Monday, July 20, 2009

Slate Article considers Amazon's ability to delete books from your Kindle

Farhad Manjoo. "Why 2024 Will Be Like Nineteen Eighty-Four: How Amazon's Remote Deletion of E-books from the Kindle Paves the Way for Book-Banning's Digital Future." Slate ( July 20, 2009. 

Rebecca Stuhr 

Manjoo reports on Amazon's capability to delete books remotely from their customer's Kindles. Recently Amazon deleted Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm; in June it deleted several Ayn Rand novels; it has been reported that some customers have had Harry Potter books deleted, the reason given that the copies were bootlegged and were breaking copyright. While conceding that Amazon may have had reason to recall illegal digital editions, Manjoo notes that Amazon's terms of use do not give customers ownership of the books that they download. While not new to the electronic world, libraries have been licensing rather than purchasing electronic databases and collections for some time now (and have been working out agreements and creating third party archives as a safeguard), the idea that there is no ownership of books in this new medium suggests a disturbing ability for corporations or governments to censor material in a much more final way than has been possible in the past -- even through book burning. Manjoo calls on Amazon to revise their terms of use and to discontinue the practice of remote deletion. This two page article is worth reading for all book lovers, readers, and present and future owners of Kindles. 

This leads me to comment on my recent study of public libraries, and my early realization that e-books are not a format that is conducive to many readers outside of academia. Computers are not universally owned, and access to the Internet is not in every home nor even widely available through libraries. The lack of funding for libraries and the demand for computer time means that in many urban public libraries, individuals are allotted from thirty to sixty minutes a day at the computer--if they can get to the library during its open hours. It is too soon to say good bye to the printed book, and there are many reasons, including the tenuousness and fragile nature of the digital copy. 

1 comment:

Walt Giersbach said...

Thanks VERY much for posting this review. I'd heard rumors via other sites--and had an e-book "subscription" cancelled by Amazon after 90 days. Watch next for Amazon to try penetrating the college textbook market...but their latest Kindle foray to a Boston publisher was met with great disdain.