Amazon Kindle's plans to acquire "lending" functionality: an archaic model of the 16th century.
Image: CC-AT Flickr: goXunuReviews
I was both amused and puzzled by the recent news that Amazon is to allow book lending on the Kindle. At first glance this is great news: e-books will finally match some of the basic functionality available in the dead-tree format! At least this move shows that the content industry is beginning to get its collective head around some of the problems created by locking down and controlling users' devices and the content they have paid for.
At the same time, however, this move demonstrates Amazon's firm grasp of the wrong end of the stick. We live in a world where it takes some random 16-year-old about 24 hours to crack the latest DRM. Faced with technological progress which makes it easy and practically free to create an infinite number of copies of any piece of digital content, the content distribution industry's faith in DRM and Amazon's magnanimous "relaxation" of their DRM to allow book lending on the Kindle is a classic example of the Emperor's new clothes. Instead of accepting and then working with the economic reality that technology has turned content into a public good, Amazon, along with pretty much every other major content distributor, continues to invest in obsolete and ineffective DRM technology.
Lendable e-books are not the first paradox created by this approach. Remember when Amazon deleted the e-book version of 1984 from users' devices when they discovered they didn't have the rights to sell it? Have you ever thought about how much more fun it is to watch a pirated movie than having to sit through all the unskippable trailers on your legally acquired version?
And really, just how absurd is it to have all your e-books tied to one particular kind of device? What if tomorrow you get bored of the Kindle and decide you'd actually like a Sony e-reader? Would you put up with only being able to listen to your music on your iPod but not on your Android phone; or with having a toaster which ties you to a particular bread manufacturer?
We need to be thinking about radically different business models for content creation and distribution, rather than trying to build 16th century dead-tree functionality into 21st century technology.
Share this article
Wendy M. Grossman responds to "loopy" statements made by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in regards to censorship and encryption.
ORGZine: the Digital Rights magazine written for and by Open Rights Group supporters and engaged experts expressing their personal views
People who have written us are: campaigners, inventors, legal professionals , artists, writers, curators and publishers, technology experts, volunteers, think tanks, MPs, journalists and ORG supporters.