Enemies of Progress: Success and Failure
When things are going well and business is humming along, industries are resistant to change because they don't want to change the model that has been working so well for them. They resist change so much that they will defend the status quo with litigation and legislation (through lobbying efforts) to prevent the market from adapting to changing circumstances and demand. When things are going poorly, often companies in these same industries lack the capital necessary to make the changes they needed to sustain profitability.
A prime example of this is the RIAA, who for years resisted the demand of consumers to download music directly from a distributor for use on their portable devices -- and any other device types they might want to use it. Another example that is far more troublesome is the failure of so many newspapers, whose sunk capital investment and romanticism prevents them from making meaningful change in how they create and distribute the news.
Now the Author's Guild finds itself threatened by the same predicament. Having become accustomed to receiving royalties independently for both physical books and for audio versions of the same book, the Guild is concerned that the new Kindle uses a technology that reads text aloud, using a voice synthesizer.
This technology, they fear, may one day become so good that people will no longer need to buy a separate audio version for their books.
Progress? The horror!
Also, consider the hubris of those who would either deny technological advances or prevent the text from being read aloud by a third-party (this would not be the same as a recording).
To be clear, the Kindle 2, were it to become widely adopted, represents some challenges for authors and how they negotiate royalties. However, it's in their best interests to figure it out quickly -- before their industries fail because of their inability to adapt.
Not all the news is bad. One thing the Kindle may do is, if implemented properly, reduce the barrier for consumption of the authors' work, making it more likely that people will spend the money to purchase it.
If this happens, the natural result is that more people will consume more books.
This is good for everybody.
This will enable their ideas and their fame to more easily gain traction, which actually increases the likelihood that they will make money.
But first they have to get out of the way of progress. For now, the publishing industry doesn't face the same immediate threat that newspapers do. However, if they don't find a way to make this trend work to their advantage, especially if the price for the Kindle falls to the point that it can be more popularly seen as a worthwhile investment, they aren't far behind. - Cam Beck