The Kindle 2 is -- in some cases -- now mute.
One of the coolest features of the Kindle 2 is that it can use text-conversion technology to turn written text into automated speech. For some insane reason, The Authors Guild is troubled by this feature.
This would be a cannibalistic feature if hordes of bookworms were buying the same title in paperback and audiobook form. I don't see that happening at all. It's also silly to believe that an audiobook buff who prefers the warmth of a human voice will warm up to a robotic reader.
The biggest head-scratcher is that if an e-book can be read out loud, the Kindle owner can multitask and thus finish the book more quickly. Quicker reading times will create an increased demand for more e-books, and that benefits all of the participating publishers.
Amazon has invested in aural experiences. Acquisitions of audiobook purveyor Brilliance and spoken-content specialist Audible prove that Amazon has a stake in the niche.
So what are authors and their publishers afraid of? Are they worried that conventional books will become less popular than their more flexible multimedia e-books? Well, that's the nature of disruption. Traditional booksellers such as Barnes & Noble
The beauty of this situation is that the free market will punish the publishers who decide to turn off the text-to-speech feature. After all, if two books are selling at the same $9.99 price and one offers fewer features, Kindle 2 owners will gravitate to the more open title. The reality of facing an enlightened consumer should force the holdout publishers to either change their mind or charge less.
Other page-turners in the Kindle saga:
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online for about as long as Amazon.com has been in business. He owns a Kindle. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.