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July 24, 2009

Do you own your data?
Posted by Patrick at 08:02 AM * 129 comments

As everyone knows by now, Amazon sold some e-texts of various George Orwell novels through its Kindle program, which had been uploaded into the program by a publisher that turned out to not have the correct rights. As a result, Amazon not only removed the texts from the program, they also removed them from the Kindle devices of customers who’d bought them, crediting those customers’ accounts for the price. Despite the fact that Amazon’s EULA specifically allows this, most people were sensibly appalled: fine print or no fine print, people believe that when they pay for something, they own it, and that they’re secure from having it taken away without warning. As one of New York Times columnist David Pogue’s readers observed, “It’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.”

Now Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has posted an apology:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO

Whatever one’s other issues with the Kindle program, this is an excellent example of how to apologize for an organizational screwup. Note that Bezos doesn’t resort to any of the usual weaselry of corporate apologies. There’s no “we’re sorry some people were offended.” No attempt to plead Amazon’s good intentions. It simply says: We did a dumb thing, it made people mad, we deserved the criticism, and we’re going to try to learn from it. Good for Bezos and Amazon. Other corporations, organizations, and governmental bodies, please copy.

My issue with the Kindle remains. Bezos doesn’t say “we’ll never remotely delete content from users’ devices again”—nor should he, so long as the Kindle system affords that ability and Amazon’s EULA allows it. Because even if from this day forward every single person at Amazon is passionately opposed to ever doing such a thing, it still remains true that if it’s possible to do it, a court can order Amazon to do it; and in a dispute over rights, a court very well might. This is why I remain skeptical about the wisdom of the Kindle system as a model for future commerce in e-books.

And yes, I own an iPhone, and I’m quite aware of how much more ruthlessly content and commerce is controlled on that device. Compared to Apple, Amazon is an anarchist collective. Indeed, Apple is best understood as the Singapore of technological ecosystems—smart, forward-looking, and every so often you get caned for chewing gum. I could make an argument that the cultural importance of the information artifacts we call “books” makes it sensible to be more concerned about whether we truly own our books than we are about whether we own our $2.99 mobile phone apps. But that’s not really satisfactory. The fact is, I’m willing to put up with a certain amount of crap in one area of my life that I wouldn’t put up with in another. We all make different sets of compromises and accommodations in order to get stuff done in an infosphere/technosphere that changes every day, and we all need to get used to the taste of irony, because there’s going to be more to come.

(I don’t have to remind anyone that I’m speaking entirely for myself, not on behalf of Tor Books or Macmillan, right? Good, then.)

Comments on Do you own your data?:
#1 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 09:45 AM:

FYI, no one gets caned for chewing gum in Singapore. The famous American who got caned there was busted for tens of thousands of dollars of property damage. Chewing gum is legal, you just can't buy it there, or import "sufficient quantity for sale".

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 09:56 AM:

I've seen Kindle and I was never that keen on the look and feel. This is just one more incentive to stick with old-fashioned non-electronic books. (I guess that puts me in the company of Samuel T. Cogley, attorney at law.)

#3 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:25 AM:

I buy DRM'd ebooks ... and then I crack the DRM on them. If I can't crack the DRM, I don't buy them. The reason I crack the DRM is so that I can read them on my choice of reading device, even if the file format I originally bought the book in is not supported on my choice of reading device.

I gather you can load content onto a Kindle via a USB cable, and that it can read mobipocket format files and PDFs. If so, Amazon's cock-up won't stop me buying one if/when they show up in the UK; but it might stop me buying content from Amazon: content which subsidizes the hardware sales.

(As for nation-state metaphors, if Apple is like Singapore, Amazon strikes me as being more like China -- sweatshops everywhere, cheap and cheerful storefronts for foreigners, but some nasty thuggery behind the scenes to keep all the cheap toys flowing.)

#4 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Patrick, you're absolutely right. This really puts things in perspective for me. I was shocked that Amazon deleted books off people's Kindles. I don't have any outrage over my on-going battles getting data on and off my iPhone except to think it ought to be much easier. I'm tasting the irony right along with you.

Serge@2: It's important to make a distinction between the Kindle model and ebooks in general. Webscription and O'Reilly, for example, both have models of commerce that are not the Kindle model. The problems with the Kindle model aren't always the problems with ebooks in general.

And also, what Charlie Stross said. (I don't own a Kindle, but I didn't even consider the iPhone Kindle app until I was convinced that the DRM wouldn't prevent me from reading the ebook where I wanted to read it.)

#5 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Josh #1:

Oh, Geez, I remember that whole media blitz. We were all supposed to be deeply concerned about the welfare of this poor, misunderstood American who vandalized a bunch of cars and got caught and treated harshly. (I always wondered what he thought would have happened to him, had he been caught by the owners of the cars in a place where the police weren't too strict. Orthodontics by baseball bat is my guess.)

There's a huge issue here, which isn't being dealt with well right now--as we depend more and more on our electronic devices, it becomes more and more useful for various people (the company that sold them, content providers, various levels of government) to assert ownership or control over those devices, and to just slip that into the fifteen page EULA, knowing that nobody will ever look. In the worst case, every single device provided for you (your laptop, your cable box, your cellphone, your Kindle, your car, your iPod, your DVD player) could end up being actively hostile--tracking your behavior and phoning home from time to time, preventing legitimate uses to protect the business model of some powerful company or industry, even outright spying on you. We've mostly dealt with that set of issues by saying "Well, gee, most people don't notice or worry about the issue, but the companies and government agencies that want that control have lots of money and lobbyists and PR people, so I guess they should have all the power they want[1]." According to widespread folklore in the crypto community, one reason cellphones have such lame encryption is because government agencies actively discouraged good encryption. I've heard the claim that cordless phone encryption is lame for similar reasons[2]. Many years ago, there was an effort to move credit card payment processing to a format that didn't expose the number to merchants--one reason that this fell flat is that merchants really liked having that number, both to identify customers and to allow the phone equivalent of "one click shopping."

We need to think about this stuff. But for reasons that are an entirely different rant (or maybe a year of them), we as a society, at least in popular culture, are amazingly, shockingly bad at the needed kind of reflection and careful thought. (See global warming, the war on terror, the financial meltdown, etc.)

[1] This is honestly something about our society that drives me crazy. We're just statist enough that nobody much minds scary accumulations of power and personal data by the government, but just libertarian enough that nobody much minds scary accumulations of power and personal data by private companies.

[2] I don't know whether this is true or not. Security doesn't necessarily sell.

#6 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:36 AM:

I was already uninterested in the Kindle as hardware because it's not something I'll always carry around (I want my ebooks on a PDA or phone that I routinely have with me), and became uninterested in the software platform (even after the iPhone Kindle app was available) when it became clear that Amazon had given owners of Secure Mobipocket books (including me) a shiv in the back by killing Mobipocket Reader.

I'm not really thrilled with Fictionwise's Secure eReader format, but the software is pretty good (except for the period right after iPhone OS 3.0 when you couldn't switch books) and the DRM is minimally invasive (not requiring a remote authentication server to be available, unlike Secure Mobipocket).

I hope the next iPhone version of eReader will support ePub format books; there's rumbling that Fictionwise will switch to having a DRMed ePub for their non-Multiformat books, which won't be too bad if the DRM is like the current eReader DRM. Stanza currently supports unDRMed ePub, as well as eReader format, but since Lexcycle was bought by Amazon I'm not counting on that being around for too long. (Also, the pause between chapters/sections as it paginates the next bit of book is annoying; eReader paginates the whole book when you open it, and stores the info so it doesn't have to do it again later.)

#7 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:38 AM:

As the ephemeral-text part of the Kindle market grows -- newpapers, blogs, textbooks -- the remote-deletion capability is going to be ever more important for Amazon and/or the people who publish through it.

(And here's a thought: how many textbooks would have to be loaded on a Kindle to make it cheaper for someone to buy the used Kindle than to buy the texts new in either paper or digital form?)

#8 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:39 AM:

I remain skeptical about the wisdom of the Kindle system as a model for future commerce in e-books.

Yes, the e-book world really doesn't seem ready for prime time in many ways. Things are definitely improving. The e-paper display on the Sony reader and the Kindle is a huge step. Delivery of e-books anywhere (well, anywhere in the USA -- region-locked books really have to go) magically through the aether was another big step.

