Amazon and DRM.

In which I’m torn between really liking a device that works well, and feeling like I should never use it again.

Last December, I bought myself an Amazon Kindle as a Christmas-slash-layoff present.

Can has shiny new Kindle!

I bought it not because I didn’t already have a way to read ebooks (I have four separate ebook apps on my iPod Touch) but because I had device envy: the Kindle was a sleek little number with a 3G connection.

Plus, NLW said I’d like it, and she’s usually right.

The 3G connection was the kicker. I could buy books anywhere – in the car, at the store, in an airport! Imagine how great it would be to finish the second book in a trilogy and be able to download and begin reading the third book without even leaving your chair, man. That’s just plain hawt.

So now I have a Kindle, and it really is a slick little device. I carry it around with me more than I expected to. I currently have 77 items on it, from full-length books to short stories to today’s New York Times and this week’s Amritapuri news.

Since acquiring my Kindle, I’ve changed the Amazon bookmark in my browser to take me to the Kindle store instead of the main page. I have 31 items in my Kindle account, which means that Amazon got much more money out of me then they ever did when all of my ebook money went to Fictionwise and Baen and Mobipocket.

My Kindle works really well. It recently received an operating system update that made it even cooler than it already was. For the first time in all my years as an Amazon customer I started a second Wish List, so I could track the Kindle books and accessories I’m lusting over.

But then there’s Amazon’s party line:

Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate without notice from Amazon if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees.

- Amazon, Kindle Terms of Service

Which means, in a nutshell, that Amazon can brick your Kindle remotely whenever it likes. Which means you don’t own your ebooks, you’re just licensing them. (They’ve already mass-erased books from lots of devices.) If you decide to break the DRM and read a Kindle book on another device, you’re breaking the agreement and possibly even the law as well.

Cory Doctorow refuses to sell his works in Kindle format – you can get them for free from his website, but you can’t buy them from Amazon.com: he’s that against DRM and all it implies. He says that book ownership predates even the publishing industry itself, and he’s right. The ideas in a book might belong to the author, but the book itself belongs to its owner.

In the olden days, after you bought a book it was yours. You could read it, burn it, loan it, re-read it, let 11 family members read it, and then sell it: it was YOURS.

Now I’m giving money to a company who can brick my device if they merely think I’m acting funny. I have to back up all my Amazon ebook purchases and DRM-strip them just in case, or I risk the possibility of having rented rather than purchased the works in my account.

All of this pisses me off. I want to use my cool new technology, and they make it really easy for me to do so, but I don’t want Amazon thinking they’re getting away with this. They probably think the majority of their Kindle users are morons, and the more we use our Kindles and the more we accept their crappy licence agreements the more proof they have that we really are.

Yes, I still buy books from the other sites, but it’s just so much easier (and often cheaper, because Amazon sells the majority of their ebooks at a loss) to buy them directly from the Kindle itself.

Read The Future of Reading. It’s short and sweet and says most of what needs to be said.

I’m wondering if I shouldn’t abandon ebook reading on both the Kindle and the iPod Touch and find some other way of doing it. Isn’t it my duty to vote with my money?

3 thoughts on “Amazon and DRM.

  1. this is one of the devises that i feel no need to have. well, not one of, but electronic book readers in general. i prfer books. i prefer the feel of holding a book in my hands, of turning the page, the smell of the paper…and the fact that other than copyright law, there’s no tms to them. sure an e-reader can hold thousands of books at a time, but i can’t read thousands of books at a time. even on a holiday, i can only read five or so books and they can be easily packed. the idea of losing a $12 books i difficult, the thought of losing an e-book reader makes my colon snap shut.

    i also have an easier time reading paper words. it’s easier on my eyes. they don’t get as fatigued as they do when i’m reading words on a screen.

    I’ve traditionally liked ebooks because I put them on devices I was already carrying for another reason, like my palmtop computer. I always had a book or twelve with me. The Kindle is my second dedicated ebook reader; the first one I rarely used because it was too big to just put in my pocket or throw into my bag, so I never had it with me. -m

  2. Can I be a Luddite?
    I think I will never stop loving paper books.

    I love paper books too, but they’re heavy and they’re bulky and I’ve only managed to retain about .02% of all the paper books I’ve read. When everything you own fits into your car, there isn’t much room for more than a box or two of books. -m

  3. You’re shitting me? Really? So glad I didn’t buy one. I came close a few months ago . . . and now I’m exceedingly glad I held out.

    Ah, I love my Kindle. I just also hate my Kindle. *sigh* -m

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