Back in August 2011. I wrote about my preference for real books over the emerging electronic version. In that post I noted that Amazon had famously deleted copies of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm purchased by some customers. It now appears that Amazon has gone even further and deleted the entire contents of a Norwegian customer’s kindle. In Cory Doctorow’s post he points out that:
Reading without surveillance, publishing without after-the-fact censorship, owning books without having to account for your ongoing use of them: these are rights that are older than copyright. They predate publishing. They are fundamentals that every bookseller, every publisher, every distributor, every reader, should desire. They are foundational to a free press and to a free society.
Now I’d be pretty angry if someone sold me a book, but later stole that book back on the grounds that I had somehow infringed some sales condition buried in a contract I had implicitly (and forcedly) entered into by the act of purchase. But I would be absolutely livid if, in the act of stealing back “their” book, they also removed the rest of my library. Amazon, however, seems to find this acceptable.
Doctorow went on to say that encrypting storage on mobile devices was much preferable to the option of remote deletion in case of loss. I agree. Unfortunately I also agree with his view that users will have difficulty with password protected encrypted filesystems, and I am completely with him when he says:
If it’s a choice between paving the way for tyranny and risking the loss of your digital life at the press of a button by some deceived customer service rep, and having to remember a password, I think the password is the way to go. The former works better, but the latter fails better.
My own kindle only has the DRM free content I originally uploaded (over a USB connection) after my wife bought it for me. And the wifi is resolutely turned off. But I don’t know why I bothered, because I still haven’t used it, despite taking it on holiday. And now, like Adrian Short, I never will.