The Kindle 2 is -- in some cases -- now mute.

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is bowing to pressure from the publishing industry and letting book companies decide whether Kindle 2's "read-to-me" functionality will apply to their e-books. 

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 (NYSE:BKS), Borders (NYSE:BGP), and Books-A-Million (NASDAQ:BAMM) were sputtering long before the first Kindle came out. The industry should be applauding Amazon's success in championing a platform that's inventory-free and conducive to digital purchases, the way Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod is. And yes, the major music labels resisted Apple at first, too.

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.