Delete this book

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Every time I see my living room bookshelf, I feel silly. This is because it’s the ultimate poseur bookshelf.

In it is a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Filling two more shelves are the “Great Books,” the sort of thing Harold Bloom thinks we should be reading instead of Harry Potter. All are bound like the volumes posed behind injury lawyers in nasty TV ads. There’s a stack of old National Geographics. Cheap art books sit by historical atlases, Gray’s anatomy and the DSM-IV.

These possessions fill an entire wall. Most of them are pointless, too — who on Earth reads Euclid? Even interesting ones remain unread. So, I’ve been talking myself into getting rid of all these tomes and replacing them with a Kindle DX, from Amazon.The first decent electronic book, the Kindle is lightweight, easy on the eyes, and has enough storage to hold thousands of titles. There’s a huge online library and built-in Internet: no computer required.

Its utility is such that even curmudgeons who lament the soullessness of screen reading are coming around. It is as beautiful as a book, and yet it is all books.

Today, though, I changed my mind. I won’t be eBaying-off the heavies after all. Why? Because Amazon can snoop and shred the books you buy, and that’s just too damned creepy for words.

David Pogue. writing in the New York Times, reported that hundreds of customers awoke to find that Amazon remotely deleted books that they’d earlier bought and downloaded. Apparently, the publisher determined that it should not offer those titles, so Amazon logged into Kindles, erased the books, and issued refunds. This was aptly compared to someone sneaking into your house, taking away your books, and leaving a stack of cash on the table.

That George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm were among the wiped books is so funny that it aches. The headlines across the ‘net wrote themselves. Down the memory hole!

If this were the only example of this sort of thing, it could be written off as a mistake. But it’s just the latest in a series illustrating Amazon’s vision for the future of reading.

• First, Amazon selectively disabled text-to-speech. It did this to cosy up to publishers who felt audiobook sales were threatened by the Kindle’s robotic enunciation. This mocks the blind and supports an ugly interpretation of the law, which would make reading to your own children an act of copyright infringement.

• Amazon also refuses to disclose the circumstances under which it will no longer allow you to download copies of books you have bought. Cory’s been stonewalled, by one spokesdroid after another, which would be comical were it not so absurd.

• The Author’s contract for Kindle publications is “the pinnacle of bogosity.” Nor can you resell Kindle books, as you can normal ones, even though you have the legal right to do so. This is because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent the electronic locks that Amazon applies to its e-books.

• Amazon has even locked Kindle users out of their own Kindle accounts, for trivial reasons.

Now we find that the books you buy are never really yours, and that enjoying them is a privilege granted and withdrawn by Amazon at publisher behest. No-one who enjoys reading can take comfort in any of this.

Amazon promised that it won’t delete customers’ books again. But this promise rings hollow as long as it maintains the technical capability to do so. Today’s statement, that it is “changing systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” merely makes one wonder about the circumstances in which it will.

More interesting, however, is another question: “Under what circumstances can Amazon not remove books from customers’ devices?”

The answer to that one’s easy: don’t buy books from Amazon. If your e-books are in a generic format such as plain text, PDF or DOC file, they’re not tied into the control system and Amazon has no power to delete them.

On the one hand, you have a locked-down, Kindle-only e-book that you never really own and which Amazon assures us it may delete. On the other hand, anyone can find unencrypted equivalents which can’t be remotely deleted, and which work on any competing device. The legitimate product has severe defects clearly not shared by pirated counterparts.

Amazon’s mistreatment of its customers makes it look coldly bureaucratic. But Amazon isn’t some stone-faced Orwellian villain: it’s a corporation exploiting an excellent product. Like Apple before it, it wants to build a transformative monopoly over a new market before anyone else can respond. On its way there, it will seek to control producers, consumers and the medium itself. To Amazon, the various cultural and personal freedoms we associate with books and literature are merely peripheral impediments to its progress.

Of course, there is another alternative. They may be heavy, cumbersome, and even ridiculous. But for now, my hardbacks are staying right where they are.

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com

 

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58 Responses to Delete this book

  1. murray says:

    I love technology, but the idea of purchasing my media as a download has always been unappealing to me, and this is just one more reason that I’m sticking with CDs, DVDs, and books for the foreseeable future.

