Why Don’t Etailers Let Us Really OWN Ebooks?

The first thing I saw when I logged into Twitter this morning was a Tweet about this article, which reports about Amazon wiping the entire library of a user without explanation or recourse–this would be after they swore they wouldn’t do so without being ordered to do so by a court following the completely ironic debacle of them wiping copies of 1984 in 2009.

The whole thing made me shake my head.

Best I can make out, this customer, who was in Norway, may have used an English friend’s Amazon account to buy English books from Amazon UK.  Which violates this territorial bullshit.  That such a thing exists with ebooks at all seems ridiculous, but that’s neither here nor there.  It all comes back to the fact that based on the way ebook retailers manage things, you don’t actually OWN your ebooks.  If they decide to wipe out your library, they can do so, remotely, without your knowledge or permission.  It’s unclear whether this includes content users side loaded to Kindle, but probably.  I seriously doubt that companies willing to engage in such policies are concerned about nuking user’s “legitimate” or “personal” content.  They really just want to brick your device for asinine reasons.

THIS is why I have all the software on my computer to strip DRM.  Not only so I can read books on the device of my choice, but so that I can KEEP the library I bought.  My entire 500+ ebook library is ON my laptop.  So in the unfortunate event that Barnes and Noble (who, for all their faults, has not done any remote wiping of Nook libraries, to my knowledge) decided to wipe my library–I still have every book I ever bought.  And the capability to convert them to the proper format for whatever device I might be using.

If that’s piracy, I call it legitimate piracy and protecting my investment.  I’m not sharing my books, not posting them on torrent sites for others to download.  And it’s worth every extra step I have to take to do so (because I wager that those most at risk for losing their library are the ones who do everything directly from their Kindle rather and side loading from other places and keeping a laptop backup–buying in to the “convenience” of one click everything).

I feel like EVENTUALLY they’ll sort something out.  You don’t hear about iTunes or anybody wiping somebody’s MP3 library.  But it seems that the book industry is doomed to ignore the mistakes of their predecessors in favor of stumbling like blind, ignorant, bumbling fools through exactly the same territory before they hit on something more reasonable.

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3 comments

  1. You know what? The only reason I download from Amazon anyway is for the convenience of sending the book directly to my Kindle. So if Amazon is going to start wiping libraries off people’s Kindles, and I have to download to my computer anyway, then why don’t I just buy from Smashwords in the first place? They actually CARE about authors. This is something to think about. I rarely read books from traditional authors anymore, anyway, so most of what I want is on Smashwords.

  2. I do the same thing. All of my ebooks are backed up on my computer. Why? Because I bought them. I am maintaining control of the material I purchased. I think it’s all well and good that these retailers keep copies available for you to download whenever, but I never rely on that. I rely on my own on computer and/or external hard drive backups of all my material.

    Don’t forget, in the US at least, removing DRM from ebooks for personal use is almost always *legal*, thanks to the way the Library of Congress has written the regulations on the DMCA.

  3. I had no idea! I’ve resisted getting an ebook reader, thus far, because the technology changes so quickly that I haven’t made up my mind yet. I will soon. Amazon wouldn’t come to our houses to remove books from our shelves if they didn’t like that we shared the book with a friend. We should have the right to protect what we buy. Thank you for sharing this information.

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