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?