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How does commentary affect the world around us?

Deleting Books: How What You Buy Can Not Be Yours

In a very “publishing” moment (mostly because it makes so little sense), Amazon allowed some vendors to sell copies of ebooks it (the vendor, not Amazon) didn’t have the rights to. When the lack of copyright was discovered, Amazon deleted the books from a number of user accounts. The company also credited those accounts, fortunately, but the Kindle users deprived of their content (irony of ironies, two Orwell books: 1984 and Animal Farm). Setting aside the Orwellian nature of Amazon’s actions here, this opens up a number of questions about online publishing and accompanying commentary. First, this situation proves that publishers–not users/readers, creators, or commenters–still have all the clout, because they have all the legal rights (i.e., copyright). Orwell is no longer with us, but he does seem like the type who’d support having as many folks as possible appreciate his books, copyright be damned–particularly after the books have been earning money for more than sixty years.

Times commenters voice a variety of opinions on the event from “Already purchased ebooks residing on consumers’ Kindles should have been left alone” to I would love to see a class action lawsuit against Amazon and the Publishers to put a stop to this practice immediately. They can’t pull this stunt with a physical book so why should they be able to pull it with a digital book.”

Kindle-owning commenters report that Amazon did not detail the issue with the titles, calling it only “a problem”–total doublespeak, huh? Anger aside, the fact remains that, for now, the publishers hold the power, not the people. That’s not the way it should be. And, ironically enough, the content in question is already on Google Books for the reading. So why do the original publisher and Amazon have so much power here? What kind of access, exactly, are they attempting to block? It’s clear that the publisher has nothing to offer but content (which we’ve established is already available elsewhere), and Amazon has nothing to offer but the Kindle. Can online commentary reverse the curse of media hegemony and come up with an open source system for reading–and maybe even adding/commenting? It remains to be seen, but I hope so. The bigwigs certainly aren’t handling their power very well.

[via Consumerist and NYT. This apparently happened, briefly, with Harry Potter as well.]

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Filed under: Content

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