I previously professed my love for ereaders, and for about a year I have been enjoying my Kindle. For the last couple of years, Amazon has been my perfect roommate. It never leaves a mess. Once a month, it delivers my subscription of caffeinated Jolt Gum. It keeps me knee deep in books and tech manuals. It delivers me instant music. It doesn’t leave dishes around the house. It’s customer support has been prompt.
In short, I am totally dependent upon this e-teat from Seattle. I’ve often thought that if Amazon went out of business I would not be able to survive…and I have spent money on Amazon like I was on a one man mission to keep their lights going.
So when the Kindle arrived, I HAD to have one. And to be honest, it was been a wild and wonderful affair for the last couple of months. As an open source and control freak (totally related), I went out on a limb with the Kindle. Sketchy details, weird DRM, dial home features. If this were from that other company in Seattle, I would have ran the other way. But Amazon was always so good to me…better judgement was pushed aside for the warm glow of instant purchase and enjoyment of books.
My favorite feature has been the Text-to-Speech. I don’t like audio books. I don’t buy them, I don’t listen to them. the “acting” of the reader always grates. But the neutral synthetic voice of the Kindle was it’s voice. It was like the Kindle was reading me the book, or my news. It was like my vulcan friend who couldn’t quite grasp the nuances of human language or emotion was trying his best to share my earth literature with me. I think I may have even had a small crush on my Kindle.
At night, when my eyes would get tired, I would turn out the lights and have Kindle read me scary Lovecraft tales. Trying getting a Kindle to speak those words…its knows better. To speak them would be madness.
But today, I don’t have to worry. I found two new books I purchased are silent. I played with it, thinking I was doing something wrong. Then a quick search on google and I found that Amazon had quietly disabled the feature for an unknown number of items.
I am okay if some author declines to allow TTS for his/her book…wait, actually I am not. TTS was such a great advancement. Little kids, people with diminished sight, dyslexics; so many people had books opened to them for the first time. They had the same independence that I used to take for granted. Me, I paid for those books. I want to support the authors. I want them to write more. But I also want to enjoy them and meet their words on my own terms. I respect the right to earn a living and support them. I want to be respected as patron of their arts!
The most galling thing is to this date, there is now way of telling what you are going to get. Buy the electronic version of Newsweek, and my Kindle is a regular chatter box. Buy a cyberpunk novel by Charles Stross, and now I have a mute. Oh the irony that novels about DRM punks is DRM crippled.
Maybe some smart set of lawyers will smell class action that Amazon doesn’t tell Kindle users what they are buying. Spin the wheel, TTS or no TTS. People are starting to tag books with the NO TTS tag on Amazon to warn fellow Kindlers. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I would have at least known what I was buying.
I just can’t help but feeling, after all of these years; Amazon played me for a fool. No longer a trusted friend, it is just another faceless corporation. My faith in friendly book gnomes from the pacific northwest have been replaced by grim faces of IRS style bean counters. More so, I am renewed in my passion form supporting DRM free alternatives to Amazon like Feedbooks.
Funny thing, I found my first Charles Stross novel there. I loved it so much, I wanted to support him. Instead of just getting my next books for free, I went out of my way to pay for 2 of them. Well, I guess I learned my lesson.