  2. runwithskizzers says:

    There’s a great article on the Revenge of Print in the Brooklyn Railroad:

    http://www.brooklynrail.org/2009/07/express/the-revenge-of-print

    And while it’s a little optimistic / naive for my tastes, I agree with what it says about lack of variety and the necessity of a resurgence of independent book stores & presses. Unfortunately, Amazon is a big problem when it comes to variety.

    There was also this article:

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/137/the-evolution-of-amazon.html?page=0%2C0

    which highlights the similarities and differences between Amazon and Apple. The biggest difference being that Steve Jobs hasn’t yet made it into the realm of MAKING music, whereas Jeff Bezos has every intention of publishing books with Amazon Encore. This is terrifying because he not only sells his product, he creates it, thereby reducing creativity and variety in a world that (by all accounts) should thrive on those two traits.

    Bezos should stop trying to own the written word.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Publisher of the Orwell books found they didn’t actually have the rights to publish them. Rather than getting sued, they asked Amazon to recall them which they did and refunded people’s money.

    Apple has done the same thing with Apps for the iPhone. Where’s the outrage there?

  4. Anonymous says:

    @19

    Incorrect. The Kindle can display PDF’s. The first two generations required conversion to a Kindle format. The Kindle DX has native PDF support. You plug it in to your PC, and you can drag and drop PDF’s onto the device. PDF support isn’t perfect (you can’t zoom in or change font sizes on PDF’s due to a format / interpretation issue.), but it’s the best of a bad lot.

    You couldn’t pry my DX away from me. After a month, it has become indispensable. 75% of my reading is either Project Gutenberg type freebies (Amazon does have a fair selection of free public domain works in ebook format) or O’Reilly books that will be dinosaurs in four years and are more of a hassle to own in paperback. Anything else is a PDF, which have all looked just fine.

    We’re probably not headed for an iPod level revolution here with kindle / ebooks, but we’re taking a big step forward.

  5. strider_mt2k says:

    Do what makes you happy, but don’t come looking to borrow any of MY copies when Amazon decides to pull the plug on your personal reading collection.

    You shouldn’t have a poser book collection any way.
    You should just put those old Highlights magazines and your Hardy Boys collection right out there where we can see ‘em!
    ;)

    Seriously, don’t lose the books, that’s crazy.

  6. oohShiny says:

    Hey at least you have the Encyclopedia Britannica — I had the Volume Library >_<

  7. RandomMarius says:

    BoingBoing sensationalist and misleading headlines aside, I think Amazon did the right thing and according to their official response:

    Amazon Kindle Customer Service says:
    “These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future, books will not be removed from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”

  8. Laura H says:

    Off topic: Euclid is a *ridiculous* amount of fun. Really, try him sometime, but don’t read,do the exercises.

  9. Aaron says:

    The wonderfully ironic thing about Amazon’s behavior (and product design) is that it’s laying the groundwork for an explosion of pirated books.

    P2P music took off with the advent of the iPod. P2P movies and TV are taking off with set top boxes and cheap HTPCs.

    Now there’s finally a device that makes books worth pirating. As with music and video, it will take the content creators several years to start selling consumer-friendly content.

    Apple and Amazon are finally selling DRM-free music–but we’re still stuck in 2004 when it comes to electronic books.

    Until we can *buy* e-books that we can read on the device of our choosing, not simply *renting* e-books with a lease that can be revoked at any time, illegally downloading content is the far more consumer-friendly path.

    Prediction: Within 6 months, Pirate Bay, mininova, et al will have thriving DRM-free editions of the New York Times bestseller list. It won’t be long before Kindle DRM is cracked, and a single purchase ends up as a free download within hours of a book’s release. Even if Kindle DRM isn’t cracked, crowdsourced OCR projects (yes, the good ol’ analog hole!) will fill the gap, albeit at a slower pace.

    Amazon knows this, of course, but Bezos is stuck bending over for publishers, who think they’re somehow smarter or safer than the music industry was 10 years ago.

    Eventually we’ll be able to legally download DRM-free versions of the latest books. But that won’t happen until the illegal marketplace is such a success that publishers finally pull their head out of the sand.

  10. HoppyChris says:

    Keep the books, heck, make sure your bookshelf is on an outside wall and you have some insulation — let’s see a kindle do that!

  11. Spinkter says:

    I’m sorry, but this is nostalgic bullshit.

