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31 January 2011

Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. [More:]Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the Company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. This is across Amazon.com's entire U.S. book business and includes sales of books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the numbers even higher.
This disturbs me. Kindle is a centralized, DRM, proprietary system that allows Amazon to delete your books as if they never existed.

With similar systems in the past, companies like Walmart, Microsoft and Yahoo have abandoned the projects and shut off the authentication servers. Meaning once your device dies, all the content on it is gone completely, and you have to buy your entire collection again.

I really don't like the idea of such centralized control over everyone's books. If you make everything so easy to censor that it can be done with a couple mouseclicks, I don't think governments will be able to resist the urge forever.
posted by TheophileEscargot 31 January | 14:27
That is a really interesting point, Theophile. Right now I'm reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, and there are a few mentions of how, in the time spanning the beginnings of the Islamic Revolution, the author would wander down the Tehran streets where the bookstores were and just buy up paper bags full of paperback Western novels, almost indiscriminately, because she noticed that little by little they were getting harder to find...and of course, eventually disappearing as the government shut down all publishers of Western titles and banned the imports.

In her case, as a literature professor, she used them in class and finally in the sort of private, subversive class she taught in her home after she was expelled from teaching in the University.
posted by Miko 31 January | 14:49
Dude, that 1984 thing happened like two years ago and spawned so much outrage that Amazon immediately restored it to everyone's Kindles. I really don't think they could pull off something like that again. Not to mention, they're in the book-selling business, not just the device business--they make it very easy to read Kindle books on any device you choose. That gives me more confidence than most of the other e-book companies--even when there's some other way awesome thing in 5 years, Amazon will want me to be able to read and buy e-books on it.

I stopped buying books years ago for financial and space reasons and solely read library books--but I have easily bought over 200 books for my Kindle since I got it in October 2009.

Amazon is the iTunes of the e-book world--take that as you will, of course. But it makes me nuts when ppl get all "panic panic evil empire" about the Kindle when it is obviously the awesomest thing ever.
posted by leesh 31 January | 16:35
Yeah, but Theophile isn't talking about censorship originating with Amazon messing around with consumer choices in a free society, but originating with governments in countries where Amazon wants to operate but the government wants to control the intellectual content its people can access. it's one thing to take a choice away in a Western country with a market economy, but there wouldn't be any public outrage spawned under a dictatorship to force Amazon to restore banned titles.
posted by Miko 31 January | 17:03
I am one of the evil empire supporters. I read Kindle books on my iPhone and iPad almost exclusively these days. The only books the mister and I have bought in analog form in the past 2 years are a couple of coffee-table photography tomes.

if people want to get ahold of subversive stuff, I think they will, and the electronic / information age is if anything only making it easier in my opinion. It's really not all that difficult to defeat DRM either.

There's a shitload of blather I could go on about e-discovery and soforth in the legal field I work in that basically supports this outlook, but I'm about to cut out early due to Snowmageddon Boulder style and ride up to happy hour with some friends.

so yeah, what leesh said.
posted by lonefrontranger 31 January | 18:18
Paperbacks are essentially disposable to begin with. Kindle is great for snagging stuff I know I'll only read once anyway. I'm really not concerned that The Man is gonna take away my collection of potboilers, thrillers, and space operas.
posted by BitterOldPunk 31 January | 19:18
I am close to going over to ebooks but I need the precipitating kick. Something's gotta drag me over the line. I like my magazines and books but to spare the space... something will do it but I don't know what it is yet.
posted by ethylene 31 January | 19:56
I haven't book a book in 3 years, (except as gifts) since I moved across the street from a public library. My husband wanted to give me a kindle for Christmas, but I thought I wouldn't use it enough.

