Since I do not own a Kindle, you might wonder why I would protest Random House's decision to disable text to speech functions on all future Kindle releases.
This decision would seem to indicate a lack of insight based on unwarranted paranoia and a lack of understanding of the common audiobook listener and their wants and needs.
The belief that Text To Speech could, given the current level of technology, make even the slightest dent in audiobook sales is completely ludicrous. Unless the Kindle, or any TTS device magically begins to sound like Scott Brick or George Guidall, I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind giving up the opportunity to listen to an audiobook "performance" with voice differentiation and dramatic emphasis for a single voice with no understanding of pace, character differentiation or sense of drama. Do you have data to indicate otherwise? I would be utterly amazed.
I cannot believe that this decision was made with any thought whatsoever given to the habits of readers. Audiobook aficionados do NOT purchase Kindles. We purchase Apple iPods, Creative Zens and Sandisk Sansa Clips and Fuzes because of thier propensity to play audiobooks in a proper fashion. Audiobooks that are performed and not mechanically read. People who enjoy reading purchase Kindles and they primarily read books in print format and would only use audio to accelerate the time spent in reading a book.
Audible, Overdrive, NetLibrary and others have not just benefited from people who would rather listen to books, or have vision impairments or other reading challenges. They have all benefited from the fact that audiobooks can be consumed at a tremendous pace, even when compared to portable electronic books. You cannot read while driving to work, mowing the lawn, exercising etc. but you can listen to books most anywhere. This allows audiobook listeners to consume tittles at a tremendous pace that must exceed even the most voracious readers. Because of the deficiencies in TTS that I outlined above and the nature of the typical Kindle purchaser, the primary use of the TTS functions would not be to replace an audiobook purchase, but to accelerate the completion of a book by listening when reading isn't practical or possible. As impossible as it may seem, it appears to me that RandomHouse is not interested in selling MORE books!
Based on my concerns that RandomHouse does not understand it's customer base and it's needs, and the disturbing decline in audiobook production values (after all, why pay more for a competent reader when your perceived competition is a mechanical voice?) I feel I must take action. As a consumer (I have been an Audible subscriber since 2001) I feel my best recourse is to boycott all RandomHouse print, audible and eBooks. If, in the future, you come to understand the unnecessary hardship you place on your customers and terminate this misguided practice, I will resume my role as a consumer of your quality publications. Please inform me if this occurs.
Thus far, I have made arguments based from a purely capitalistic viewpoint. I don't find it difficult to believe that corporate myopia has made you blind to the points I have made above. What I find impossible to believe is that you have ignored this additional avenue for accommodating the vision impaired. Many Kindle and other e-book purchasers obtain these devices because the fonts can be enlarged and assist them in reading. TTS provides them with an occasional break from the difficult task of reading. I have to believe that the severely vision impared and blind are not in the ebook reader customer base at all and are almost exclusively audiobook listeners. These divisions of customer base trump the argument that TTS would siphon audiobook sales before it is even made.
I implore you to reconsider your decision and move forward into a customer oriented future that I firmly believe would have a positive effect on your revenue.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Thursday, January 26, 2006
GROU.PS is a web 2.0 application that brings all these services together. Check it out, worth digging...
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