The Daily DeX: 08/05/2019: The E-book Makes You Wonder What You Really Own

+“Kindle and Nook readers: You know you don’t own those books, right?” | Chicago Tribune | John Warner

Writing at Wired, Brian Barrett calls it a Microsoft e-book “apocalypse” which may sound extreme, but isn’t wrong. The reason the story isn’t dominating news cycles is because it doesn’t seem as though very many people were buying books through Microsoft.

But imagine if something similar were happening with Amazon’s e-books, the retailer of choice for the vast majority of digital texts.

It would be a true apocalypse if we lived in a world in which physical books were not still vital. It would force us to return to the oral storytelling tradition of centuries of yore. Our new Homer would be whoever could remember what happened in “The DaVinci Code.”

I jest, but we shouldn’t take this as a laughing matter. Amazon is seemingly unlikely to stop selling e-books — they make money on it, after all — but what if they get into an intractable dispute over pricing with a particular publisher, and as an act of leverage, not only stop selling the publisher’s wares in the store (as has happened temporarily in the past), but delete previously purchased copies from individual devices?

Maybe that sounds unlikely too, but the reality is that both the technology and the law allows this to happen.”

–>I’ve “bought” 24 e-books and read 18 or 19. They stare at me from an Amazon queue to which I’ve added nothing in years. After learning the truth of Digital Rights Management (DRM), the collection of e-books I’ve acquired through other means is larger by at least two orders of magnitude. (Free e-books are ridiculously easy to find.) That I don’t really own the e-books for which I paid Amazon real American dollars (I only paid for a license to read them) is clearly a prima facie justification for acquiring them through other means. 90% of content production for is reading and research. The idea that suddenly a killer quote I highlighted years ago is no longer available because Amazon pulled the plug on my online library is not simply untenable. It’s un-American. But it’s also an aspect of a larger, insidious trend towards the end of ownership. We’re slowly but steadily becoming aware of how user fees, interest, rents, ride-sharing, personal data as the price of using digital goods, and the right to repair debate are signals that the next phase of capitalism will be defined by shifts from owner to user-based economics. Notice how easily we’ve shifted from the death of stuff to the pared-down interior aesthetics of KonMari. This shift is not random. It’s essential because it’s ideological. Empty space as a virtue teaches us that ownership itself is a vice.   


Where are your hammers for these nails?

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