Electronic Books

Anyone who knows me knows I love gadgets. I love technology, and I’m always looking out on the horizon for what’s new. But I’ve been slow to dive into electronic books. Ever since Amazon  zapped paid copies of 1984 from Kindles, I’ve been suspect of this technology. To be more clear, it’s not the technology that’s suspect so much as the way in which it is used. Nevertheless, I finally broke down and got the Kindle App for the iPhone and to my chagrin found that many of the classic anarchist texts are free! What happy anarchist wouldn’t want to have Goldman, Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Malatesta in their pocket at all times? Still, I’m not quite sold. What follows is my initial take on ebooks.

Let’s start with price. Yes, I can get a free copy of Mikhail Bakunin’s “God and the State,” but Raj Patel’s “Value of Nothing” cost me $10. The cost of an actual paperback at Amazon is just over $8! And I guess it’s fitting that I mention Patel’s book because this is truly a time when we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The prices of electronic books seem wildly out of place when compared with a well-made printed book. And as convenient as the e-book may be, when I get home I’d much rather turn and open a real book than sit and stare at a digital copy. It would be nice if a digital version of the book came with a hard copy of the book.

The reading experience is not bad. Checking a footnote simply requires a tap and I’m instantly taken to the note and with another tap I’m instantly back where I was reading. Nice. I can highlight text as I would in a normal book; and I can also make notes throughout the book, which are all easy enough to go through and find my place in the book. But oddly enough I don’t have the ability to search for keywords. Nor do I have the ability to copy and paste text. It would be nice, after all, to copy a witty quote from Raj Patel’s latest book and share it with my Facebook  and Twitter friends, perhaps give the a reason to go out and read this wonderful book.

In light of the zapped copies of 1984 and my own experience with e-books, the question for me still remains: Who owns my e-book? It would appear to be Amazon. Amazon may be able to control my electronic books but they have no such power over my real-life books. And it’s in light of this power dynamic that I remain unimpressed with Kindle.

Amazon killed the Kindle star

Amazon is watching your Kindle
Amazon is watching your Kindle

Amazon just mass deleted ebooks on Kindles that customers had bought and paid for. Yes, they got a refund, but that’s not really the point is it? Why even bother to buy ebooks from them if they might get zapped from afar without warning.

To make matters worse for Amazon, the books were by George Orwell.

Podcastingnews sums it up well.

It’s bad enough that Amazon is remotely deleting books that people thought they had bought – but the books happen to be the works of George Orwell – 1984 & Animal Farm.

What’s next – Fahrenheit 451?

It’s a public relations disaster for Amazon, resulting in headlines like Think You Own the Book You Bought for Your Kindle? You Don’t, Says Amazon and Whose Kindle Is It Anyway?

The tragedy of the Kindle is that it’s cutting edge technology designed to enforce the status quo of publishing – and nothing revolutionary is going to come out of that.

The technology for ereaders is here, but we need something better than the Kindle.

PS Amazon is promising to never ever do that again.