The Kindle store interface leaves a lot to be desired if you're not looking for bestsellers (no, I don't want that 99c edition of H.P. Lovecraft right now. Or that one. Or that one. Or that one. Or that one. Or that one. Or..).

As you point out, no-one has the business model really sorted. The pricing model isn't clear, either -- if an e-book sale displaces a sale on squashed trees then they probably can't be much cheaper, but it seems strange to pay the same amount for an e-book as for a [new] paperback, even if it doesn't have the DRM-risk of vanishing or being unreadable in a couple of years.

All that said, I've been surprised at how tolerable it is to read on an iPod Touch while travelling. Stanza and the Kindle app are certainly not as good as real books, but for someone who can read four books on a transcontinental flight, the extra luggage space freed up by ebooks is worth it.

The Kindle and the Sony reader were a sign that the technology is almost ready to actually be useful. I think the publishers and bookstores still have a few years before Moore's Law makes the problem of ebooks really urgent. They might make it.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:46 AM:

John Chu @ 4... I'll keep that in mind. Of course, it may be a few years before I'd look into ebooks because that's how long it'll take before I'm done with the non-ebooks - and those don't stop coming. Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to that biography of Ada Lovelace I had bought a few years ago. I probably lent it to someone and forgot to whom, which means I'll have to buy it again.

#10 ::: Avedaggio ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:11 AM:

My opinion of Amazon just increased, having read this apology. Do you think that they learned something from the fustercluck a few months ago regarding GLBT books, etc? I wish more people and organizations would behave like this-- standing up and owning their mistakes. It would make me feel like there's hope for humanity (and yes, it's all about me and how I feel).

I have nothing to say about owning data, but I look forward to reading the discussion.

#11 ::: Erf ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:16 AM:

I wonder if the difference in our expectations of what we can do with data on the iPhone vs the Kindle is historical. Cell phones have always been pretty much one-way; you put phone numbers and email addresses in, use them, and that's it. It's only recently that there's been enough going on in the phone directly that there's been a lot of interest in getting it back out, let alone interest in deciding for yourself what software runs on your phone. (The whole idea of software on your phone is still pretty novel, I think.) The phone feels like an appliance; how many people want to change the software on their TV?

With the Kindle, though, you're buying books, which we're used to actually owning. I think there'd be the same reaction if Apple deleted tracks from your iPod. Or books from your iPhone, for that matter.

The other (closely related) thing I see is the idea behind the device. The iPhone is an appliance for making calls, sending email, etc. It's not about the software, it's about the activities it allows you to do. The iPhone is an end goal in its own right. The Kindle, on the other hand, is useless until you get books for it, so its whole purpose is allowing you to get these other products. And when you find out those other products can be taken away at the whims of the corporation, that's a little shocking. If the iPhone suddenly refuses to run some program, well, that's not entirely the point of the iPhone, so I don't think it bothers people as much.

(Hope that isn't too rambling. Long time reader; first time poster. :)

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:24 AM:

Having read thru a fair amount of the flap, the feeling I get is that Amazon's biggest mistake wasn't what they did, it was how they did it. IOW, if they had bothered to notify the Kindle owners that "The copy of $BOOK you bought for your Kindle was uploaded to us by someone who did not have publication rights. In accordance with our User Agreement, we will be deleting this book from your Kindle unit. The purchase price you paid for the illegal copy will be refunded to your account." (or words to that effect), people wouldn't have been nearly so pissed. Am I right about this?

#13 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:26 AM:

From what I remember reading, there was a problem, not just with the books being gone, but with user-created material, such as notes and comments, disappearing as well. (e.g., a student taking notes on the text as they read it for class.)

Does anyone know if Amazon has figured a way for users to regain their own material?

That seems to be, in a way, a bigger legal issue - Amazon didn't just take back the illegal books, it stole/destroyed the original work of Kindle owners. Returning the money spent to buy the book doesn't even the tally, as the time spent studying/note-taking is wasted, and the notes themselves were not paid for when removed.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:28 AM:

#11, Erf: No need to apologize; that all makes pretty good sense.

Christopher Davis's #6 kind of demonstrates another reason I keep bouncing off the current e-book world: it's ridiculously complicated. (No offense intended to Christopher, who is to be admired for following and understanding all these details.) The other day I downloaded the desktop version of Stanza to see if I could convert a novel manuscript in .doc or .rtf form to something readable in the Stanza iPhone app. I gave up after several tries; the application is a mess and the documentation is worse. (Yes, I know there are iPhone apps that read and edit Word documents, and I even have QuickOffice, which is reasonably decent, but I wanted the comfortable reading experience of the Stanza app. There's a reason I use Tofu instead of ((for instance)) Word to read manuscripts on my Mac; programs designed for editing don't provide the same kind of experience as programs designed for reading.)

#15 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:35 AM:

I don't want an e-book.

I don't even really want a mobile phone or a PDA (though I've owned more than one of each)

I want a computer that can do everything my Macbook can do plus some, that can fit in a trouser pocket without making visible bulges, and that has some kind of foldaway rollup digital paper screen so I can read stuff any size I want. Then I decide what to read, watch, or listen to on it, not the suppliers. And whther or not I keep a file will depend on me and the physics of the storage, not on someone else's business model, however well-meaning that someone is.

Unfortunately it would also need some sort of magical foldaway keyboard that I can't quite imagine. That is the Fundamental Problem of PDAs, palmtops, & notebook computers - the largest keyboard that fits in a pocket is too small to type on with ten fingers, the smallest keyboard you can type with is too large to carry around by default the way you would carry a mobile phone or a wallet or a wristwatch, whether you intended to use it or not. There's only about a centimetre in it, but its a bloody important centimetre. Anyone who used both a Psion 3 and a Psion 5 will know exactly what I mean. Unless they have unnaturally small fingers for an adult.

But, like most here, I like books.

Also I read in the bath.

#16 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:37 AM:

Well, this incident is sure going to play havoc with copyright laws when it comes to issuing a defense.

#17 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:50 AM:

Patrick: What's the part of the EULA that "specifically allows this"? I've seen at least one annotation of the Kindle Terms of Use online, and didn't see any specific language regarding deleting books off of user's Kindles.

There is a general "Amazon reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Service at any time" clause. But the definition of "Service" doesn't clearly include the books themselves, just the connectivity, *provision* of content, software, and support. (One generally understands that a book is "provided" when you buy it, or download it, not every time you want to read it.)

Or is there something I've missed?

#18 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:57 AM:

There's an underlying difference in angle between Apple and Amazon that I think about frequently: Apple sells hardware. Amazon sells books.

This means that the Kindle is a tool for selling books, whereas the iTunes store (music and apps) is a tool for selling iPods and iPhones. So Apple is *not* fundamentally about locking down your data.

Of course Apple *does* use DRM when they feel it benefits them. My claim is better demonstrated by the iPod-and-music business than by the iPhone. But when Apple reaches the limits of their ability to hand-manage iPhone apps -- and I think they will, soonish, through sheer scaling -- they have room to step back and say, "Ya know, do whatever you want. Go nuts." (As they did with iTunes music.)

Or to put it differently: if Apple were making an ebook reader, it would ship with every book you've ever bought from Amazon, already installed in PDF form. And we'd all have bought them.

(No, Apple couldn't possibly make Amazon agree to this. Also, Apple isn't making an ebook reader. Logical connection obvious, although I'm sure other reasons are involved too.)

#19 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 11:57 AM:

Something I appreciate about Bezos' apology is that it was personal and in the active voice. I've personally donated large sums of money to the creation of a special circlet of Hell devoted to anyone who has ever uttered the phrase "mistakes were made."

#20 ::: Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:44 PM:

It's a well-written apology, which I respect.

However, I still can't shake the feeling that Amazon hates my childhood. I remember discovering my elder brother's science fiction collection, forgotten in boxes in the attic. Those books introduced me to Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and dozens of other authors. I remember my sister bringing home more boxes of science fiction, salvaged from the shelves of some unknown benefactor. Those books gave me Pohl and Kornbluth.

In Amazon's perfect world, none of that would have happened. No child would ever read a book without paying amazon their Danegeld.

