I don’t buy many ebooks. In fact, I don’t buy many books, but even so, most of my purchases in the last year have still been physical books. Part of the reason is that I’m still getting used to the experience of reading on a device, rather than reading a physical book. The other thing is that I never bought into Amazon’s ebook kingdom. This is where you read ebooks on an Amazon Kindle, you buy ebooks on Amazon’s web site and you forget all about ebooks outside this walled garden.
Recent events show why this business model has deep flaws for end-users.
A story hit the ‘web the other day about a Norwegian user who had their Amazon account revoked and their entire Kindle library deleted. Not a pleasant experience, and it seems it was only under tremendous pressure from the Internet that they reinstated any kind of access for her. The details of this particular story aren’t important to this post, except for the fact that Amazon’s Terms of Service explicitly says “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.” And this neatly sums up my aversion to the Kindle ecosystem in a single sentence.
I’ve been a book collector for a long time. A very long time. One of the magic things about acquiring a book I learnt early on is that when you do, it’s yours. It’s a physical object. You can do what you like with it – throw it around in a bag, dog ear pages, even scribble corrections in it with a pen if that’s your bent. For all of my life, the culture of reading revolved around lugging a volume of dead-tree around.
Ebooks change all of that.
Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. But according to what has been observed about Amazon’s world view, it is. In their world, an ebook is licensed and licensed to your device and your account. If the license goes away, the ebook goes away. And there seems to be all sorts of reasons for the license to go away! So far publishers haven’t tried a subscription license to their ebooks in any sort of widescale effort, but this cannot be far away. Most publishers would love a new way to make additional income on existing property.
Amazon’s ebooks are not like your childhood books. And I don’t like that.