Saturday, July 18, 2009

Big Brother Has Got Your Nose

I've never been a huge fan of E-books, though I know they will eventually be the future, because publishers prefer them from a cost standpoint. The material and shipping costs are much lower, and if they can get around bootlegs and illegal copying, there is loss on theft (yeah, right!).

So I read this post over at Corey Wilde's blog, "The Drowning Machine" last night and it made me chortle-

Suppose you walked into a bookstore, purchased a copy of 'Animal Farm,' went home and began reading it. About halfway through it you get a phone call lasting perhaps five minutes. When you return to your book, it is gone. The bookseller has forced his way into your home and taken your book away (along with the notes you had made in the margins for an essay), leaving a notice and a refund in its place. The note says, 'sorry, this publisher didn't have the rights to print and sell this book.'

Just how high would your blood pressure go?

Because that's what did to Kindle users today. Removed two of George Orwell's books from Kindles everywhere. Most Kindle users weren't even aware amazon could do such a thing. It surely doesn't surprise anyone that, with that power available, that amazon would do such a thing.

Chortle, scoff and...hah!

Yeah, uh, I was actually contemplating buying an E-book when they actually got around to perfecting the durability and contrast issues. Now I know I never want to buy one, unless the only way a story is going to be offered, is via an E-reader program. Even then, I will download it on my computer and I will print it on paper, to be read later.

Further down the post, Corey linked a blog post by Seth Marko listing every misgiving I have with E-crooks, er, books. Including one that I should have given a whole more thought to-

Independent booksellers cannot sell you one, nor can B&N or Borders, actually - Amazon has proprietary rights over the unit and the software.

Grrr, strike another deadly blow to the indies? My guilt already overwhelms me on that issue.

And I leave you with the most salient point on that list, which you can click and see Seth's list in its entirety-

You can't jump in the ocean & leave your Kindle on your beach towel. Someone will steal it. If they are a bookseller, they will most likely throw it in the ocean. (Seriously, think about that - do you ever read books in a public place? What a drag that would be to have to worry about some d-bag stealing your ENTIRE library while you're in the men's room...)


John Donald Carlucci said...

But you can't have a virtual library at your fingertips. I read several books at once and I would love to have an ebook reader.

However, charging the prices they do for an ebook vs. a physical copy is OUTRAGEOUS.


Corey Wilde said...

John, how do you feel about a company being able to access your ebook reader and removing material without your knowledge or permission? Or suppose they replaced your copy of Profiles In Courage with a file of Mein Kampt?

John Donald Carlucci said...

When you buy it the book is your property. I find what Amazon has done is appalling. No question on it.

That doesn't reflect on where the industry is going or the utter usefulness of an ebook reader. This is the extremely poor business practices of one company.

There are other readers coming on the market that will help eliminate the monopoly (Sony aside) that Amazon has.


Marko said...

Amazon's actions may be the "extremely poor business practices of one company" and there may be other e-readers on the market (or headed to the market), but no one is buying them yet - at least no where near the degree that they are buying Kindles. And to think that another company is going to be able to even modestly supplant Amazon's sales numbers with a new product is extremely naive.

We should all be afraid of the power Jeff Bezos is wielding right now. Was it a coincidence that 1984 was the first ebook that Big Brother asserted himself with?

Corey Wilde said...

Sony is like amazon, a faceless corporation that is all about profit. Ethics have no place in their world if it gets in the way of their money and market. If consumers allow amazon to get away with this, they will allow Sony to do the same (unless Sony actually uses preservation of your privacy as a marketing tool against amazon, and I kind of doubt they will).

Ebook readers ARE useful, they ARE the future. That doesn't mean that we consumers, for the sake of convenience, must therefore allow any corporation the right to enter and alter our ebook files. How hard would it be for amazon to modify their software to allow the user to decide whether to give amazon unlimited access to his files? Wasn't that the right thing to do in the first place? amazon didn't do it. Wasn't telling purchasers of Kindle right upfront the fact that amazon could and would remove files the right thing to do? amazon didn't do it.

