it. Also, tried to read it under my video magnifier with print enlarged by 10x, so arduous and laborious that comprehension is extremely diminished. Both exercises left me longing for the mellifluous, Greek-accented voice of Arianna Huffington.
Have no fear, Authors Guild, computerized speech is simply an alternative that technology affords us, they will never replace humans in the business of audio book reading.

How are you reading? What are your thoughts on the Kindle 2?

1 comment:

  1. As an avid reader who recently began needing reading glasses to fully enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures – getting lost in a lyrical, well-written novel – I am intrigued by the Kindle, especially the newest generation with the larger screen. I have three pairs of reading glasses – one at home, one at work and one in my bag for wherever I go. (Though I sometimes covet a blackberry, unlike the Kindle, I find it frustratingly hard to read and awkward to use. One has to have Lilliputian fingers to type on it, and it pains me to even watch people try! They are forever squinting with what looks like headache-inducing fervor. But I digress.)

    While I have always found perusing bookstore shelves, feeling the weight of a book in my hand and reading coverflaps to be a pure delight – almost as enjoyable as reading itself (especially with the smell of coffee wafting up from somewhere in the store)– I am excited by the prospect of having countless best-sellers at my immediate fingertips wherever I am. But it doesn't end there because I would also be able to increase the text size and read in bright sunlight without glare. How great would it be not to have to wear sunglasses over my reading glasses, which is neither particularly comfortable nor a good look?!

    With the Kindle, I could also have magazines and newspapers at hand – without newsprint smudging my white shirt during my commute...and without the need for precision origami-like skills to fold the paper while standing on a crowded bus.

    The bus is actually where I first saw the Kindle in action. I was sitting next to a woman who was reading a novel on the Kindle. As I observed her, I saw the pages turning -- seemingly magically. My eyes got wider and I literally felt my face light up -- I was smitten! How great would this be for me, too?!

    When I wanted to learn more about the Kindle, I found it featured at the top of Amazon's home page, which certainly is a clear-cut indication of its universal market appeal. The Kindle is clearly great for everyone!


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