Amazon mutes Kindle text-to-speech feature

One intriguing feature of Amazon's new Kindle 2, which was unveiled recently, is text-to-speech. The digital reading device is capable of reading, in a variety of synthetic voices, any text shown on the display. This has sparked a controversy in the publishing community because audiobooks have become an important revenue source, and many perceive the Kindle's new feature as undermining that business. Amazon did not plan to pay the publishers any extra money for written content consumed through text-to-speech.

Amazon, while continuing to claim that the text-to-speech feature does not violate any publisher rights, has now announced that it will allow rights' holders to block text-to-speech capability on their content sold through Amazon for the Kindle. I expect that most publishers of popular books will do so, hoping to sell the audio format as a separate product.