Me, I'm emailing amazon and letting them know that as long as they persist in doing the wrong things, I'm not buying their product. Not just Kindle, any product. Maybe that's not much, one voice is not going to influence amazon once way or the other, but if enough people let amazon know they feel strongly about this issue, maybe we can have ebook readers without censorship and some degree of privacy as well.

Cormac Brown said...

Editor JDC,

I can't remember the site (Gizmodo, C-Net or one of those) that said based on manufacturing and materials, Amazon was overcharging $45 per unit.


They shouldn't be allowed to tamper with something, once they have sold it to you. If the reverse happened, they wouldn't accept it. So why should the consumer?

Editor JDC,

Unfortunately, Sony will probably go the way of all their other products. Sony has lost their magic touch, note any of the dismal designs and sales of their MP3 players, and the bath that they are taking on the Playstation 3.

It will take Microsoft, Google or Samsung to rival Amazon.


Welcome. I don't believe that John is being "extremely naive," the odds say that it is hard for any company to hold the market all to its self. Certainly Amazon charging as much as they do helps to work against them. I also believe that other companies are taking a wait and see approach, though it seems like I see a smaller company coming out with one every other month.

Amazon certainly has the edge at this point in the game, to rival even that of Microsoft in the computer world back in '97 and hopefully Kindle won't become the industry standard the way that Microsoft software did.


You and Seth have a point in that this isn't much different from the so-called P*triot *ct. There should be a Users Bill of Rights for this.

Marko said...

Well said Corey - and Cormac. And thanks for the welcome & the links - I love the site.

Maybe I was a bit harsh with the "naive" thing - sorry John. :) But I do think that Amazon has a nearly insurmountable edge on the market right now. It's really about the proprietary rights over the Kindle & its software that worries me. We can flood the market with as many Ipod imitators as we want, but the overwhelming majority is going to stick with the sexy product that got everyone interested in the first place. And with Amazon's questionable ethics, this is what we should be concerned with in the e-lit world.

rebecca said...

Sorry, I can't get into e-books. I like the physicality of having a book in my hand, I love going to bookstores and walking through aisle after aisle taking some down and admiring the covers, reading the front and back flaps, the first page....if it interests me, I buy it, if not, back on the shelf it goes and I continue to leisurely walk and read and grab some more. I prefer hardcovers or large softcovers; I hate paperbacks. Both my husband and I are avid readers and every room in the house books can be found, sometimes overflowing. I don't mind spending money on books, it is my only vice which I am not willing to give up. I donate many to the library once I'm done, I pass on many, and I keep many more. I am never without a book in my bag and at night, it is the winding down choice before going to bed. This is one reader who will never choose e-books over the real thing.

Cormac Brown said...


You're welcome and thanks, I'm glad you like the site.

"We can flood the market with as many Ipod imitators as we want, but the overwhelming majority is going to stick with the sexy product that got everyone interested in the first place."

Well, this can be overcome if someone makes an E-reader that is certainly the most durable, with an easier interface, better battery life, etc...

That's why I believe that Google who already has the deep pockets, and existing business partnerships with HTC and Samsung for their smart phones, will be the most likely contender. Go down to a T-Mobile store and give them a try, it will give you hope.


I prefer books because you don't have the contrast issues, though I have gotten use to reading things on laptops and cell phones when the lighting is optimal. I will say that after four pages of continuous text, the book experience wins hands down. I have 20/20 vision and I can read fifty book pages without strain, I certain can't say the same for any electronic device.

I do commend you on your love of books and I hope that we will still have the choice of paper and digital in the future, with paper having the greater availability.

Gifted Typist said...

I think I'd much prefer audio books to e books

Cormac Brown said...


I've never had an audio book, but I know how important the narrator is to them and couldn't the whole experience be tainted by a bad one? For me good old-fashioned paper will be my primary choice.