I recently lent my copy of Archer's Goon to a friend's ten-year old daughter. She read it twice in three days. In Amazon's perfect world, nobody would ever lend a book to a child, ever again.

I don't like Amazon's vision of the future. It's a cold and lonely place.

#21 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:46 PM:

Avedaggio @ 10:

If they learned something from the GLBT issue, you'd think they would have apologized for it by now. I still haven't seen an apology. If they have made one, someone please point it out to me so that I can go back to not feeling quite so annoyed with them.

On to the more general discussion.

When you buy a physical book, you think in terms of paying for the words on the page, but what you're really buying is a discrete physical manifestation of the words on the page. (Not to belittle the fact that you are also paying for the words on the page; authors have to eat, after all.) When you buy a digital book, that's much closer to buying just the words on the page, and also much slipperier. I can hold a book in my hand. I can hold an ebook reader in my hand. I have yet to be able to hold words and ideas in my hand. There's really no difference between making one copy and a million copies of just the words or a bundle of bits in the way that there is for a real book.

Even so, there's an ingrained expectation that when you put down a one-time payment for something that it's yours to do what you will with within reason. We already have copyright laws, which fall under the misleading term of intellectual property, to specify what constitutes legal and illegal use of content. The problem comes with the collision between the model of property, and the reality that we're not dealing with objects any more.

As far as the iPhone issue goes, I think there's a difference of expectation. Even though iPhones are expensive, they're still cellphones, which are, for better or worse, largely disposable. They're toys with a lifetime of only a few years, and so, as with software in general, the software isn't really expected to last either. Books have a sense of permanence that software lacks, and moving to ebooks plays with that sense in odd ways.

As Lee points out at 12, people would probably be much less upset if Amazon had explained first then acted, rather than acted and explained later. One of the most frustrating things in life is a feeling of lack of control. Even though having Amazon delete books off people's Kindles is a lack of user control either way, an initial warning makes it expected, whereas immediate deletion is unexpected and frustrating.

I'm not really sure what any solution might be. I dislike DRM on principle, since it's not my rights that such schemes are trying to protect. However, a move away from a physical property model, while convenient, brings up a whole host of other tricky issues if anyone's to be paid for the whole endeavor.

#22 ::: ChiaLynn ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 12:56 PM:

@Lee (#12) - You're not the only one. I just went back to the Kindle forum discussion on the refunds, and one of the first comments is from someone who says, "I've received emails today notifying me of refunds for $.99 for Animal Farm and 1984, and both have disappeared from my Kindle archived items. I didn't request refunds, and I also don't remember purchasing the titles - I'm thinking they were free downloads." The same poster comes back a few posts later to say she'd gotten an answer to her question from Amazon customer service explaining that the copies were unauthorized - but I'd say that information should have been in the refund notice itself. (The discussion is here: )

Now, as to whether Amazon should retain the power to remotely delete data from customers' Kindles - well, if it's "pirated" (something I put in quotes because we could have a very long discussion about what, exactly, constitutes pirated content), then they may be legally obligated to do so, as Patrick points out in the original post. What concerns me more is the possibility that a publisher may simply change its mind about making a book available on the Kindle, and demand that existing copies be deleted. A publisher might also decide that $.99 really wasn't enough for that ebook, delete that edition, then make a new edition available at $9.99 - which would be a bit like coming to my house, repossessing my old mass market copy of Thunderball, and making me buy the new trade paperback version if I wanted to read it again.

#23 ::: Erf ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:12 PM:

Andrew @18: Good point -- not only are the user expectations different on the different devices, but the two companies have different reasons for selling their products. Apple doesn't care what or how much music you get, but they'd really like it to wind up on the iPod. Amazon I'm sure would be perfectly happy with everyone using the iPhone's Kindle app, as long as they're getting their ebooks from Amazon. (Can Apple even do anything remotely to what's in your iTunes or iPod once you put it there?)

Patrick @14: Wow. It must be trying to reproduce every mm of alignment, fonts, formatting, etc. You'd think reformatting something as simple as a novel manuscript should be completely trivial. These things should be designed so that you can tell them to just grab text and basic markup, like underlining, and ignore all the font and alignment information. That should actually result in a better reading experience than if it tried to reproduce everything, since it'd be optimized for the display. (This is related to a pet peeve of mine on the web; so many sites want pixel-level control of the page, making a lot of them almost unreadable on my display... CSS has improved this problem but not eliminated it.)

#24 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:15 PM:

Another problem is that if Amazon can delete works from a Kindle, anyone who can crack the Kindle network can do that, too. I can imagine, say, Kim Jong Il arranging to have works critical of him deleted from Kindles.

Ah, the internet. A place for crimes undreamed.

#25 ::: Charlie Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:19 PM:
For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college—when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. ...

From the one work of SF by Richard Stallman that I'm personally aware of, The Right to Read.

#26 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:21 PM:

7 re textbooks: There is a service now ( which provides the obvious but heretofore-neglected service of renting textbooks. My wife used it to get the textbook for a deeply pointless health requirement course (note to Debra: what would you say at this point if you were asked, "are you ready to have children?"), and it worked quite nicely and was a lot cheaper than any other route.

General comment: Is there something about these dystopian books that attracts this sort of problem? Remember the Fahrenheit 451 bowdlerization flap?

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:29 PM:

What I'm actually concerned about here is Amazon's ability to rewrite history. If they can remove content remotely, they can almost undoubtedly add it remotely as well -- so they could revise a text that one had downloaded without telling anyone. And nobody who had a Kindle would be able to tell. Particularly with short-term (newspaper) content, this frightens me. History of information is important ("What did we know, and when did we know it?").

The EULA comments on Kindle that I've seen say that the purchaser owns the copy of the book that s/he has purchased -- that they've purchased an actual license to that copy -- and that there's no provision for Amazon to take it back. If it's within Amazon's rights in one portion of the EULA to remove content, it's expressly contradicted in another. So, while a court might insist that they remove content at another time, that's not what happened here.

And yes, it's a good apology.

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:31 PM:

KeithS, #21: there's an ingrained expectation that when you put down a one-time payment for something that it's yours to do what you will with within reason

And that's where we get into the RIAA/Sony issue, where the company tries (unsuccessfully) to claim that you can't make a cassette copy or a backup CD copy of something you've bought, or rip it to mp3 and put it on your iPod, without buying it again. Part of the reason they're not getting any traction with this is precisely that ingrained expectation.

#29 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:47 PM:

I seem to recall there was an attempt a few years ago for browsers to perform an inspection of computers connected to the Internet for the purpose of finding unlicensed and illegal copies of various programs and files. This is a frightening development if permission is contained in EULAs from now on.

#30 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:50 PM:

Ken Brown @ 15

I've only ever used a Psion 5. My husband got the Revo first then moved to the '5 for the better keyboard size, accepting the bigger size/less easy to carry - which proves your point. It's still lots smaller than a netbook, which increasing numbers of people are carrying nowadays.

I'm still using my Psion 5 - for writing and for reading (and as addressbook, database of books, diary etc.). People are often amazed when I get it out and think it must be really new. They are gobsmacked when I explain that (a) it's -old- technology - they stopped making them several years ago; (b) it runs off a couple of AA batteries - rechargeables even - that last for a few weeks per pair; (c) I have dozens of books on it (mostly Mobipocket, some plain text or Word).

Why is nobody that's trying to develop a new mobile device asking Symbion for the use of the Psion 5 design? The major problem with wear on the screen cable has been fixed (there's a guy you can buy one from or who will fix it for a reasonable fee). The keyboard is large enough to type on; the screen is large enough to read on. Modern components would allow lots more memory etc. to be fitted into the space available.

Okay, I don't use it for reading in the bath. But it's great on public transport etc. I'm just scared it will finally die before someone invents another device that will do everything my Psion 5 does - and preferably last at least as long as this has.

#31 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Apologies for the double-post - my computer told me it had been unable to got to the page the first time, so I tried again...

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 01:59 PM:

The ability to delete texts isn't what I find most hideous about centrally-served electronic texts. It's the ability to silently edit texts that's implied in the ability to delete them.

