Amazon Backtracks on Kindle Voice Feature

Amazon Kindle 2

Amazon is rethinking its stance on the text-to-speech function in its new Kindle 2 e-book reader, saying authors and publishers critical of the feature will soon be able to block it from their works.

Yet Amazon which debuted its second-generation e-reader early last month, still maintains that the feature, called "Read to Me," does not violate licensing and copyright regulations.

The move comes as a response to criticism of the feature from portions of the publishing industry. Last month, the Authors Guild, a writer advocacy group, claimed that "Read to Me" constitutes a new literature format that allows Amazon to skirt rules around licensing book formats. E-books and audiobooks, for instance, are both licensed for compensation purposes.

But the Guild said that the text-to-speech capability of the Kindle 2 makes for a new format that is not covered under existing agreements.

Amazon said that it aims to avoid the problem by giving copyright holders the opportunity to specify whether their e-books would support the feature. The company said it's now revamping its publishing system to enable writers, authors and publishers to disable the technology on a case-by-case basis.

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