Saturday, 25 July 2009

"Amazon remotely deleted... books from the Kindle devices of readers..."

'... and then she turned to the Dark Side chapter...' by photos_marthaThe New York Times online has an interesting article about "Animal Farm" and "1984" being deleted from Kindle users after Amazon realized they did not have the right to have sold it in the first place. This is interesting in two ways, IMHO:
  1. "Owning" something digital is not always clear cut: This is something that librarians have come to realize with the advent of online content. In the past, we have purchased journals and books comfortably knowing that whatever we bought we would have until it was destroyed beyond repair which, if care was taken, would be quite a long time. With electronic journals and books, ownership of content disappeared, to be replaced with something more like renting the works. We can purchase a whole run of a journal with back files and everything, often for not much less than the print would have cost, but if the distributor decides that something needs to be changed, anything from a typo to our access to it at all, we have very little control and sometimes no knowledge of it even. My suggestion: we should refuse to "buy" anything that we don't have actual control over. If it's digital, we need to factor in the cost of hosting it on our sites if we want to ensure future access at all.
  2. Our concept of rights is confused: In this Amazon case, the reason for the deletions was that Amazon had mistakenly sold something they should not have sold. Do we really think we have the right to something just because we spent money on it? What if someone stole your TV, then sold it off the back of their truck to your neighbour? If you COULD get it back, wouldn't you think it was your RIGHT to have it back? Just because we haven't been able to return "stolen" merchandise to its rightful owner in the past, doesn't mean we shouldn't ever do so in the future. And they got their money back. No one lost anything (except the poor shmuck who lost his notes saved in the ebook - remember, keep control of your digital property). There are millions of copies of these books, some you can get for free, say, at your public library for example.

Both of these issues are summed up in a great quote from the article:
"I never imagined that Amazon actually had the right, the authority or even the ability to delete something that I had already purchased."
So either accept other's rights along with yours or hold on tighter to your stuff. Or maybe I'm wrong... What do you think?

[ From Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices by Brad Stone at ]

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