Amazon.com, responding to criticism that a text-to-speech feature on its new Kindle book reader helps it sidestep royalty payments, plans to allow the audio function to be disabled, Reuters reports. The online retail giant pledged to modify the Kindle 2 so that authors, publishers, or any holders to a novel’s rights can choose whether to turn on the feature, which takes written text and converts it to human speech. "Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given," the firm said in a statement on Feb. 27. "Nevertheless, we strongly believe many rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat." In an editorial titled "The Kindle Swindle" that appeared in the New York Times Feb. 25, the president of the Author’s Guild, Roy Blount Jr., took Amazon to task for the function on the new Kindle, which began shipping this week. The new Kindle can read books aloud, but unlike with audio books, royalties are not paid to authors. Blount argued the technology Amazon uses to turn text into a human voice is quickly improving, and authors need to be "duly vigilant" about this novel means of transmitting their work…

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