Amazon did something very interesting a couple of days ago. It was approached by one of its sellers to remove the books Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four from its store. Apparently there was a rights issue of some kind and the vendor no longer wanted to offer the book for sale at the Kindle store. Amazon pulled the book from its stores, but it went one step further – it remotely deleted books from its customers Kindle devices!!

Imagine this, you reach page 80 of a new book on your Kindle, the plot’s gotten quite interesting. The next day poof !! its gone. In its place is a refund and an apology note. Isn’t it quite upsetting ? That is precisely what many Kindle users have had to face if the reports are to be believed.

I think this raises serious issues with regards to a customers rights when buying an e-book. It also raises issues with regards to privacy (since in a way its unauthorized access of your personal computing device) but more importantly the issue is whether we “truly” own the digital content purchased for the Kindle. Amazon’s actions seem to indicate (and who knows they may be within their rights as per the user agreement for their service), that you don’t really “own” the book but rather the book is permanently “lent” to you.  Contrast this, to when you walk into say Landmark and buy a book, Landmark certainly cant break into your house and repossess the book.

On a side note, I think this further calls for reduced prices for Kindle books. Since now you can’t really “own” the books, I think the prices should be discounted to reflect this.

Also more interestingly, the technology that Amazon employed to remove books from the Kindle, might just pave the way for the largest on demand lending library in the world. Imagine a system where for a nominal fee you could download an e-book for a limited period to read on your Kindle and at the expiry of the lending period, the book would simply “evaporate” from the device, kind of returning the book to the library.  Neat eh ?

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