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Amazon is not the enemy - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Amazon is not the enemy [Jul. 17th, 2009|05:40 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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Everyone who's flipping out about the Orwellian Kindle fiasco needs to relax.

Yes, Amazon did something stupid. Yes, DRM is bad for consumers and bad for society. But Amazon is not the enemy here, the publishers are. Right now, the balance of power is still with the publishing houses, so Amazon needs to play with them. When it comes to DRM, people at Amazon "get it." They're techies, after all. If they do evil things, it's because their hands are tied. It is the publishers who are pushing for DRM. Market forces are going to push them out of existence, and they will do all they can to prolong their misery.

Dramatic as the current incident may be, the same story has already played out with Apple and the iTunes store. Apple bent over backwards for the labels in order to sign them up to sell their wares online, but once they came on board, the power shifted to the technology companies, and Jobs turned around and attacked DRM (the "Thoughts on Music" letter.) By now, just two years later, everyone agrees that music DRM is on its way out and the future of recorded music is Free.

So please do express your outrage, but make sure you have the right target :-) Do complain to Amazon about how much DRM sucks, go write reviews of the product on their site and others, but don't "boycott" the Kindle. That's just plain counterproductive — books aren't magically going to become DRM-free without first becoming digital, and there's no way that's going to happen except under whatever terms the publishers choose to impose.

There's still quite a ways to go before all the major publishers succumb to the pressure of growing Kindle sales and start offering their content digitally. For that to happen, the Kindle userbase needs to grow a lot. Paradoxically, now, more than any other time, the Kindle needs your support.

Oh, and while I'm at it, can we stop making silly comparisons between the Kindle and Sony's or whoever's two-bit book reader that no one's ever heard of? Without the EVDO network and Amazon's catalog behind it, it's not even the same category of device as fas as the average person is concerned. Thanks.

From: statictype.org
2009-07-18 05:25 am (UTC)
Your argument is predicate on the fact that Amazon doesn't want DRM any more than we do. The Amazon developers may get it. But does Amazon get it? Maybe. Maybe not. They do have a drm-free mp3 store so maybe you're right.

In any case, the Kindly will continue to grow, just like the iTunes base grew because most people don't know or care about DRM. The fact that Steve Jobs called for an end to it was just an added bonus for iTunes.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-07-18 02:13 pm (UTC)

Apple comparison isn't valid

Apple never reached out and deleted music from customers' iPods.

Removing the Orwell books from the store would be one thing - and nobody would be this upset over that. Forcibly deleting them from customers' Kindles is another thing entirely. The refund is irrelevant.

DRM has kept people from moving their iTunes music over to their Zunes or whatever before, and that's been a pain in the neck that is now fading away.

But DRM has never made it possible/acceptable to have something you've paid for taken forcibly from you. That's just wrong.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2009-07-19 05:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Apple comparison isn't valid

Nor will Amazon ever reach out and delete books from customers Kindles. They've gone out and said that publicly.

DRM has always made it possible to have something you've paid for taken forcibly from you. Nothing has changed there. And do not conflate possible with acceptable. Is is not ought. If you have an argument from ought, don't try to make it an argument from is, it just makes you look stupid.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-07-20 03:26 am (UTC)

Re: Apple comparison isn't valid

You may want to check your facts before being so pompous, because not doing so risks making you look stupid.


The title of that story is "Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle."

And here's a pretty clear statement:

"In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them."

Will they ever do it again? They say no. But they DID do it.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2009-07-22 05:02 am (UTC)

Re: Apple comparison isn't valid

Quite so. They DID. I never claimed they didn't. I claimed they never WILL. And I stand by that; they can't afford to do it again, so they won't.

And you still (apparently maliciously) conflated is with ought. I note, with some disappointment, that you chose to misread the first part of my comment instead of addressing the much more serious second part.
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[User Picture]From: psydeshow
2009-07-18 06:51 pm (UTC)

2004 all over again

Kindle DRM is breakable, just like iTunes was (good old jHymn). Nobody has cared enough to wrap the command-line Python scripts that do it into a shiny one-click GUI, but there you go. Perhaps that's because it's still a USA-only phenomenon.

See http://nyquil.org/archives/1128-Converting-Kindle-Books-a-painful-process-that-works-for-reading-Kindle-books-without-a-Kindle.html

I love my Kindle. I wish that I wasn't annoyed by Amazon's PR missteps (and this was definitely one of those!), by some publishers shoddy e-book conversions, or by other publishers' heavy-handed approach to rights management. But all things considered, it's a fantastic product. Amazon realized that the hardware is just the beginning, and it has changed the way millions of hardcore readers read books, practically overnight.
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[User Picture]From: theswede
2009-07-19 05:09 pm (UTC)
The actual device Kindle can be compared with the devices Sony and others build. If nothing else in order to work out what could be done better, and I'm quite certain Amazon are doing that; their new bigger reader has taken many cues from the Sony reader, and it wouldn't surprise me if they'll be out with a new one within a few years which owes even more to the competitors.

The whole Kindle solution though, that has no competitor on the market today. The Sony bookstore and management system is a joke. And whatever anyone else has is even worse - the new Chinese LCD readers are truly horrible in that sense, as they don't have anything automatic to handle loading new books. The competitors are great devices for geeks and those willing to invest the time to learn how to convert books as use 3rd party tools, but until they have a Kindle service, they're doomed to obscurity.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2009-07-19 07:18 pm (UTC)
"The actual device Kindle can be compared with the devices Sony and others build. .. The whole Kindle solution though, that has no competitor on the market today."

you're right. thanks.
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