Compromises, Inadequate

Remember when Amazon realized that 1984 was being distributed on the Kindle by someone who didn’t have distribution rights, so they deleted it from everyone’s Kindles? They were sued, but reached an agreement in which they set a new policy to not delete books. Except that that’s not true. The policy, as I quote from the linked article, is to not delete books

“unless (a) the user consents; (b) the user seeks a refund or an electronic payment fails to clear; (c) a court orders the deletion; or (d) deletion is necessary to protect against malware.”

(a) doesn’t count. If the user consents to deletion, it’s not really anything creepy. (Well, assuming it is voluntary consent free from coercion.) (b) kind of makes sense, too: if you seek a refund, the book will be deleted.

But the list doesn’t stop there. If a court orders Amazon to delete books, they can. Granted, this is probably standard legalese. Most contracts seem to include that exception for everything, whether it makes any sense or not. But this doesn’t sit well with me. (d) raises questions, too. Malware? How can an electronic book distribute malware? If it’s possible, Amazon is doing something wrong. Sure, I can see how user-downloaded files could be crafted to exploit vulnerabilities. But these are books distributed by, and presumably formatted for the Kindle by, Amazon. It should be completely impossible.  Also, they seem to clarify that all of this only applies to US users.

I would contend that this isn’t actually progress. Amazon still owns the e-book that you just bought and grants you a license to use it. They can apparently revoke that license at any time, or modify the terms at any time. In my mind, if you pay a one-time fee to obtain something, you become the owner. There is no licensing or terms. You bought it. Copyright law still applies, of course, and is plenty restrictive.

But Amazon, here’s the thing. I’m not going to pay for an e-book if I can’t own it. Granted, your Kindle is too expensive for me anyway, and I want the ability to load my own PDFs. But I couldn’t think of a better way to undermine credibility in the Kindle. While people struggle with whether an electronic book is as good as a paper book, you seem intent on proving that electronic books are, well, Orwellian. Besides the fact that users merely purchase a revocable license to use your books, with an attached contract that you can change at any time, you’ve demonstrated that the e-book reader with wireless is, in fact, as creepy as the tinfoil hat brigade said it was.

And besides, who am I supposed to buy an e-book reader from now? Certainly not Sony.

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