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Distrusting the Kindle

July 30, 2009

We all heard that recently, Amazon discovered they had a licensing problem with some titles they’d sold on their electronic Kindle reader.  Instead of paying off the copyright holder, they simply deleted the books remotely from everyone’s Kindle, and refunded their purchase price.  At least one person was writing a paper on the book (ironically, it was 1984 by George Orwell), and all his notes disappeared with the book.

What Amazon has done has let quite a few cats out of the bag.  Now we know what we suspected before: there’s nothing to say that in the morning, your book won’t be gone.  Or worse, that an edited copy of the book won’t be in its place – one which states historical facts differently, or is less critical of the government, etc.  In fact, there’s nothing to keep Amazon’s system, and by extension the government, from even knowing what chapters we’ve read and what notes we made.

Don’t tell me it’s paranoid and unlikely; it’s possible.  It always has been, with DRM technology.

Needless to say, Kindle owners were not too happy; this would be the rough equivalent of Amazon sneaking into your house, swiping a book you just bought, and leaving a few bucks on the table.  CEO Jeff Bezos has issued a Kindle apology and wants to know; “What can Kindle do to make this right?”

Well you probably can’t do anything to make it right, Jeff, because it’s wrong.  You’re selling books that aren’t securely the property of the purchaser, and people like to think of a book as their property.  Predictably, media apologists are saying we shouldn’t expect to keep a book forever.

If we can’t keep it forever, can we sell it? I just bought a used paperback copy of The Web Style Guide, 3d edition. on Amazon, for ten bucks, with four bucks shipping.


  • BoingBoing picks up a humorous video on the comparative experience: Book vs. The Kindle

  • That high school student who lost his notes when the book was deleted is suing.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Doug
    August 2, 2009 at 18:40 | #2

    I think the name for Kindle customers is “kindling,” not kindlers, as has been suggested.

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