There's quite a dustup at the moment about an editorial the president of the Author's Guild wrote in the New York Times, railing against Amazon's Kindle 2, which has a text to speech feature that he claims creates unauthorized derivative works and should be stopped at all costs.
I'm not the only author who thinks this is ridiculous: John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, and Neil Gaiman all agree. (Um. Not that I'm comparing myself to them; they're just people I know, who I respect and admire, who also have a stake in this.)
Scalzi says: "I pity the person who thinks a bland computer text reading of Zoe’s Tale is an optimal experience, especially when Tavia Gilbert’s spectaular reading of the book exists out there to get. Yes, one is free and the other isn’t, but you do get what you pay for."
Cory says: "Time and again, the Author's Guild has shown itself to be the epitome of a venal special interest group, the kind of grasping, foolish posturers that make the public cynically assume that the profession it represents is a racket, not a trade. This is, after all, the same gang of weirdos who opposed the used book trade going online."
Neil says: "When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it."
But what if we're all wrong? As an author, performer, and consumer of audiobooks, what does this mean for me?
To find out, I picked a short passage from Sunken Treasure and read it. Then, I took the identical passage, and let my computer read it. I recorded the whole thing and put together something I call "Wil Wheaton versus Text 2 Speech" so you can hear for yourself.
It's about 5MB and just about 10 minutes long.
Edited to add: My friend Jamais wrote an extremely insightful and thoughtful commentary on the whole text 2 speech issue. He's really smart and you should read it, regardless of where you currently fall in the debate.
Also, this post has attracted a lot of traffic, and people are asking me about my own audiobooks. I'll point you to my virtual bookshelf, where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about all my books, including the audio versions.