Here’s why that is a good vision:
- It’s simple.
- It’s clear.
- It takes things all the way: “every book ever printed in any language.” Yes! It’s not “most books” or “95% of books.” To be remarkable, you have to be bold and go the full distance. 95% does not inspire. But 100% — that’s amazing.
- Its fulfillment would be a tremendous service to the world.
Now, here’s something not so great:
Some publishers and agents expressed concern over a new, experimental feature that reads text aloud with a computer-generated voice.
“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”
Here we have a recommendation that the kibosh be put on a really great idea because “they don’t have the right to read a book out loud.” This is another example of how innovation is stifled and how good ideas get killed. Sure, there may be issues, but let’s figure them out. Let’s not point to process and say “well, this shouldn’t be done.”
What about the copyright law, though?
An Amazon spokesman noted the text-reading feature depends on text-to-speech technology, and that listeners won’t confuse it with the audiobook experience. Amazon owns Audible, a leading audiobook provider.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Kindle, or a device like it, could by means of this audio feature bring great access to books into societies with currently low literacy rates? In other words, such a device could perhaps make it possible for those who can’t read to still “read” some great books by listening to them via the text-to-speech technology. And what if everyone was given one?
Someone could say “well, you would run into problems with recharging those devices because electricity would probably not be reliable or available, and beyond that if the literacy rate is this low, probably food and water are higher priorities. Also, people just might not be interested in that.”
Well, good points. But the way forward is not to then stop and give up on the idea (whether this one or any other), but figure out if there is a way to do it which overcomes the obstacles. Maybe not. But don’t kill ideas too early. At the very least, exploring them could lead to something different, more workable — and better.