At any moment, without warning and without trace, the announcement could come that Oceania is at war with Eastasia and has always been at war with Eastasia, and there will be no way to prove that the situation was ever different because every reference source you could check would agree.

#33 ::: Mashell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:03 PM:

Ken @ 15:
You made me laugh with that last line. Just yesterday I prepared a steaming tub, lit the candles, turned on the soft music, and prepared to steep myself for a while. As I was stepping into the tub WITH MY IPHONE IN HAND, I suddenly realized that it might not be a good plan to mix bath water with a cell phone. Never mind that book I was reading on the Kindle iPhone app - I switched to a nice printed and bound book instead.

#34 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Damien Neil @ 20:

Lending books, music, and what have you is something that works well when it's a physical object. When it's a collection of bits that you make a duplicate of, lending and transferring can lose their meaning. (Not that this is entirely new, of course; mix tapes passed around by friends have been around for a while.)

With the restrictions that a lot of businesses want, there could also no longer a used book or used music market, which makes cash register noises go off in business executives' ears.

You're right that a future without lending books is rather bleak.

Lee @ 28:

Exactly. Fair use is something to keep fighting for. Now we just have to thrash out the new fuzzy horizons of what's fair.

#35 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:26 PM:

Mashell @ 33:

The touch-screen works through thin layers of fabric, and will probably work through a sheet of plastic. Have you considered sealing your iPhone in a plastic bag?

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:33 PM:

#17, John Mark Ockerbloom, re the Kindle EULA -- You're probably right. I may have been misinformed.

#20, "In Amazon's perfect world, none of that would have happened. No child would ever read a book without paying Amazon their Danegeld." This seems a bit fraught. I'm certainly concerned about moving into a world where most of us don't actually own books, but I don't see any evidence that Amazon is proselytizing for such a world, or that they have any intention of getting out of the business of selling printed books that you can loan to anyone. Being concerned about the dystopian implications of a technology is reasonable; suggesting that the worst possible world resulting from a technology is "Amazon's perfect world," i.e., that it's an outcome that Amazon is actively pushing for, seems to me somewhat less reasonable.

Similarly, while I share Jim Macdonald's concern (expressed in comment #33) about the potential for invisible updates to reference texts, I think he may be underestimating the ease of getting to a world where there would be "no way to prove that the situation was ever different because every reference source you could check would agree." It seems to me that Hypothetical Evil Amazon would have to surmount quite a few other obstacles before they could control "every other reference source you could check."

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:43 PM:

The Hypothetical Evil Amazon would have a hard time. A government would have more resources, and in the fullness of time perhaps more opportunity.

#38 ::: Mashell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 02:52 PM:

KeithS @35: OMG, it does work thru plastic! Now I can take my 'iFriend' everywhere!

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:00 PM:

I am less concerned with the problem of the memory hole (Amazon is not a monopoly, and yes, I do own a Kindle), than I am with the problem of the library and the coffee house. Amazon's web-site has taken over many of the functions of the library (as a place to go to look things up, as a place to browse books, und so weiter). The Kindle Store has gone a step further by allowing readers to browse first chapters free.

What, then, happens to the Habermasian public sphere if places where people had gathered to read (and discuss issues) disappear into the aether? To me, that's a much more serious issue than whether a corporation can assert property rights.

#40 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:06 PM:

#36 Patrick: "I'm certainly concerned about moving into a world where most of us don't actually own books, but I don't see any evidence that Amazon is proselytizing for such a world..."

No, they're not outright proselytizing for it; they're just engineering it. That's what worries me. And that engineering *is* reflected right in the EULA:

Restrictions. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content.

So, unlike a book I own, I'm prohibited by Amazon from disposing of Kindle-ebooks as I see fit (whether that's reselling it, giving it to someone else, or lending it.) I also can't circumvent any "security features" (i.e. DRM) on the Kindle-ebook, which means that as soon as I reach the limits of what the DRM allows, I can't read the book any more. (And pretty much all vendor-specific DRMs I've run across have a finite lifespan, limited by changes in technology, business plans, and/or hardware obsolescence.)

For me, that's a showstopper. I own the DRM-free ebooks I've downloaded from places like Tor. (Or at least, I did until my laptop got stolen before I backed them up, but that's my own fault.) So I'll be happy to buy them, if I want to read them electronically on hardware I own. But I can't own the Kindle-ebooks, under the conditions they give above. And therefore I don't buy them.

#41 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:15 PM:

It should probably be noted that, even with normal physical sales, the "I bought it, therefore I own it" does not apply to stolen property, regardless of whether the purchaser knows it's stolen. I'm not so sure how the "and am secure from having it taken away without warning" applies, but I would expect that also does not apply -- after all, repossessors quite often take away unpaid-for cars and the like, sans consent and participation of the current holder of the car.

Translating this all into the electronic information realm is tricky, but I think it's worth remembering that it's not quite as cut-and-dried as we might claim even in the physical-object world.

#42 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Why I will not have a Kindle:

Operating temperature — 0°C to 35°C.
Storage temperature — -10°C to 45°C.

I read while I'm walking, or waiting for a bus, or...

Never mind the "you think you can do what?" parts

#43 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Brooks Moses @ 41: This is one of the areas where the analogy between "copyright violation" and "theft" is least useful. In the world of physical printing, if you have not committed a copyright violation then no one comes after the volumes you've innocently purchased.

#44 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:32 PM:

From the EULA quoted in #40, "you will not encourage"! Talk about taking away free will, among other things, that's outrageous.

#45 ::: martyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 03:47 PM:

Am I missing something here? Nobody appears to have a bad word to say for Amazon selling something they had no right to sell. Out in the real world that is a crime, known as conversion (think of somebody stealing your car and then selling it on to someone else) You'd think Amazon might have checked first. They have enough lawyers, seemingly.

As for the Psion 5, I would buy another one tomorrow.

#46 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:12 PM:

So, let Amazon redress the grievance, pay the copyright owners what a neutral third-party arbitrator says they deserve, and undelete the books they ripped away from their Kindle customers. Finance the plan via reduction of executive compensation. Ta da!

#47 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:13 PM:

Martyn @ 45: That's one odd bit about this affair. As far as I know, Amazon *did* have the right to sell Orwell, since I believe there were already authorized e-editions out there of his work. One particular publisher selling through Amazon *didn't* have that right, though, and their editions were the ones that were deleted.

If they (the publisher, or Amazon) had simply paid the applicable rightsholders after they realized they'd screwed up, it would seem to me that all should have been well. The customers would have the books they bought, and the righsholders would have the money they were due from those books. (This is different from the case of a stolen car. For a car, the owner never intended to sell the car, and is deprived of its use until it's recovered. An ebook rightsholder, on the other hand, would have gotten the price they were seeking for the mistakenly-sold copies, and would continue to have the ebook masters and the right to sell them.)

True, it would have cost the sellers some money to rectify things that way, but I doubt it would have been any more costly than the PR disaster resulting from deleting the books from customers' machines.

(I see Earl Cooley has written much the same proposal as I've been editing this. So why didn't anyone at Amazon think of it?)

#48 ::: Irene Delse ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:31 PM:

Amazon is in the business of format farming, but thankfully, their Kindle is hackable. See this entry on Mobileread forums about disabling the "Big Brother" features on this device:

#49 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:34 PM:

Mashell @ 38:

Just remember to test that the plastic bag is actually watertight before you trust it completely.

Aside: I had a friend who sprayed a copy of Dune with a can of water repellant stuff so he could read it in the bath.

martyn @ 45:

The other thing to remember is that Amazon sells other people's goods. Amazon had no reason to believe that the publisher was doing anything wrong, and the publisher obviously didn't think that anything was wrong on their end either. So the publisher lets Amazon sell things and all's well. Then the publisher finds out that, oops, no, they weren't doing things right after all. Everyone acted in good faith right up to the point where Amazon deleted the ebooks without notice.

#50 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 04:54 PM:

Patrick has it nailed in #14: this stuff is way too complicated right now, unless you're willing to stay within a single walled garden (like the Kindle), and that's hurting everyone. The nearest equivalent to the MP3 format seems to be ePub, inasmuch as that's the direction that the various reader software and hardware seems to be moving in...yet it's far from universally supported the way MP3 is on pretty much any media player from the cheapest no-names up to high-end iPods.