    Before I bought a Kindle, my pattern for book reading was thus: I bought the book, I read the book, then I sold the book. This is true for about 99.5% of the books that I’ve ever read. I’ve never had any desire to accumulate physical objects, and public libraries suck for selection. There are less than 20 books in my bookshelf, and this is from over thirty years of reading hundreds of books as an adult.

    So, in effect, I had been “renting” books, with the rental price of a book being the delta between its purchase price and its selling price. Nowadays, I certainly may be “renting” books by reading them on the Kindle, but this is not much different than what I was doing before, and now I don’t have to fuck with the physical media at all. A godsend, if you ask me.

    As as far as 1984 being deleted from Kindles: Has anyone wondered why this book isn’t in the Public Domain? I’m not sure that Amazon should be vilified because of twisted US copyright laws.

  12. Rob Beschizza says:

    Randommarius, that statement was addressed in the post. Why is it that people who complain about headlines never read the articles?

  13. Rob Beschizza says:

    “The Publisher of the Orwell books found they didn’t actually have the rights to publish them. Rather than getting sued, they asked Amazon to recall them which they did”

    Once sold, they are not Amazon’s to “recall.” If you’re happy with the whole idea of “license of read” and such, then you won’t have any problem with how Amazon does business — but even then, you might want them to be honest about being a rental service, rather than a “store.”

  14. SamSam says:

    Dorkomatic: It’s amazing, I have the exact opposite reaction.

    Novels? Books I read for fun? Why would I want them on a Kindle? I love my well-worn books and my library, and loaning them out to friends.

    Reference books? They still exist? Finding out information online is much easier, and finds you ten-times more useful information.

  15. edgore says:

    I have written a blog post on this (http://www.edgore.com/archives/2009/07/no-sales-are-final.html) but the important part is this:

    “While some might call these restrictions, and Amazon’s recent intrusion into private citizen’s personal devices to remove material they found unsuitable “Orwellian”, I have to disagree. “Orwellian” is really tied up in associations with government oppression and control of the population, while what we are experiencing is an attempt by corporations to use the law to take away the rights of consumers.

    So, in honor of this latest, and most vulgar attack on the rights of consumers, I would like to propose a new phrase, one to specifically apply to these cases of corporate overreach in an attempt stamp out the rights of consumers – “Bezosian”, in honor of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.”

    I don’t care if Amazon found out that they should not have been selling these and they had mistakenly been added to the catalog in some unapproved way. Customers should not have lost their purchases. If Amazon had been selling a physical book would they have broken into buyers’ homes to repossess them? No, of course not. They would have paid damages to the injured parties and pursued their own damages against the parties that had illegally represented themselves as the rights holders.

  16. HeatherB says:

    The books stay. Barring an international move that is. I was actually going to start reading these. After I have re-read the Harry Potters series of course.

  17. Milarepa says:

    SERIOUSLY what’s more poseur then shredding your entire book collection, replacing it with this BRICK of an ebook reader…

  18. Rob Beschizza says:

    (The following was In response to a fellow who thinks that the books are “stolen,” justifying Amazon’s remote deletion)

    Reversing the sale is fine, but taking back the actual book is not.

    That the books were published “illegally” doesn’t make owning the book a criminal act. After the point of sale, it is a matter for the reader’s conscience whether he or she chooses to participate in a “recall.”

    Your analogy of it being like a stolen car is just sloppy: the downloaded e-book isn’t stolen property. If the rightful publisher wants to sue people who bought the book for copyright infringement, it can knock itself out in the civil courts.

    The seller should have no right to remotely delete books, plain and simple, and the reasons for this perhaps go beyond your interests here.
    Google “samizdat.” It’s not analogous to this, but it will help you learn why people are unnerved by platforms that allow for remote deletion of literature.

    The idea that “remote management” of people’s libraries is necessary to control piracy is as awful a defense of IP rights as I’ve ever seen. Holding such repulsively self-serving positions is one reason content providers lost the public’s support in these battles to begin with.

  19. PeaceLove says:

    BB’s Mark F. points out that Orwell is out of copyright in Australia and his major works are thus freely available to download (but only if you’re Aussie, natch) here: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/

  20. KitWorks says:

    I think, if we’re going to say that Amazon is publishing and selling digital files (rather then renting them), that the appropriate course would have been to make amends with the proper right’s holder given the number of copies downloaded, not to retract the sales.

