We still don't know the specifics of the settlement agreement that ended the lawsuit that seven publishers filed against Amazon over Audible Captions, but one thing is clear: publishers care more about winning a fight against Amazon than about how the public might benefit.
AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante issued a statement yesterday, revealing that there are two parts to the settlement:
AAP, the plaintiffs, and Audible have resolved their pending litigation.
Audible has agreed that it will obtain permission from any AAP members that are in good standing with AAP before moving forward with Audible Captions for their works. We will be advising our members as to the application of the resolution.
Separately, the parties have presented a consent permanent injunction to the court, which would resolve and dismiss the underlying litigation between the publishers and Audible.
The Association of American Publishers has some 150 members, representing about a third of the titles published each year in the US (and a considerably smaller percentage of the titles published globally).
Those publishers have won their battle against Amazon, and their reward is the ability to deny users from accessing a useful tool.
Folks, I have seen, from the very first announcement of Audible Captions, the value that users can get from this feature. Anyone who had difficulty understanding spoken words, whether it's because English is not their native tongue or because they have hearing loss, could have used the Captions feature to get a clue what the narrator was saying. Furthermore, students who weren't familiar with a strange word spoken by the narrator could have used Captions to see how it was spelled, and then looked it up.
But now publishers have the power to deny the public from using this feature on their books.
I probably should not have been surprised at this outcome; the same thing happened in 2009, when Amazon debuted a text to speech feature on the second Kindle. In what is now misremembered as a legal precedent (it was actually a contract dispute) publishers pressured Amazon into giving them the option of denying users from accessing that feature, too.
So today's news should not be a surprise, but it does beg the question: Was winning your fight with Amazon really so important that throwing the public under the bus was an acceptable result?