The eBabel problem (as the TeleRead blog folks call it) is only made worse by DRM, of course.

Ken Brown (#15): I've seen a Bluetooth "virtual keyboard" that projects a keyboard image onto a flat surface. The key-feel is obviously nonexistent (and the CNET review was not exactly complimentary), but at least it'd fit in a pocket when you weren't using it. (Also, the iPhone/iPod touch don't have Bluetooth keyboard drivers yet.)

#51 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 05:19 PM:

Damien Neil touches on the value of physical objects as ways to store and share the abstraction of text. They are also of value as ways to archive text. So far, no magnetic or electrical medium (flash memory is an electrical medium) is archival. They have all have lifespans of perhaps a decade. Researchers think that archival CD-Rs--a chemical-optical medium--will last about 300 years, but of course no-one knows for sure. So here's to paper and ink, and whatever comes after that will last!

#52 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 05:29 PM:

Patrick, apropos #14 -- if you're still wanting to get .doc/.rtf onto Stanza on iPhone, poke me over Worldcon. (Yes, I do it.)

Meanwhile, it looks like Apple's tablet is probably coming around the end of this year/beginning of next. This could well be a Kindle-killer (modulo the usual reservations about Apple being just as control-freakish as Amazon).

#53 ::: NeilN ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 06:18 PM:

Patrick @ 14:

The process is more convoluted than it should be, but I use calibre to convert a document to the epub format and then I upload the epub file to a webhost along with a one line html file which links to the epub file. Clicking on the link in mobile Safari downloads the book right into Stanza. Works great with all the books I've bought from Baen.

This also illustrates why I will never buy DRM'd books. I want the ability to read anything I've purchased on the platform I choose using the software I choose.

#54 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Even with DRM a 'library' model more like Netflix could still be useful.

I don't object to DRM on streaming music (eg Rhapsody) and I would certainly consider a 'Library of Kindle' model with a monthly subscription fee and the ability to check out some number of books simultaneously. Just as with physical books this wouldn't replace bookstores. There would be some books that I'd want to buy and keep forever, but many that I'd be happy to just read and return.

Damien Neil@20 mentioned lending his old copy of Archer's Goon to a child. I read Archer's Goon as a library book. It had to be returned by the due date, and there was no guarantee that it would be on the shelf if I wanted it in the future. An e-book library, if done right, would be better, since I wouldn't have to wait for someone else to return a book before I borrowed it. Public library systems are already effectively monopolies in a lot of places. I will admit that I'm glad my library monopoly is run by Nancy Pearl rather than Jeff Bezos, though.


#55 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 08:07 PM:

Charlie Stross, #52: I don't think the Apple tablet will be a Kindle killer. The thing would basically be a big iPod Touch; an iPod/iPhone and a Kindle have different kinds of screens which are good at completely different things.

I have an iPod Touch, and I'm happy with it. But I'd still like to get something with a Kindle/Sony Reader-style screen for reading ebooks, because, while the iPod isn't a bad ebook reader it's clearly not its primary purpose: in bright sunlight it's difficult to see the screen, and using the screen constantly runs the battery down pretty quickly. Plus, you're staring at a backlight all the time, and that's not always comfortable after an eight-hour workday staring at more or less the same thing.

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 08:52 PM:

Fragano @39, I don't know what things are like where you live, but in my neighborhood, libraries and coffee shops offer free wireless internet. They seem pretty popular.

Martyn @45, out in the real world, if a publisher lies about having the rights to a book, and distributes it through bookstores, where it gets bought by customers, it's a matter between the publisher and the rights-holder. All those copies of the Ace Books unauthorized Lord of the Rings sitting on people's shelves or in attics or whatever are still there, and perfectly legal for them to own, or sell on eBay. They aren't stolen property, because copyright violation isn't theft, no matter how much effort the MPAA, RIAA, and BSA have put into telling you otherwise.

#57 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 08:52 PM:

Why would you buy something if it isn't yours when you buy it?

#58 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 09:13 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 57:

Convenience, possibly combined with not being aware of the broader issues. Most of this stuff acts more or less like you own it in the most common use-case, which is reading/watching/listening on your own device. It's only when you try to do anything else, or the company decides to get out of the music business, or the publisher decides to delete it, or your hard disk goes south that you notice.

I know that if I asked some Kindle users I know what they thought about DRM and Amazon's ability to delete things at will, their response would be "huh?" And iTunes was doing quite well before Apple removed the DRM.

#59 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Avram #56: Let me put it another way, how much interaction is going on in those places? Is the net a true replacement for the kind of political community fostered by the 18th century coffeehouse or the nineteenth century workers' clubs (which had libraries and reading rooms)? That's what I'm wondering.

#60 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 09:39 PM:

KeithS, #58: Re iTunes, there's an easy (if slightly clunky) way around the whole DRM thing anyhow. If you burn iTunes DRM-protected files to an audio CD, you can play it anywhere -- including re-ripping it (using something other than iTunes) to make a DRM-free mp3 file. That's what I had to do to get my current cellphone ringtone.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2009, 10:35 PM:

Fragano @59, well, the coffee shops are pretty social. I don't know as much about the library, where I generally just go in, get/drop off my books, and leave.

I'm not sure it makes sense to ask if Amazon's Kindle is going to kill off social phenomena from the 18th and 19th centuries. If those things didn't survive the 20th century, then they were already killed before the Kindle showed up.

#62 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:38 AM:

KeithS @49: I had a friend who sprayed a copy of Dune with a can of water repellant stuff so he could read it in the bath.

When I first read Dune, I thought it did such a good job of evoking the arid environment of Arrakis, I told a friend it made me thirsty to read it.

There is something wrong with the notion of reading Dune in the bath. Unless it was out of fear of dying of dehydration; I could sympathize with that.

#63 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:45 AM:

Something that occurs to me: you don't actually store all the books in the Kindle, do you? I was under the impression there might be a temporary local copy but the primary storage was in Amazon's servers. This complicates all sorts of things including the interaction between reality and our expectations. (If you want to think about it more generally, substitute "the cloud" for "Amazon's servers.")

So, for example: What happens to local annotations when the work they are attached to no longer exists in the cloud? What happens to a work in the reader when the copy in the cloud is removed for legal reasons? Aside from the lack of notification (which is a social issue), the technical issues here seem very much like someone didn't think through the implications of cloud-based storage, or its interaction with people's expectations.

#64 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:21 AM:

Avram@#56, those Ace editions of LotR were perfectly legal. Because the American editions weren't printed in the US, but the UK, and US copyright required an edition printed in the US to secure copyright. There's a strong argument that the books would never have come out in paperback if Don Wollheim hadn't known that (Tolkien didn't like paperbacks). They may have been unethical and unauthorized, but they were not illegal.

#65 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:57 AM:

Tom @64, that's not what a US District Court judge ruled in 1992, according to Michael Drout's JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia.

#66 ::: Jason Erik Lundberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:16 AM:

I agree 99.99% with you here, Teresa. I'm glad the Bezos did the right thing by apologizing without conditional language. I still won't buy a Kindle, but this does improve his and Amazon's reputation a smidge.

The 0.01% has already been covered in the very first comment by Josh Jasper, who has spent considerable time in Singapore, and has eloquently beaten me to the punch. I won't belabor the point, but as I currently call Singapore home (and have for the last 2.5 years), it continues to bother me when Americans (and it's always Americans) leap to caning and/or chewing gum when they think of Singapore. For events that happened 15 years ago, it's remarkable that it's still the only thing that comes to mind.

#67 ::: Jason Erik Lundberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:18 AM:

Gah. Sorry, Patrick. I meant to post your name, not Teresa's.

#68 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:51 AM:

Mashell @ 38; KeithS @ 49

I'm sure I've seen transparent waterproof pouches sold for putting 'phone etc. in while on the beach/swimming - might be safer than a plastic bag (if still thin enough to use the touch screen).

#69 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:52 AM:

Mashell @ 38; KeithS @ 49

I'm sure I've seen transparent waterproof pouches sold for putting 'phone etc. in while on the beach/swimming - might be safer than a plastic bag (if still thin enough to use the touch screen).
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#70 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 10:42 AM:

Rob Rusik: When I first read Dune, I thought it did such a good job of evoking the arid environment of Arrakis, I told a friend it made me thirsty to read it.