    For now, I can’t stand reading on a screen, and besides why would I want to? It’s bad enough I have to read blogs on screens. I’m surrounded by piles of books – some old, finely bound, and rarely read, and some trashy, cheap paperbacks – but each one is a unique artifact, imprinted with the history of everyone who has owned and touched it. The dog ears speak to a personal history that no Kindle can ever have. Why would I want to give that up?

  21. Rob Beschizza says:

    I don’t really think it’s fair to associate this behavior with Bezos himself. Doesn’t it just strike you as an inevitability with the successful iTunesification of books by a single company?

    Otherwise, Ed, you’re damn right, especially when it comes to this being an issue between the publishers and amazon where “screw the customer” shouldn’t enter into it.

  22. Shannon says:

    I agree its creepy, but if the reality is that the books were “stolen property”, then the buyer can’t keep them.

    In the real world, if you buy a stolen book from a bookstore, and the bookstore/authorities/whatever realize that, you do not get to keep the book. Knowingly doing so would be possession of stolen property, which you could be charged for. This happens all the time at used book/music stores that receive stolen property.

    Assuming that the underlying assumption that the books are “stolen” is true, customers that bought these books have the legal obligation to give up possession of them. I’m not at all convinced that it’s OK for Amazon to go ahead and delete those books, but either way, the customer can’t legally keep them.

    Would it have been better if Amazon simply passed on the names/addresses of the people with the stolen books to whatever the bookworld equivalent of the RIAA is for prosecution? Because it seems to me that doing that, and deleting the books, were Amazon’s two legal options.

  23. Sara says:

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  24. Keith says:

    What’s most disturbing to me is not that they reached in remotely to delete legitimately purchased content. What’s disturbing is that they built this capability into the system in the first place.

    What other capabilities do these devices have?

  25. Blue says:

    Capitalism is not Democracy. It is, at heart, Neo-Feudalism. That is all.

  26. Rob Beschizza says:

    But they’re not actually stolen property. The downloaded copies would be copyright infringement, rather like illegally downloaded music.

  27. edgore says:

    Rob, well Orwell wasn’t really in favor of anything that is tagged “Orwellian” either…

    Since Bezos does run Amazon though, and gets the credit for what’s good about Kindle, he should also get the blame for what is bad about it, and about Amazon’s policies in general (I am looking at you MP3 terms of use). True, I am painting him with a brush that includes the stupid things that Apple and even some printer cartridge manufacturers do that may seem a little unfair. Consider it Karma for the One-Click patent, which was plainly ludicrous, held back internet POS progress, and had Bezos’ name on it.

  28. nixiebunny says:

    It’s not quite correct to compare Kindle to iPod. The iPod can play MP3 files, which is why it’s a popular device. If it could only play Apple’s DRM-laden music, then it wouldn’t have become a household name.

    The Kindle won’t display PDF files, as far as I can tell from reading the literature about it. That makes is some thing that I have no desire to own.

  29. edgore says:

    Shannon, this is not theft in any way shape or form. It’s copyright infringement. Your example of a stolen book being sold and recovered has *nothing* to do with this.

    Let’s say a small press published 2000 copies of 1984 without the permission of the copyright owner. Those 2000 copies went out to 200 stores across the country. Of those, 1984 were sold to customers and taken home by them before the copyright owner discovered what the small press had done, then *gone to court and got an order to halt sales of the books*. At that point, the remaining 16 copies would be pulled from the shelves. Nothing would happen to the copies that had already been sold. Likely, nothing would happen to the 200 book dealers that sold the books. The copyright holder would sue the small press for copyright infringement, *in a court*, and receive damages as determined by that court.

    No one has to return the sold books to anyone – the copyright holder is compensated for their loss by the suit against the small press. The consumer is protected.

    That is how our legal system works. Amazon may have some additional exposure here, since they also provide the platform for uploading and “publishing” the product to their system – this is a new area that would have to be decidd in a court.

    But the main thing here that I keep repeating is “in a court”. Right now it’s just corporations doing whatever the heck they feel like with a complete disregard for the law and no legal oversight.

    (IANAL, but I am also not completely ignorant regarding copyright law)

  30. edgore says:

    “The downloaded copies would be copyright infringement, rather like illegally downloaded music.”

