The Amazon Kindle might be Getting Push Back from Authors

If free music downloads in the late 90 can provide any lesson, then you should go out and get a Kindle now, and stock up on books while things are still cheap!

image BEING president of too many well-meaning organizations put my father into an early grave. The lesson in this was not lost on me. But now I am president of the Authors Guild, whose mission is to sustain book-writing as a viable occupation. This borders on quixotic, given all the new ways of not getting paid that new technology affords authors. A case in point: Amazon’s Kindle 2, which was released yesterday.

The Kindle 2 is a portable, wireless, paperback-size device onto which people can download a virtual library of digitalized titles. Amazon sells these downloads, and where the books are under copyright, it pays royalties to the authors and publishers.

Serves readers, pays writers: so far, so good. But there’s another thing about Kindle 2 — its heavily marketed text-to-speech function. Kindle 2 can read books aloud. And Kindle 2 is not paying anyone for audio rights.

True, you can already get software that will read aloud whatever is on your computer. But Kindle 2 is being sold specifically as a new, improved, multimedia version of books — every title is an e-book and an audio book rolled into one. And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm, audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing. Audio rights are not generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book rights. Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.

You may be thinking that no automated read-aloud function can compete with the dulcet resonance of Jim Dale reading “Harry Potter” or of authors, ahem, reading themselves. But the voices of Kindle 2 are quite listenable. There’s even a male version and a female version. (A book by, say, Norman Mailer on Kindle 2 might do a brisk business among people wondering how his prose would sound in measured feminine tones.)

And that sort of technology is improving all the time. I.B.M. has patented a computerized voice that is said to be almost indistinguishable from human ones. This voice is programmed to include “ums,” “ers” and sighs, to cough for attention, even to “shhh” when interrupted.

In Case You Missed it Personal Privacy is Dead on the Internet

Privacy is dead on the internet.  imageThere are millions of examples of this, but yesterday TMZ found a new way to prove it by publishing pictures of the battered face of pop star Rihanna.  Her current boyfriend, Chris Brown, is accused of beating her during an argument.

The LA Police are investigating the leak of this photo, which would seem to confirm the photo as a real photo as opposed to a doctored photoshop image. 

The internet and technology in general make it far too easy to share information.  This is not a good thing and not a bad thing.  It is a reality.  In this case, someone knowingly seems to have provided this photo to TMZ for sensational value.  However, there are many technologies these days that share images, video and sound of people all the time.  Often they don’t even know what they are sharing.

Facial recognition software is even making it possible for images or video that have been posted years earlier but not tagged.  So even if a person thinks that a moment for years or decades ago is water under the bridge future technologies might re-expose what might have felt like a private moment.

Google Earth – a Monopoly Play?

Today, I installed Google Earth on my computer.  This is a task that I go through every now and then.  Its a really cool application but is all to infamous for crashing any and all of the computers in our house hold (all relatively new computers, the oldest being 2 years old, the newest 3 months).


This time I noticed that without even giving me an opt out, Google also installed the Google Chrome browser on my machine.  :(

It instantly reminded me of the problems with Microsoft Windows 95/89 and auto installing Internet Explorer, plus making it very difficult to later remove it.  Now, Google has a US Monopoly on Search, and they are trying to capture something similar world wide.  I often find myself amazed every time they make a move that helps to demonstrate that they are not only a monopoly, but a monopoly that is abusing its power.


Satellite Traffic Collision between Iridium and Russian Satellites

Two satellites had a fender bender in space.  Both satellites were totaled out and are expected to be towed back to earth by gravity. 

An iridium satellite collided with a Russian satellite launched in 1993.  The Russian satellite has not operated in approximately 10 years.  Iridium satellites are typically low orbit communications satellites, which leads me to speculate that the non-functional Russian satellite might have been in a more rapid orbital decay.

The Russian satellite weighed over a ton (slightly more than a car) and the Iridium satellite weighed in at over a 1,000 pounds or about as much as a very large Harley Davidson.

CNBC Charges to Show You the News?

I find this to be incredibly moronic or possibly demonstrative that traditional media has lost the ability to keep their business profitable through TV  broadcasts.


Paying $10 per month to have the ability to watch CNBC on your computer, just seems dumb.

  • Do they strip out the commercials?
  • Do they remove the commercials from their website?
  • What makes it worth this much money?

Camera Phones Everywhere


Tonight as I watch President Obama give a speech about the economic Stimulus package, I noticed that several members of the press in the front of the room were capturing video of the President in the Oval Office.

Now this is live video at an event that is also being televised by every major network.  Is it important or necessary for any given person, especially a member of the press to ALSO get some video of the President on their camera phone?

No its not, but everyone these days is doing it.  Go to a concert and you will see hundreds of cell phones recording video at any given minute or second of the concert.  The same goes for all live events.  Its just a reality of our culture these days.

If you are involved in a live event there will be cameras.  Odds are you may even get caught up in the stream yourself and there is already free facial recognition software starting to become mainstream on photo sharing sites.

Soon we will have an index or automated tagging system for every person that shows up at every event around the world.  Are we ready for that level of visual inclusion and transparency at the expense of personal privacy?

That’s Hope You Can Take to Court?

Mannie Garcia and Shepard Fairey both share a hope that is likely to come true, it is a hope of having their day in court.  Through the Associated Press, Mannie is litigating Shepard for Shepard’s use of Mannie’s photograph of Barack Obama which Shepard converted into the famous ‘Hope’ poster.


If you listen real hard, you can just hear that faint sound of hope in the background.  If there are other noises making it difficult for you to identify the sounds of change, try and isolate the sound that rings ‘kuching’.  :)


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