Heh. When I was a high school kind reading Robin McKinley's Beauty, I felt a strong urge to change location - not just from the bed to the living room, but from the house to someplace semi-wild down the block - when the title character got on her horse and rode off to the Beast's castle.

What makes me uneasy about this situation is this: Amazon have now gotten in trouble twice for doing semi-shady things stealthily: Silently hiding from their search engine anything they considered "adult", and simultaneously silently catagorizing all things GBLT as "adult"; and silently buying back all copies of certain books. Their botched apology for the first incident led to outrage, so they learned to apologize better.

But where is their incentive to stop doing objectional things behind the customer's back?

The cynic in me says people learn to apologize better until they stop getting caught, and once they stop getting caught, there's no reason for them to stop screwing you.

So while I'm impressed that Bezos learned how to apologize convincingly, I am not any more comfortable trusting Amazon for it.

#71 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:25 AM:

Avram @65, read more closely. That merely says that the loss of copyright wasn't permanent, not that the editions were illegal at the time. A reasonable settlement was reached, Tolkien was paid, and Ace stopped printing the editions. The ruling many years later protected future printing and editions and didn't appear to say anything about the original appearance. And the article doesn't address whether the paperbacks would have appeared during Tolkien's lifetime without Wollheim's intervention. A ruling more than a quarter-century later doesn't really show what was valid at the time.

#72 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:16 PM:


I think the issue is them having the power to do those silent, bad things. Given the power, they will surely have motivation to do those bad things later--perhaps from their direct economic interests, perhaps as part of internal politics/struggles within Amazon, perhaps in response to politicians or policemen or judges in some powerful country, perhaps to appease angry activists. By giving themselves the power to disappear or alter parts of my library, they make the use of that power very likely.

This is exactly the critique that those of us who worry about too much government power make. It's not that we expect the NSA to collect wiretap information and use it to guide arrests to suppress internal dissent today, it's that if NSA has that power, there will likely come a day when someone decides that it needs to use that power. When scary power is necessary, its use at least needs to be transparent rather than hidden, and there need to be open checks and balances.

The way to prevent police state crap by either governments or companies is *not* to build the full police state apparatus with an "on" switch easily available, and then argue against ever hitting that "on" switch. Instead, we need to see that this apparatus isn't built. (I'll note that this argument has gotten approximately zero traction with voters.)

#73 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Nice apology from Bezos. But where was his apology when Amazon nuked the pageranks of books with GLBT content?

#74 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:53 PM:

This latest incident reminds me of build-up to the Iraq war.
When the Kindle arrived, lots of smart people said it was "defective by design" because of DRM. Obviously, mainstream opinion labeled them as a fringe of lunatics ("why should Amazon want to delete my books?"). Then bad things happened, as smart people said they would. Same with the iPhone AppStore, online music stores using DRM, etc etc etc...

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:54 PM:

Avram #61: The Kindle is a symptom, not a cause. It's part of the larger "bowling alone" phenomenon, that's had other social scientists worried about the collapse of social capital.

#76 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:08 PM:

Avram #56:

Gotta watch out for that free wi-fi stuff. I tried a (new-to-me) *used* bookstore yesterday and discovered that it had easy chairs and free wi-fi. Didn't see any coffee, though.

#77 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 70 and albatross @ 72:

Amazon has no incentive to stop doing objectionable things beyond becoming wildly unpopular and losing significant profit. Large organizations, unless they have a significant moral guiding force, don't tend to pay much attention to anything else. Unfortunately, Amazon lost me with the first round of Amazonfail, and this incident doesn't do anything to restore my faith in them.

The Register has a good article about this latest Amazon to do. One of the people they quote speculates that since they built the remote-deletion capability into the devices, they had no other choice but to use it in this case, which ties quite neatly into albatross's point.

#78 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Brooks@41 / David@43: more relevant IMO is that there are substantial legal hurdles to seizing stolen property from an innocent possessor -- notices, hearings, ...

I think that's all secondary to the rewriting-of-reality that Jim etc have pointed to, and the loss of personal annotations as well as the illegal material; but even the basic procedure was was far too abrupt.

#79 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Technological capabilities work very much like Chekhov's axiom of playwriting: If you introduce a gun in the first act, you must fire it by the third act.

If you design the capability to delete the books people have purchased, sooner or later someone will feel compelled to use it.

#80 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Alan Bostick #73: But where was his apology when Amazon nuked the pageranks of books with GLBT content?

I contacted one of the prominent victims of that incident recently, but haven't received an answer back yet.

#81 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 08:33 PM:

Re Singapore and gum: What is the Penalty for Chewing Gum in Singapore?

A huge fine; sort of.

In terms of Singaporean law, the ban on chewing gum in Singapore can be considered an extension of the littering law. Therefore, the act of chewing gum in Singapore is associated with similar penalties to those imposed for littering. The littering law requires a fine of $500 to $1,000 US Dollars (USD) for first time offenders. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 USD and assigned a Corrective Work Order (CWO).

The ban on gum, in toto has been lifted, but it's still not trivial to obtain, and the fines for those who fail to properly record the details of sale, and those who improperly possess (or dispose of) it are still about the same.

#82 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:52 PM:

Fragano @39, that's what blog communities are for! I point to Shakesville as an excellent example. Not only thoughtful posts with a feminist and politcan slant written by the regular and guest authors, but "blogarounds" (collections of links) highlighting multiple issues of concern to the community and functioning like a newspaper, weekly "virtual pubs" that work in a similar fashion to Making Light's Open Threads, assorted calls-to-action, a newly instituted weekly thread for promoting employment opportunities, skills exchanges, and jobs sought, and, of course, all of this leavened by silly videos found on YouTube and pictures of cats.

It's pretty much EXACTLY an Internet political coffeehouse or workers' club with reading room.

#83 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 10:02 PM:

CHip #78 (Brooks@41 / David@43):
Cops have assisted trademark owners in recovering T-shirts from people wearing them at concerts, but I don't know if it was completely legal, and if so if it would extend to copyright.

#84 ::: The AstroDyke ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:58 PM:

If only Amazon had apologized as genuinely after they systematically deranked books with lesbian, gay, and feminist themes.

#85 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 02:05 AM:

Unless chewing gum has also been banned in Malaysia (and I'm not sure of this, having been away from .sg for nearly 10 years) it is actually very easy to obtain the stuff. You just drive over the Causeway (around 1.5km), going through Immigration Control on both ends, and pop into any petrol kiosk, provision store or supermarket.

#86 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 07:21 AM:

Rikibeth #82: Thanks. I wonder, though, if such groups (and mailing lists, and places like ML, and so on) because of their trans-locality, can perform the kind of function of civil society construction that earlier gathering places did? But, then, perhaps I'm being unduly pessimistic these days.

#87 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 09:16 AM:

Fragano, 86: I wonder, though, if such groups (and mailing lists, and places like ML, and so on) because of their trans-locality, can perform the kind of function of civil society construction that earlier gathering places did?

I think so. Not everyone in the 18th century hung out in coffeehouses, but they took what they learned there out into the world. I learn things here and elseweb, and then I tell my offline friends and relations.

#88 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 10:54 AM:

I am surprised how little questioning there is in the comments so far - Nicole @70 being one of the exceptions - of the quality of Bezos' apology. Clearly it's an improvement on not apologising, but the assertion that it is 'painfully out of line with out principles' is one worth questioning. Which of Amazon's principles discernible from its behaviour more generally is it out of line with? If the action was allowable under the Kindle ToR, but was not consistent with those principles, where are the changes to the ToR to bring them into line with the principles? If the action was not allowable under the ToR because they are already aligned with the principles, where are the proposals for effective restoration? And since it isn't self-evident from Amazon's behaviour just what we are to suppose their governing principles to be, what are they and where are they to be found?

There's a big difference between 'sorry' and 'sorreee' as any parent knows. It's hard to tell from this whether Bezos had his fingers crossed behind his back.

#89 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 01:51 PM:

LMB MacAllister @ #19: A "circlet" of Hell for everyone who ever said, "mistakes were made"?

I doubt whether a full-blown circle would hold them all, even if you move to a lower one the people who also said, "I think we have all learned a valuable lesson".

