There's been a bunch of pressure from the Author's Guild on Amazon to disable text-to-speech. The blind guys attached the Author's Guild. Some people speculated that parents would have to pay the Author's Guild to have the right to read out loud to the kiddies. Blah, blah, bleeping, blah.
Well, depending on who you read, Amazon has "caved", "retreated" or made "an apparent concession" by working to make it technically possible for text-to-speech to be disabled on a title-by-title basis. Some of the commentary is pointing out that you can get text-to-speech software for a computer and therefore perhaps Apple should be worried next. I'm inclined to think that's a bunch of foolishness, but I'm fully prepared to change my mind the day an App shows up that works with the iPhone book reader app that reads the text out loud.
I particularly like the wording, "an apparent concession", courtesy PC World.
It nicely captures the oh, look, the door is now open phenomenon. I would imagine a fair number of kindle 1 owners who are now also kindle 2 owners are also people who intend to use the kindle 2's text-to-speech feature for their drive time "reading". Given that only a tiny fraction of books are available on audio at all, and an even tinier fraction available via services like one's local library, Overdrive, or for pay at Audible or whatever, drive time book listeners are accustomed to taking what they can get for their commute. Which sort of suggests that over time, there will be data showing that kindle books with text-to-speech allowed sell better than kindle books with text-to-speech disabled -- none of which were selling particularly rapidly in paper form to the people who became their audience with the kindle.
I know Amazon has been chary with the data. But the publishers get paid for every single item sold, so they must know what's selling and what's not in what format, right? It'll be interesting to see how this shakes out.