    Rob, I am pretty sure that they would be more like old-timey, physical bootleg albums – the buyer is not going to be in any trouble for having them, but the copyright owner can sue the heck out of the publishers/distributors.

  31. Shannon says:

    Isn’t the argument that the RIAA etc — and the law of the land — make is that illegal downloads and copyright violation ARE theft?

    Don’t get me wrong — I am not a supporter of copyright law and all of the books I have published/written are available for free PDF download as well as being available for purchase in stores as hardcopy.

    But whatever word you apply — theft or copyright violation — the fact is that the consumer is still violating the law, and Amazon would likely be obligated to pass their details on should the copyright holder insist.

  32. Shannon says:

    Related question — does that mean that downloading music is legal because the law only cares about people who are uploading? So if I leach off of bittorrent, and download music but upload nothing in return, I am safe from prosecution?

  33. Rob Beschizza says:

    I think the industry claims this (criminal theft), but they know it’s a futile position, and so pursue offenders they can identify (i.e. those who share files and facilitate further infringement) in civil courts.

    There’s an infamous propaganda comic which makes it appear as if police actually arrest file sharers as criminals.

  34. reflex says:

    Thank you, Rob. Brilliantly articulated.

    On a side note, my local library charges $10/year for a membership. If they don’t have a book on their shelf, they can get it for me within a week or two.

  35. Rob Beschizza says:

    “Just downloading” is not legal, but I don’t know of any cases where the law, or even organizations like the RIAA, have shown much interest in the simple act of consumer infringement. Maybe it happened more often in the bootlegging days, where cops might stake out and raid physical stores and such.

  36. Blue says:

    Is it illegal to download the out-of-copyright Aussi 1984 if you’re in the UK/US etc, as seems to be implied?

    If I travelled to Australia, and whilst there downloaded a copy of the book, for free, and then kept it on my laptop when I re-entered the UK, that wouldn’t be illegal.

    So why is transporting it via http?

  37. dculberson says:

    Nixiebunny, the Kindle DX can read pdf files natively. The regular Kindle can read a number of non-drm file formats natively, some of which pdf can be converted into. The iPod is actually strikingly similar to the Kindle, conceptually. You can load all the non-drm stuff you want on there, or buy the less functional drm’ed stuff.

  38. Dorkomatic says:

    These books are exactly the kind I have (and want to have) on my bookshelves. I don’t use the encyclopedias as much as I used to, but for atlases, art-books, history books, dictionaries, thesauruses and so on, books just seem so much easier and more fulfilling to use.

    It’s not snobbery, it’s more like intellectual comfort-food!

    Keep them!

  39. edgore says:

    The legal areas around downloading are still very, very fuzzy because very few of the cases ever make it to a court to get decided, most are settled out of court. The few that have gone to court though have not been treated as theft, they have been treated as copyright infringement because the file sharing software in every case is two-way – when you download something you are also allowing other people to upload it. In fact, that is how the RIAA can find you – you are sharing the music as you download it.

    The penalties that have been applied in these cases are the same that would be applied to someone that printed up a few thousand CDs and sold them on a street corner, not the penalties that would be applied if you shop lifted a copy of a single CD from a store.

    I don’t believe the RIAA has ever successfully sued anyone for downloading music – they have always pursued the publishing side of the legal argument, because that is the easy one to prove. Also, keep in mind that these are civil, not criminal cases – if they really thought it was theft they would be bringing criminal cases against these people. They don’t because they know it”s not – they just like to call it theft in press releases.

    Obviously, all of the above would not apply to someone that purchased a digital book from Amazon.

    The closest RIAA case that would have anything to do with this would probably be allofmp3 a Russian site that sold music the RIAA thought it did not have the right to. Unfortunately, its not a really good analog, since allofmp3 was shut down by the Russian government under pressure from the US commerce department, so there is no legal precedent there. My guess though if anything had ever gone to a court and the RIAA was found in the right then allofmp3 would have been forced to pay damages and probably still shut down, but their customers existing purchases would not have been affected at all. allofmp3 is even cloudier because it was specifically intended only for use by people in Russia, for reasons of copyright law, and clearly stated so. It’s possible that customers outside of Russia might have been breaking the law by using it.

    In answer to your other question #22 Shannon, the consumer is not violating any law by owning a book that someone else published in violation of copyright. The publisher violates the law by publishing it.