I'm sure once I move and the library isn't so convenient for a lazy person like me that I will pick one up.
posted by gaspode 31 January | 20:30
Well, I think it's fair to raise the question. Oppressive governments already restrict internet access, and it would be easy for them to restrict Amazon one day when that's where you get all the literature. The question of whether e-readers are good technology is a different one from the question of whether all information coming via a single media source is good infrastructure. For instance, just today there was a piece in the Economist about how Egypt's newspapers have been instrumental in spreading information within and outside the country, now that the internet has been shut down. The fact that there's still an infrastructure for newspaper newsgathering and printing made this a lot easier.

In most countries, we don't have to worry about the Man taking literature away. Just interesting that this week, I've read about a country where that happened just 30 years ago, and Egypt is giving another demo right now.

There's an inherent contradiction in wanting information to be easy to get, abundant and free or nearly free, and yet continuing to support companies that restrict its dissemination by using proprietary and/or secret methods to destroy competition and retain an edge.
posted by Miko 31 January | 22:10
This is all anecdotal, of course, but I got a Kindle for Christmas 2009 in preparation for moving to Japan. It's a neat piece of technology, but I find I use it mostly for reading Metafilter and Instapaper covertly when I should be productive at my desk (though reading a book is otherwise okay). I still have a few books around, and even after a year of having the Kindle, I'm hard pressed to buy books for it. I've bought two so far, and the rest have been either free or I NEED IT NOW.

I just really, really like holding a book. So while my Kindle has its uses, I don't see my bookshelves going away any time soon.
posted by gc 01 February | 03:50
Dude, that 1984 thing happened like two years ago and spawned so much outrage that Amazon immediately restored it to everyone's Kindles. I really don't think they could pull off something like that again.

7th December 2010:

Confusion over the censorship policy at Amazon continues to mount, with news this week that the company now appears to be removing incest-themed material from its Kindle...

Evidence that not all was well in the world of Amazon first surfaced in a discussion thread on Amazonís own Kindle Community forum. Author Jess C Scott asked if any other authors had had their books deleted by Amazon "without warning/ explanation", and then went on to detail the somewhat hazy explanations given by Amazon for their deletion of her title, Wicked Lovely....

The reply from Amazon, according to Jess, boiled down to a simple statement that they would judge each case on its merit, and they would act as their own judge and jury in cases such as these. They told her: "As stated in our content guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what content we consider to be appropriate. This content includes both the cover art image and the content within the book."

Since then, it appears that other books have been disappearing...
posted by TheophileEscargot 01 February | 04:22
I use to be one of those "I love real books" people. Since buying my Kindle there's no way I'd ever give it up. One light, small device with a battery that lasts a month, I can read as many books simultaneously as I want and not have to keep up with them, bookmarks automatically, notes, dictionary, font sizes, just about any book I want to read I can be reading in seconds... I could go on.

99 percent of the books I read I'd give away anyway. I read more in a year than I read in past decades. It's an amazing device. I'm hooked and will never go back.
posted by justgary 01 February | 19:22
I've got nothing against the technology. I'm happy people read books, period. Read 'em in paper form, read 'em on a Kindle, read 'em on Google Books, read 'em out of the library, read 'em on torn-out pages passed through prison bars, whatever. Read away. The issue isn't a technological one, but one of monopoly and external control. It's not a "better toy/better format" issue - it's a political, open-culture issue...Something to think about.
posted by Miko 01 February | 20:25
Kindle is also a publishing platform. We're watching censorship versus free speech battles happen as self-published writers find a distribution platform on the web. That's a GOOD thing. In the past, the manuscript would never make it out of the publisher's slush pile to begin with, and we would never have had chance to argue about it.

Amazon may pull titles from the Kindle store based on restrictive or silly criteria. But a self-published author can still get her books onto the Kindle, (though not in epub format grumble grumble) and avoid the Amazon store entirely. It is both a technological issue and one of the exertion of external control.
posted by BitterOldPunk 02 February | 12:46
Revolting Cocks cover "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" to good effect || Hey, midwestern and northeastern bunnies: Where you gonna put all that snow?

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