E-Book Audio: Your Library, as Read by Stephen Hawking
Used to be, the only people you’d hear talking through what sounded like a Vocoder were Zapp and Roger. Then Stephen Hawking and that guy from the anti-smoking PSAs started biting their style. After the Beastie Boys made “Intergalactic,” it was all over. Now everybody does it, including just about every damn author in your library.
I remember what a fuss the Authors’ Guild made over the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature when it was first introduced. Like a lot of people, I thought their concerns were entirely misplaced; no way could HAL 9000 ever supplant the human voice. Now that I’ve gotten used to it, though, I can see some of what the Guild was worried about. I still don’t think the audiobook , as a business model, will ever be seriously threatened by the Kindle or any other talking e-reader, and I’ll continue to use Audible.com for as long as it remains a great service.
But when you’re in a pinch, when you have to keep your eyes up and in front of you, and don’t want to have to quit that book you’d been reading (which may or may not be available on audiobook), or when (most likely scenario of all) your MP3 player has run out of either juice or content and you’re not in a place where you can get any more of either–well, it’s then that the feature becomes a lifesaver. So Authors of America, relax: the digitized voice will never be an equable substitute for the human voice, your own or Tom Hanks’ or even Jonathan Lithgow’s. Besides, the more books people can consume, the more they’ll need to buy. As for the trustees of the estate of Zapp and Roger–I’d say go after all the royalties you can get. You guys got fucking screwed.
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