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Audible ruffles feathers with launch of Captions

Audible Captions aims to aid education by showing text versions of its audiobooks in the app, leading many publishers to cry infringement – Audible, after all, has audio rights, not text rights.

The Bookseller gives more information on the different uses of Captions:

“Captions will show text on screen as the book is narrated and will be available to US customers who pay a $14.95 monthly subscription. It will also have a dictionary function and a feature for accessing Wikipedia. Books being played in one language could also be translated into the text of another.”

According to Audible, the feature is “designed primarily to fill an unmet need in education” by allowing students listening to a book to engage more fully with the work.

Audible told the Verge that these captions are

“small amounts of machine-generated text are displayed progressively a few lines at a time while audio is playing, and listeners cannot read at their own pace or flip through pages as in a print book or eBook.”

but even from the promo video above, it does seem like consumers are getting the whole book rendered as text, so it’s obvious why publishers are upset. The Verge has more quotes from publishers on their response to this latest offering from Audible and Publishers Weekly has more from the Authors Guild, literary agents and a publishing attorney.

Captions seems to be the reverse of Amazon’s existing Whispersync offering for Kindle – buy the Kindle edition and you get the Audible narration at a reduced price and you can swap your reading between the two without losing your place – and bears a striking resemblance to their abandoned text-to-speech offering of 2009 (your Kindle reads your eBook to you using a computer voice).

But let’s assume that Audible win through and this goes ahead. What are the pros and cons here?

The main pro for the average reader is, as Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader points out, that Captions could be incredibly useful for works of science fiction and fantasy, where the proper nouns – not to mention the names of imaginary objects – can be obscure (Hermione – Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling), archaic (‘Mycroft’ – Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer) or just plain made up (‘Seivarden’ – Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie).

We at Siliconchips would like to add to that list something perhaps more mundane but equally important: names from other languages. Anyone who has tried to listen to a book centred on characters with names not from their own native tongue will have met this difficulty. And, just as not being able to pronounce a name you encounter when reading with your eyes can snag you out of the story, not being able to spell the word you are hearing in an audiobook has the same effect, especially when you have several characters with unusual names, making it hard for you to hold the different characters in your head and still follow the story.

Which brings us to the cons of Captions. Chiefly, this is that the text is generated by computer, using the same software developed for Alexa. But as anyone who has used Alexa or Siri or Android’s Assistant can attest, there are often times when what you’ve said is misinterpreted, even when you’re speaking common words. So one wonders how Captions is going to cope with names like T’Challa (Black Panther) which will likely be mis-spelled. Is this, then, actually beneficial in line with Audible’s purported educational aid goals?

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Umesh Nair

International Executive with focus on Global Growth -20 years working experience in Germany, Singapore, India,Asia, Middle East, Switzerland, Europe across a cultural multi-functional environment.

Specialties: Business Strategy & International partnerships, Global Alliances network in Startup, Technology,Airlines, Aviation, Travel, online travel, E-commerce Business, Luxury Retail, BPO, b2b, ERP Software BusinessDevelopment – Sales, Go to Market, Growth Specialist, Incubation, Entrepreneur in Residence, Senior ClientPartner, Consulting, Market Research – Coleman Research, Lynk Global, Guidepoint, Insight Alpha, GersonLehrman Group.

Mr. Manoj Mehta

Mr. Manoj Mehta, is a Science Graduate and a Fellow Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), practicing as a Chartered Accountant since 1984. He had the great opportunity to complete his article training with M/s. S.V.Ghatalia & Co. (now part of E&Y, one of the big four Consulting Firms in India).

He has got vast experience of 40 years in the profession. His core strength is in the field of Finance, as a Corporate Advisor to public, private and multinational companies in the field of financial planning, raising debt and equity, structuring,  etc. His forte is strategic business and financial planning, compliances, deployment of funds, optimum utilization, budgeting, Preparation and analyzing of qualitative Project feasibility reports, anything and everything related to advising on financial decision making.

He holds trusteeship of a few charitable trust to show his philanthropy side.

He has held leadership roles and has been in the forefront in articulating values and beliefs in a team building approach.

Paul Evans

Dr Paul Evans has a long career in publishing in STM and business sectors since graduating from Oxford University and first working as a computer programmer. He worked for Reed Elsevier in a variety of roles for nearly 25 years (in UK, Netherlands and China) up to, in later years, Senior Vice President at the global headquarters in Amsterdam. He then became Managing Director for SAGE Publishing’s Asia Pacific company at its hub in Singapore for 7 years, doubling its size and performance. Latterly he was for three years Director of Nature Research China with Springer Nature in Shanghai and an adviser to the Chinese government for his industry, and then on return to the UK during Covid he has worked for Maverick Publishing Specialists as a consultant and Charlesworth Publishing Services as Director of Partnerships.

He has also taken a strong interest in education initially as a teacher in Japan, as a lecturer and course leader in Publishing Studies at a Scottish university, and now in working in UK education areas.

Bharath Ramadoss

Head of Production and Operations, has been with Siliconchips since 2015. In his time with us, he has managed a team of dedicated and experienced production team members, both in books, journals development.

A graduate of University of Madras, Bharath has a strong experience in quality, complex workflows in the publishing industry. His skill set includes e-publishing, project and team management, XML and HTML, content development, workflow improvement, and now working closely with technology team and developing various tools and platforms.

He enjoys cricket, and you will find him playing every Saturday.

Becca Mosher

Becca Mosher, US Editorial Project Manager, helped to develop the Siliconchips editorial department in 2015, and her team continues to grow. A graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Missouri – Columbia, Becca has been in the publishing industry since 2007, where she has specialized in e-book project management, editorial management, and editing in a wide variety of styles at all levels, from proofreading to developmental editing. She is proficient in several languages and adept at client relations.

An avid board gamer, Becca teaches different games at a “Learn to Play” night once a week.

Abhijit Pathre

Abhijit Pathre, our Director of Account Management, manages data, accounts, delivery and operations, and maintains client relationships. He is highly experienced in the technology field and possesses excellent communication and problem-resolution skills; prior to joining Siliconchips Services, he was with Hutchison Global Services, working in 3G, and Goldshield Business Solutions, a UK-based Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm.

He leads with a humbleness that compels the team to follow his direction. His firm commitment and his vast fifteen-year experience spanning various industries contribute to his essential role as a member of the Siliconchips Services team in India.

Shahid Chowdhary

Shahid Chowdhary began Siliconchips Services in London in September 2010, with one basic idea: to build an organisation committed to value-based leadership and promoting a culture of trust, transparency, integrity and mutual respect.

Shahid received his graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from NIT Srinagar and his post-graduate in Marketing and Finance from NMIMS, Mumbai – both leading engineering and business schools in India and he was certified by Baan in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). He has acquired numerous professional qualifications in innovation, strategy and leadership development throughout his career, including Leadership Management Institute (LMI) in the US and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in London. Over the years he has worked with various multinational companies in India, the US and the UK, including engineering, software development and publishing companies.

Shahid is the driving force behind Siliconchips Services; he focuses on new markets, business development, human resources development and planning for the continued growth of the company. He unites his teams across borders, and encourages a cohesive working community to give our clients a professional and pleasant experience with Siliconchips Services.

Over the weekends, Shahid spends time with his two daughters, practicing martial arts, and volunteering at the stables for his love of horses.