image164[1] I didn’t notice this David Pogue article from August 12th until Techdirt and Slashdot pointed it out just the other day. Though most of the article is about other cool features offered by iOS 4 (unified contacts, Facetime tricks), in the last section Pogue talks about the VoiceOver “spoken books” feature on the iPad and wonders why the Authors Guild and publishers hasn’t freaked out about it. I previously looked at the matter back in March; you’d think they would have had time to speak up by now.

Yes, this is exactly the feature that debuted in the Amazon Kindle and was then removed when publishers screamed bloody murder. But somehow, so far, Apple has gotten away with it, maybe because nobody’s even realized this feature is in there.

Why is it all right for the iPad to read books aloud, but not the Kindle? Because it’s more obviously part of an overall accessibility system for the blind, whereas the Kindle’s was meant for the convenience of the sighted (and indeed, the rest of it proved to be so inaccessible to the blind that colleges were prohibited from adopting it for textbooks), perhaps? Or is the Authors Guild more willing to give Apple a pass since it helped them stand up to the “man” on the matter of e-book pricing?

Since Pogue explained how to do it, I went ahead and gave it a try myself. It read a little fast to be understandable on the default setting, though that is adjustable by slider. The odd emphases and pauses also didn’t help understandability, and I didn’t really like the way it changed the device’s default gestures. It’s not going to replace a talented audiobook actor any time soon.

Still, I did like how loud and fairly easy to understand the individual words were, and it’s good to have the capability available even if it’s not one I would ordinarily choose to use.


  1. In Ben Hoyle’s story on this in The Australian
    July 22 or so, at

    Hoyle adds that “[Wylie’s] ambitions for the new publishing company are global but he also admits that he is happy to pull the plug on it if it frightens the publishers back to the negotiating table. ‘It can be dismantled with the flick of a switch.'”

    When I read that on July 22, I recommended that Odyssey Edition buyers back up those books as they’d not likely last that long.

    It’ll be interesting to see someday (I hope) some hint of what the terms were.

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