One of the biggest challenges to innovation is the status quo. While the defenders of the status quo, a.k.a. the short-sighted ones, would like to continue to protect their territories, markets and margins, they are continually being pushed by innovation. Ultimately, the ‘short-sighted ones‘ have to make a choice to embrace innovation or try to block it.
Amazon.com chose the later when faced with objections from the Authors’ Guild about text-to-speech capabilities in the Kindle 2. Seth Godin writes about other recent missteps by similarly short-sighted groups.
Ultimately the Kindle 2’s fate will be determined by the market. Hopefully a challenger to the Kindle 2 will appear with full text-to-speech capabilities so that those with impaired vision will be able to enjoy literary works like the rest of us.
Unlocking Business Opportunities
What Amazon may not have fully thought through are the businss opportunities in a market enhanced with text-to-speech. For example, they could offer a selection of voice over actors for any book on the Amazon store. This could range from Paris Hilton reading The Little Engine that Could all the way to Patrick Stewart reading Moby Dick. How about having a selection of actors reading Moby Dick and let the customer choose which one to hear? What if Amazon offered it up in a marketplace like iTunes at a price of 99 cents where voice actors can upload their versions of stories that can be imported into the ebook on the Kindle 2?
And what real leverage does the Authors Guild have over Amazon? Can’t Amazon simply choose to not distribute books that disagree with their text-to-speech implementation on the Kindle 2? But the Authors Guild does not have to be locked out of this potential revenue stream and, in fact, the more voice-enabled books there are, the more books they will sell. Maybe I am just naive to think everyone would benefit or maybe the Authors’ Guild are short-sighted?
Amazon may have such a plan in place and they are simply working through logistics. I hope that is the case. There are other platforms, besides the Kindle, that can also take advantage of integrating text-to-speech into ebooks. Android already has a few text-to-speech and ebook apps on the marketplace. The next step would be to combine the two and allow users to upload their audio readings of the books. Eventually more well known voice actors i.e. LeVar Burton may join in and offer their interpretations at a slightly higher premium price.
There will continue to be ‘short-sighted ones’ that prefer the status quo in the face of change. In those cases, just look at how these organizations fared:
1. The RIAA and MPAA are losing the battle to justify lost revenues in light of the trend towards file sharing networks
2. Microsoft’s anti-trust activities failed to maintain browser marketshare against alternatives offering innovation
3. The Republican party completed an epic fail in losing the presidency and any influence in the house and senate in election cycle 2008
All I can say is that if you favor innovation then you will NOT chose to click that ‘Add to Cart’ button for the Kindle 2.