Following complaints that the ability to read books aloud on the new Kindle 2 violated copyright and was a potential threat to sales of audio books, Amazon has announced that it will now let publishers decide on a title-by-title basis whether or not they want the function disabled. The company has already started work on the technical changes needed to allow these settings.

Amazon however insisted that the text-to-speech feature is legal because no copy is made, no derivative work is created and no performance is given. The company itself is in the business of selling audio books through its Audible and Brilliance subsidiaries, so it wouldn’t be in their best interest to introduce a feature that would undermine a portion of its business.

The device’s generic voices are serviceable at best but obviously not on a par with a narration from a professional reader, as it can express no emotions or do character voices. In any case, enabling the text-to-speech feature is now the publishers’ call, not Amazon’s, and hopefully they will see that it won't interfere with audio book sales enough to matter.