    It’s important to remember that copyright laws are not really intended to affect consumers at all. They are written to regulate publishers. It’s only in the last few years that technology has allowed everyone to become a publisher at the click of the button. Groups like the RIAA are trying to apply laws intended for commercial use to personal use, and the law is not really doing anything to catch up with the realities of the new world. That’s a different conversation though, and I don’t think it really impacts the Amazon thing other than underlining that it’s supposed to be matter between publisher and copy right holders, not consumers to worry about.

    If this was a physical book would you expect them to reverse look up all the credit cards used to purchase physical copies, and fingerprint all the cash used to purchase copies in order to find the malefactors that purchased the illegitimate physical books? No, of course not, because the purchases did nothing wrong, and the law doesn’t call for it. Just because you can do it more easily in the electronic world doesn’t mean that the law suddenly mandates ou do it.

  40. NicoNicoNico says:

    I have to say, it’s a bit creepy that Amazon is able to remotely delete files off of the Kindle. It’s also a bit unfortunate that they had to delete those books, considering what that may sound like. The best solution to this is to just not buy ebooks from Amazon; it’s not like they force us to buy them.

    If I may recommend something for your book collection, why not just get rid of the books you don’t read? Keeping books around just because they look pretty is kind of a waste of space, IMO. I, for one, proudly display my 70s-era Mad Magazines and Doctor Who books alongside my books on philosophy, religion, classics, and politics. It creates a more personal, individual collection, and books that are well-used reflects the fact that you actually read them.

    Hmm, good to know that the Kindle does read PDFs. I have hundreds (literally) of PDF ebooks on my computer, some of which I haven’t read yet. It’s great to read blogs and news on a computer, but it’s another thing to read books on it. For one, many ebooks are printed in Times New Roman, which is notoriously hard to read on screens.

  41. HeatherB says:

    Ah man, I am now more miffed that I noticed the dust under the little dragon jars dammit.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Secret fact: The Author’s Guild burned the Library of Alexandria!

    Individual infringement is pointless to pursue every time. Distribution is the only channel to pursue for copyright-holders. Economical considerations make it so.

    Even the RIAA knows they’re never getting a penny of any judgement they get against Jammie Thomas, they’re just making an example of her, for precedent’s sake. Of course, if the Supreme Court (it will get there) rules against them, things will get really interesting. I’ve never understood why they don’t find their lawsuit targets in chinatown storefronts, where the most blatant bulk piracy is sold from. There they could even prove monetary gain!

  43. On business trips to London from DC I would regularly visit book shops and buy books published in the UK. Some of them were different editions from the US edition or not yet published in the US at all. Following Amazon’s logic, could the publisher enter into my home and take the books back?

  44. Anonymous says:

    What’s the problem? Why can’t you -not- get the Kindle -and- get rid of the pretentious fake reading collection?

    If you still want the pretentious, get a Sony E-Reader and pirate all of your books to set them ‘free’.

  45. edgore says:

    niconiconico – “The best solution to this is to just not buy ebooks from Amazon; it’s not like they force us to buy them.”

    An excellent point, and one that I am sure more people would agree with if the terms of the “sale” were made more clear up front.

  46. Mark says:

    This is all wrong. The idea of tying up the media STORE with the Media player is all wrong.

    Ipods should not be the universal player of music on the same way that Kindle should never be the universal player of books. This should be illegal.

    Sony tried to tie the media player with the media for many years.. It never work. Why should we succumb to bug business at this crucial time?

    With 3.5 million free books online and a free good publishers already selling drm free books. PLEASE go buy a DRM free player! And ditch the over priced kindle.

  47. technogeek says:

    #29, Nico, second paragraph: Exactly. If your books are just there for interior decoration, and you’ve decided you no longer like that look, by all means find a library or charity to donate them to — as with anything else that you no longer want cluttering up your life.

    I’m in the process of setting up one room as a semi-formal library, but I don’t usually worry about the formality of the books themselves. While I do love a well-bound edition, I don’t generally pay the surcharge (in shelf space as well as in cash) unless I have decided that the book is something that I want not just for myself but to share with others.

