Amazon.com: Disrupting shared informational heritage since 2009

David Ulin has written a thought-provoking article for the L.A. Times entitled Amazon's troubling reach in which he explores some of the ramifications of entrusting our "collective memory" (as expressed via books) to a commercial entity such as Amazon.com.

Amazon had a recent "stumble" in which it unilaterally and without warning deleted a couple of books from its customers' Kindle e-book readers, citing "licensing issues." Amazon's founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, later apologized profusely for doing this, but the damage to the company's credibility has been done.

Perhaps that's not a fair way to put it, though. More likely, the innocence of consumers has been punctured with respect to acquiring their books electronically, and I think that's probably a good thing. Ulin's article raises a number of interesting questions, but in the end, Amazon (or any other company in the same business) can exert only the control that we permit. As with any other purchase, an informed consumer is the best guard against commercial impropriety.

If we're really concerned that our "shared informational heritage" won't be properly stewarded by Amazon, we shouldn't be buying, er, licensing e-books from them. That's a decision each of us has to make on our own.

3 Comments

Eric, an interesting note to the story is that the books that Amazon pulled were by George Orwell ... "1984" and "Animal Farm." Needless to say, the press and the punditz had a field day with that condidental - though ironic, nonetheless - note.

The titles involved did indeed make the story more newsworthy than if it had been "How To Cultivate Earthworms".

Licensing of software has long been a sticky issue for me. While I completely understand why a person should not be allowed to give a book to all his friends, each of them continually possessing a copy for their own use forever, I cannot understand why I should not be allowed to transfer my software from one computer to another (the equivalent of getting a new bookshelf) that I alone use without proving to the publisher that it is still I, and I alone, using the software. (should I have used "me" there? I'm so confused now.)

I paid quite a large sum for Adobe's Creative Suite and installed it on the only computer I had at the time that could run it. I now have a new computer that can run it SO much better, but every time I start to think about transferring the license, I decide I'd rather have a glass of wine.

Adobe has made it TOO complicated. And I fear I've veered a bit off-topic.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on July 28, 2009 4:05 PM.

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