The Problem with Kindle
Norway’s Consumer Council isn’t happy with the Amazon Kindle, a sleek, beautiful book reader whose inherent awesomeness is sullied by a toxic stew of heavy-handed digital rights management, big-brotherish privacy violations, and inscrutable, nonsensical restrictions. Some of the lowlights:
- Amazon reserves the right to track a bunch of stuff about what you’re doing with the Kindle, but they’re super-cagey about what they’re actually spying on. They’re at least watching what you’re reading at any given time, down to the specific page, and — given the Kindle’s persistent network connection — could be watching a lot more.
- You don’t really own the Kindle books you buy. You license them, and Amazon has the ability to take them away from you at any time, as they did with 1984 and Animal Farm earlier this year.
- You can’t lend your books to other people. You can’t sell them. You can’t make backups, and there are arbitrary, inconsistent, publisher-dictated limits on when you can download them.
- You can annotate and highlight your books, but the annotations are stored on Amazon’s servers, and that “service” can be suspended at any time.
The EFF has all the ugly details. It’s a familiar pattern: a beautiful and innovative piece of tech is laden with a crapload of nastiness that we’re all supposed to just accept as the price of owning something awesome.
I agree that awesomeness has a price. In the case of the Kindle, it’s $260, and then $9 per book. That ought to be where it ends.
Update: This looks very promising: the Ibis Reader works across platforms, doesn’t cripple its books with any DRM, and uses the HTML 5 persistence mechanism to live entirely inside your browser, yet still work when you’re offline — thus getting around nasty things like the need for App Store approvals. Here’s hoping.