    After pruning duplicates and books I know I will never read again, and despite the majority being paperbacks, half my possessions by weight (not counting house and car, but counting everything else) are probably books. I *do* re-read (though I’m trying to work through my unread backlog right now), and I loan out or pass along some books to friends (just got another kid hooked on Andre Norton, nyeh heh heh)… and part of my definition of “home” is a well-stocked and well-read library.

    Some do feel differently. I know someone who uses public libraries in reverse — that is, she buys books (much faster than I do, actually), then donates them to the library except for a very few keepers.

    e-books are a fine thing, but not the same thing. They have specific advantages in portability and searchability, but even ignoring the licensing issues there are questions of persistence (all your books probably get junked if the technology upgrades), of utility (electronic bookmarks really aren’t as fast to access as paper ones, not to mention the kinaesthetic memory of where things were in a physical book), of comfort (which may cut both ways in some cases, I admit)…

    Borrowing a Dean Inge quote (via Brunner): “There are two kinds of fool. One says ‘this is old, and therefore good.’ The other says ‘this is new, and therefore better.’” e-books are sufficiently different from paper books that I honestly don’t think the question of better or worse applies. Do what makes sense for you, given your needs, for that particular document.

    And while I was brought up never to discard books, remember that giving them away is not destroying them… and that some things which are bound as hardcovers aren’t books. (There is a _negative_ market for Reader’s Digest volumes; you just about need to pay to have someone take them away.)

  48. Slurpy says:

    Rob, as a person who is in constant need of more bookshelf space, I wholeheartedly recommend this move. Especially since you say you aren’t using the hard copies – give them to someone who will, a local library or school, or a non-profit educational organization like The Geek Group.

    http://www.thegeekgroup.org/pages/about.php

  49. caldrax says:

    I’ve used the Kindle 2 once, at a local technology fair, and I found nothing about it to be worthwhile. It doesn’t feel good to hold, the screen looks like an 80s laptop screen (right down to being in good old black and beige only), and the interface is clunky and difficult to navigate. Even without all these regulations and disappearing acts with purchased media, I didn’t see the appeal. And on top of that: IT’S CALLED THE KINDLE! It’s right there in the name not-so-subtly hinting that your books may as well now be burned! I mean really, as a reader, I find the device and the marketing and pretty much everything that has revolved around it insulting, and while I am a crazy computer addict, I hope to god that print doesn’t die in my lifetime, or long afterward.

  50. SamSam says:

    The answer to that one’s easy: don’t buy books from Amazon. If your e-books are in a generic format such as plain text, PDF or DOC file, they’re not tied into the control system and Amazon has no power to delete them.

    Are you sure about that?

    I thought that Amazon was being very tight-lipped about what the machine could and could not do.

    If there is a system already in place for remotely deleting bought titles from the machines, why wouldn’t it be possible for them to remotely delete other files?

    For instance, a publisher discovers a very popular illegal version of Harry Potter on the webs. They take the sha-1 hash of that file and Amazon sends it out in a “delete files” list in the next update. Any files on the user’s machine with the same sha-1 hash get automatically deleted.

    Plausible? Seems so to me.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I would never buy a Kindle. I don’t like things with remote kill switches, and that you cannot read in the bathtub. Plus, they are way too expensive for what they are.

  52. David Bruce Murray says:

    In the scenario painted by #20, it would be impractical to retrieve 1984 illegally printed physical books with no trail to follow.

    With these downloads, it was practical for Amazon to retrieve the books they shouldn’t have sold in the first place. There was a trail. Amazon made it and controls all access to it.

    The question then becomes a matter of whether it was fundamentally right for them to do what they did. Of course, it wasn’t. The analogy of a Barnes & Noble rep coming into your house while you sleep, leaving a refund on your coffee table, and taking back books you bought from them is spot on.

    Buying a device from a company should not give that company the right to invade that device and remove anything…no matter what the licensing agreement says. It’s no different from removing the device itself from your possession. It may not technically be “theft,” since they did return the money, but it’s darn close.

    For all we know, Amazon reps can also access personal data such as notes people make on their Kindles.

  53. Anyone says:

    I bought a Kindle DX the first day it was available – I love it, and yet I plan on never ever using it for leisure reading.

    I needed an eReader that would support PDF files without screwing with the formatting – because I read scripts for a living. I read hundreds of scripts – thousands, possibly, a year. Along with books, articles and the like. The wasted paper in the film/TV industry is atrocious – but reading on your monitor can really screw with your eyes. I’d been looking at the large-format iRex reader for a few months, but was discouraged by the very common laments of owners who felt that the iRex customer service experience was akin to a surprise colonoscopy.