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 03:42 PM:

mcz: I am sure it's easy to get, but as it looks, smuggling it, having it without proper justifications, giving it away, or selling it without the proper record keeping is a big no-no.

It may be non-enforced, but I'd not be willing to risk it. A year in prison seems a bit steep.

#91 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 04:28 PM:

Do you own your data? Apparently, you do not even own yourself.

#92 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 05:47 AM:

(Been at Satellite 2 over the weekend ...)

Wesley @52: yes, I know about the screen technology differences. The thing is, the Kindle is cripped by epaper. Trust me: I own an epaper based ebook reader. Epaper is good for just two things: (a) you can read it in daylight (it's reflective, like paper, rather than modulating transmitted light from a backlight), and (b) because there's no backlight and epaper retains its state when no power is applied, it allows a long battery life.

However, epaper has huge drawbacks. Colour is eye-wateringly expensive, refresh speed is measured in seconds (for LCDs we're talking single-digit milliseconds these days), and it's hard to read in dim indoor lighting conditions.

In practice, we don't need ebook readers that can run for more than 12 hours between charges. The only time I've ever come close, I was on an intercontinental trip that suffered massive airport delays -- even then, I was able to find a mains socket to recharge from in much less than 12 hours.

That leaves "I can read it in daylight" as the sole advantage for epaper in the consumer space (as opposed to in reprogrammable advertising hoardings, etcetera). And the One Laptop Per Child project pioneered, and PixelQI are commercializing, a new technology that gives you a colour backlit LCD indoors that degrades to a readable black-and-white reflective display when you go into direct sunlight.

Verdict: in the consumer space, epaper is going to fail -- apart from some highly specialised uses -- within another couple of years. It'll still be around in things like advertising hoardings, airport/railway station noticeboards, and other applications that need displays that are routinely updated and need to be readable outdoors while having limited access to juice ... but devices like the Kindle are not the way forward for ebooks.

Whereas I've read more than one book on my iphone, and -- aside for the indoor/outdoor problem, which is going to be solved Real Soon Now -- I vastly prefer the response time of LCDs (no annoying slow flicker when you turn pages, for starters).

#93 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:24 AM:

q in #7,
"how many textbooks would have to be loaded on a Kindle to make it cheaper for someone to buy the used Kindle than to buy the texts new in either paper or digital form?"

the answer is 2 or 3, for the average biology, chemistry etc. textbook.

However per the EULA extract in #40, you're not allowed to sell the Kindle with content,
"you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content". Oh well.

Thanks C. Wingate, for the link to Chegg. That seems like a good idea, at least until it gets shut down..
In Florida, it's actually gone to law - it lays down the requirements for textbooks in the community colleges.
As part of this effort, the CCs are planning to publish their own e-textbooks.

#94 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:32 AM:

Because Apple insists on that type of control over the software you put on the devices they make, I've never had the slightest interest in using them. I use PCs, not Macs, and an MP3 player, not an iPod.

The Kindle is in that same category. Intriguing device, but far too tied to one supplier -- and one who has proven to be capricious at that. When someone puts out a reader that can handle various file formats comfortably, I'm interests.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:28 PM:

The closed nature of the iPhone has saved the world at least one bad app. When PNH got his, I considered getting one of my colleagues to write an app that did something useful most of the time, but occasionally would flash up a picture of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, captioned simply, "Look!"

But it was going to be too damned much trouble to get it into the App Store looking innocuous enough to be able to recommend to him with a straight face IM status message.

#96 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:50 PM:

Years ago when I was working at MITRE someone can in from CMU to talk about what today would be called "cloud computing." Back then it was a vision of the future that some people at CMU and SEI (Software Engineering Institute).

I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it today. I -do- care about the physical allocation of the functional elements and data, and the physical locations and topology involved. I don't want Apple, or Amazon, or the US Government, or Verizon, or AT&T, etc., controlling my access to information spatially and temporally that I have spent my time and energy and money and other resources writing, playing, developing, purchasing, aggregating, etc.

I want to know the location of the storage of the contant, the access address and method(s), the perishability of the information, READABLE terms of agreement regarding content that I am not the rights holder (other than access) of, etc.

"Somewhere on the cloud/network, you don't have to know where" is something I don't trust--topology is prunable by any or all of cretins, natural disasters, governments doing censorship, Apple and other control-freak corporations deciding to yank permissions (ask IBM and Motorola and a whole slew of other corporations, and individual, about that... but start with IBM and Motorola, who both got severely burned by Apple in figures to nine figures), thieves, malicious crackers, buyouts, changes of mangement, and/or "collateral damage" from other causes....

#97 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Doug @ #93 That has been the case for generations, and there is a long tradition of such provisions being roundly ignored.

The Penguin book on my desk has their traditional British copyright bumph: "Except in the USA, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not ... be ... re-sold..."

Right. If anyone actually followed that, used bookstores and yard sales would be illegal.

Lawyers have tried to impose such insanity for years. Only a few particularly twisted corporations in history have ever tried to actually enforce it. Unfortunately, there's been a rash of that sort of thing lately. It won't last.

#98 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:51 PM:

I considered getting one of my colleagues to write an app that did something useful most of the time, but occasionally would flash up a picture of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, captioned simply, "Look!"

Followed by a racing car smashing into it at berserk speed and a volley of clipped, Milanese foul language?

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:53 PM:

Alex @98:
Not in the free version. Some things are reserved for paying customers.

#100 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:53 PM:


Natural iridensence harnessed for reflective displays

"EE Times:

"Natural iridensence harnessed for reflective displays
"R. Colin Johnson
"EE Times
"(07/26/2009 10:53 PM EDT)"

"PORTLAND, Ore. — Iridescent insects, butterflies and birds have long puzzled scientists with their unique ability to reflect bright colors. Nature's trick is growing nanoscale structures with dimensions that filter light being reflected without dimming light the way conventional filters do.

"Researchers at [Georgia Tech] ...have unearthed the secret of natural liquid crystals that reflect light as bright as a back-lit LCD. Separately, Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. announced it is breaking ground on a manufacturing plant to fabricate its own reflective displays using methods similar to those recently discovered at Georgia Tech..."

"Guru of Grounding
"Analog Circuit Design
"commented on Jul 27, 2009 12:14:09 PM
"Good piece ... but "iridensence" in two headlines? Is spelling becoming a lost art?"

The threefer consists of:
1) the content of the article about display technology exploiting irridescent effects,
2) Invent in USA, fancy manufacturing tech and production all oon the other side of the Pacific...
3) Is there a competent copyeditor around somewhere?! "irridensence" instead of "irridescense" harrumph! It's not a quickly dashed-off piece of epherma such as email, it's a supposedly professional written and produced article, with ads from Real Companies which are not selling magic belly fat evaporators, lifestyle drugs, usurious interest rate mortgages, etc.

#101 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:12 PM:

Greg @ #97

That re-sale clause attributed to Penguin: something very like it is in my 2000-published copy of A Clockwork Orange, and you seem to have missed the critical detail. It cannot be re-sold in anything other than the original cover or binding.

This is a little odd, because that would cover the US custom of "returning" an unsold book by ripping off and sending back the cover, yet there is that "except in the US" clause.

Still, even without that, it doesn't seem outrageous.

#102 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:13 PM:

Paula, it's "iridescence."

#103 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Dave, that's exactly why they do it. Some of them also have the text inside that says "if you purchased this book without a cover..." and goes on to describe bookstore scams (return the cover for credit, then sell the stripped book and pocket the money). I read many a coverless book (given, not sold, to me by a bookstore employee) before I found this out.

I haven't seen the "except in the US" clause before. Did we have a new court ruling that I missed?

#104 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 05:46 PM:

Xopher @103 The 'except in the US' clause has been appearing in Penguins for at least ten years (the age of the one pulled from the shelf of books abandoned by previous renters of the holiday house I am in). I am pretty sure, though, that I can remember it from the Puffins I was reading thirty or forty years ago. The convoluted language, which was there precisely because the first sale doctrine was being recognised and (in a pretty harmless way) circumvented at the same time, has been rolling around in my head for a very long time.