    The Amazon and Sony readers were all too small – I’d tried both, and in order to read a screenplay on them, you had to sacrifice formatting. It messed with page count, and ultimately was unacceptable for daily use.

    The Kindle DX is perfect. I love it. I carry around 100-200 scripts wherever I go – I can dog-ear pages, and it remembers where I stop in each document. Do I wish I could add notes in PDF’s? Not really. I think touchscreens are overrated…they get scratched and smudged way too easily.

    But I will never, ever read for pleasure on the Kindle.

    Why? Twofold.

    One: I love books – I love the feel, the smell, the tangible process of feeling the story pass between my hands. I like seeing a full bookshelf of worlds I’ve been to and worlds I’ll eventually visit.

    Two: Amazon’s ironic Orwellian demonstration of their fundamental misunderstanding of ownership terrifies the crap out of me. I collect “banned books”. I’m from the South, where there’s a long and proud tradition of burning literature that’s considered subversive – Amazon can do that now with a push of a button, and nothing you own is sacred. The correct thing to have done is to have fined the publisher for not doing their due-diligence and paying the rights-holder for the infraction. The purchasers would then be the proud owners of “rare” copies of unauthorized digital versions of the books.

    The Kindle DX is a marvel of technology – but Rob, you should be proud of those leather-clad tomes of yesteryear – even if you never crack their spines. You never have to plug them in to charge them, you never have to worry about their fragile screens…they’re there until you decide you’re done with them.

    Plus, how the hell do you read a Choose Your Own Adventure book on the Kindle? You can’t keep each option at the ready with a strategically slotted finger. Right there is Fail #1 for the future of digital reading for me.

  54. The Raven says:

    “Ipods should not be the universal player of music on the same way that Kindle should never be the universal player of books. This should be illegal.”

    Perhaps, instead, regulated? If natural monopoly is the order of the day, perhaps what is needed is laws to regulate these monopolies?

  55. obo says:

    The Orwell incident isn’t the first time Amazon’s done this. It’s not the first time they did it to a popular author. It’s not even the first time this month that it’s happened. Amazon nuked 4 bootleg Ayn Rand books around July 2, remote-deleting them and refunding the users.

    We recently discovered a problem with a Kindle book that you have purchased. We have processed a refund to the payment method used to purchase “Virtue of Selfishness” by Ayn Rand. The next time the wireless is activated on your device “Virtue of Selfishness” will be removed. If you are not in a wireless coverage area, please connect your device to a computer using your USB cable and delete the file from the documents folder.

    We apologize for any inconvenience the removal of this title may cause.

    Thank you for choosing Amazon Kindle.

    Nobody with the right blog chops cared enough to write about it, though, so it never reached echo-chamber cacophony, and not many people really cared. Amazon’s lesson: Delete stuff, but not stuff loud, popular bloggers like, or someone will notice. Gotta wonder what else has gotten the invisible telekinetic axe, or – after the account killswitch and the TTS killswitch were applied 4-5 months ago – why was anyone surprised by this?

    And hey, Rob: If you aren’t reading and don’t particularly even seem to like those books, why not donate them to a library and start filling up those shelves with books you actually want? You could even still visit your lawyer-backgrounders, like they were old folks in a nursing home.

  56. Anonymous says:

    The case for simply ignoring copyright and downloading what you want from BitTorrent grows stronger by the day. In fact I only ever buy stuff if I really can’t find it for free. Recession is here, after all.

  57. Sam Hong says:

    Euclid is actually pretty interesting. As is Dickens and the rest of your “great books” collection … eventually, when people stop reading that sort of stuff, I guess Boingboing and Harry Potter will be the apotheosis of humanity.

    Bleh.

  58. Francesco Fondi says:

    ROB, more than Amazon’s Kindle rent-a-book (Apple style) system, I’m impressed by how many BB readers are ready to give up their rights and, among other details of our consumers lifetstyle, forgot the difference between rent and buy…

    People who read books should be aware of their rights and their consciousness as consumers should be deeper than “TV junkies”… I start to think that publications like ADBUSTERS should be read and studied at school to help citizens understand better our (consumerist) society…

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