#105 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 06:21 PM:

abi @ 95: Amazingly, until a moment ago, the Wikipedia entry on the Winged Victory of Samothrace didn't mention Bored of the Rings or SF fandom and internet culture. Speaking of owning data, I wonder how long the new paragraph will stay up?

#107 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:47 PM:

Ugh. I used to like ordering from the B&N website. Then they added insurance ads and so on to the book-description pages. I think I'm going to let my member-discount card lapse.

#108 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:09 PM:

I'm not at all surprised somebody managed to slip some unauthorized editions on to the kindle store.

The kindle store has woeful quality control. Lots of self-published dreck. Lots of public domain spam. Spam? Yes, when one publisher fills the store with page after page of obscure public-domain e-books, including the diaries of Samuel Pepys divided into individual months, I call it spamming.

I dearly wish I could ban publishers from my Kindle store listings. First to go would be, yes, "Amazon Digital Services".

#109 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:30 PM:

Fragano @75: "Avram #61: The Kindle is a symptom, not a cause. It's part of the larger "bowling alone" phenomenon, that's had other social scientists worried about the collapse of social capital."

Reading books in public is also part of "bowling alone". Or writing in a journal. Or typing on a laptop. Basically, anything where you're not telegraphing that you're eager for conversation.

Nothing new about the kindle, apart from it being harder to tell if a person with a kindle is reading "Fap-king of Gor".

#110 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:46 PM:

Jon H, I am so glad I read late night comments here with no liquid in my mouth.

Yikes. (I read one of the first four at a fairly young age and went, 'this is farking tedious.')

#111 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:47 PM:

geekosaur @63 "Something that occurs to me: you don't actually store all the books in the Kindle, do you?"

You probably can. I have 70-some on mine. If you remove an e-book that you purchased, it is listed in the "Archive", which are books that are stored on Amazon's server and can be re-downloaded when you want them.

Files on your kindle that you didn't buy (ie, what you put on there via USB or email) are permanently deleted when you remove them from your Kindle. So keep backups.

All the text (purchased and otherwise) on your kindle are in the "documents" directory when the device is mounted as a flash drive. You can copy everything to your hard drive to make a local backup.

What I don't know is what would happen if a backed-up copy of the 'illicit' 1984 were restored to a kindle. Would the 'delete' command from Amazon be performed again? Would the restored file be checked against the account's list of owned ebooks, found to be discrepant, and deleted or made unusable? Or would it work? (And, what effect would it have if the wireless were always off when the 1984 text was on the device?)

#112 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:55 PM:

Re: water and e-book readers

Kindles work fairly well in zip-lock bags. My father uses one for his kindle when reading on the back deck and concerned about bird poo.

The main problem is the little joystick, so best to select your reading material before getting in the tub.

I would think a double-ziploc might provide adequate protection in the bath in the event of a quick drop. If you're really worried, you could always put tampons in each of the ziplocs to lock up any water that intrudes.

#113 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:12 AM:

geekosaur @63 "So, for example: What happens to local annotations when the work they are attached to no longer exists in the cloud? "

I'm not sure what happens, but annotations are *not* (only?) stored in the books themselves.

If you plug your kindle in via USB, all your annotations and marked passages, from all your books, are in a single plain text file. IIRC there are indications of source text and location for each item, and I think they're grouped by source book, so it's not a horrible jumble.

Presumably when you're reading a book, the reader application parses the file in order to know what annotations and markings exist for the current book.

I don't know, but I doubt that they delete annotations from this file if the source book is deleted.

#114 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:15 AM:

Ah, I have a clippings file backed up on my Mac.

Here's a verbatim sample:

The Age of Napoleon (Alistair Horne)
- Highlight Loc. 287-91 | Added on Saturday, June 13, 2009, 03:34 AM

After nine months of intense secret negotiations, the Concordat, signed in July 1801, brought France back into the Roman Catholic fold. As head of state, Napoleon, however, retained the right to appoint bishops, who took their oaths before him. It was part of the deal that compensation was promised for ecclesiastical lands seized by the Revolution; few, in fact, were actually handed back. Napoleon’s conciliatory masterstroke, the Concordat, remained in force for more than a hundred years, until 1905, when a new bout of anticlericalism swept France and the Church was disestablished.
Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System, The (John S. Quarterman)
- Bookmark Loc. 719 | Added on Sunday, June 14, 2009, 03:48 AM

Strange Histories: The Trial of the Pig, the Walking Dead, and other Matters of Fact from the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds (Darren Oldridge)
- Highlight Loc. 123-25 | Added on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 11:50 PM

philosophy of the Church Fathers. The most and worship the devil—were found mainly in the writings of educated men. serious allegations against witches—that they gathered at night to kill babies While the legal prosecution of witches was exceptional in many respects, there is little in the surviving records to

#115 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 06:09 AM:

Jon H: BSD and witchcraft? That's all too plausible.

#116 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 07:38 AM:

(Carefully backs away from Edinburgh...)

Please, folks, don't give Charlie ideas while he's writing a book.

#117 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 08:33 AM:

Jon @#114 I would never consider anything backed up on a Mac to be safe. I don't trust Apple's controlling behavior. Who is to say what they will find unacceptable in the future? Here's today's Apple attempt to limit our freedoms:

#118 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:10 AM:

Charlie @115: "Jon H: BSD and witchcraft? That's all too plausible."

I also have your 'Wireless' on there, Lovecraft's "Shadow Out Of Time", some C++ books, a book about the money market, and for "there is none geekier" giggles, an illicit PDF of the 1st ed. Fiend Folio.

I suspect the combination may have opened a wormhole through time and caused the whole banking mess. My bad.

#119 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Greg @117: there is a key, fundamental difference between the iPhone OS environment and this Mac:

On the Mac, I have root. And that's all that matters, when you get down to it.

#120 ::: Andr Drew ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 06:47 AM:

Mycroft W @ #42:
You had me laughing loud enough to wake up roommates. I also know the horrors of temperature extremes. I use the bus. I wait at bus stops in the cold. This has lost me a vary fine digital camera, at least two mp3 players and I don't like to remember the various CDs left out in cars. Now I worry about how my new laptop will fare this winter.

It isn't as large a disaster as losing your entire e-collection, but physical books also can be destroyed by temperature. Years ago I stopped reading the Wheel of Time series when the paperbacks I could get my hands on disintigrated in the cold - the glue stopped holding the pages and reheating did not fix the problem. Turn a page and it would fall out.

#121 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 05:06 PM:

#97, #101, #104: I've just checked a couple of books on my shelf, and all of them crucially have text to this effect:

"...without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser."

Which suggests that the legalese is aimed at booksellers rather than consumers.

#122 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 08:23 PM:

Jakob @ 121:

After perusing some of the British books on my shelf, I found a couple variants.

The Penguins say:

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

Some by other publishers are essentially the same, except without the exception for the USA. They all have the bit about the subsequent purchaser as well, but they're all books bought within the last ten years too. That might make a difference.

#123 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:05 PM:

Jon H @113 & geekosaur @63 "So, for example: What happens to local annotations when the work they are attached to no longer exists in the cloud? "

I'm not sure what happens, but annotations are *not* (only?) stored in the books themselves."

Here it appears a high school student lost his annotations and is suing Amazon for their loss.

#124 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 11:21 PM:

I have several much-read paperbacks (and a few hardbacks) that have lost their covers from sheer mechanical wear after dozens of readings. The portion of the cover stock that was glued to the spine is largely intact, but the front and back covers are gone gone gone.

Given that, the "this is a stolen book" text always seems to be making a dangerously specific claim: if I sell my copy of The Two Towers to a friend for a quarter (not that I would: that book is mine, yes, Precious), has Ballantine committed libel?

#125 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2009, 03:13 PM:

Another report about the suit against Amazon.

#126 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2009, 05:50 PM:

KeithS, #125: Thanks -- that makes the basis for the lawsuit much clearer. I had thought that perhaps he was referencing specific pages (which, of course, might not be the same in a different edition), but this is even worse; it's like leaving the margin notes while removing the margins!

#127 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2009, 11:15 AM:

And Penny Arcade offers the classic crack about E-books.

#129 ::: Xopher sees PS3 SPAMity SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2011, 07:41 PM:

Eww. Blatant and uncreative.

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