Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I Won't Ever Get an e-Book

News about Amazon cutting a woman off from her Kindle library, permanently, without explanation confirms why I'll stick to old fashioned paper books.

Beware the Kindle.
Amazon wiped away her library, and when she asked for an explanation, Amazon said she violated the terms of service.

She didn't realize she did, or how she performed such violation, so she asked what she did wrong. They wouldn't tell her. She did get this:

"We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, yoru account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled."

The woman responded: "I am very surprised to read your email. What do you mean by "directly related to another which as been previously closed for abuse of our policies"? I can only remember ever having this one account, and I use it quite regularly to buy books for my Kindle, as you can probably see by my purchase history. How can there suddenly be a problem now? I use and no couk for my Kindle, does that make any difference?"

Her questions seem reasonable enough, but the response from Amazon was basically "f*** you." They refused to give her any more information.

Even if she inadvertently did something wrong, is that any way to treat a customer? Apparently it is.

Now, if you buy a traditional non computerized book at a bookstore, as long as you pay for the book, the person who owns the store won't come to your house and take back the book if he doesn't like what you're doing with it.

Amazon, and presumably all e-book sellers, have no problem with taking back whatever you bought. Because you didn't really buy the book, as Wired points out.  In the e-book world, you just bought permission to read it on your device. The book isn't actually one of your posessions like it would be had you purchaased it from your neighborhood book store.  .

If you do something illegal, like shoplift from the bookstore, the cops get involved. You get due process. Unless you plead guilty, you get a trial where prosecutors have to prove your guilt in a courthouse, open to the public, before you are punished.

With the ebooks, there's no due process. A private corporation decides whether you are guilty or innocent, and that's that. Nobody has to prove anything. It's the corporation's way or the highway.

I suppose with ebooks, there's the risk somebody can illegally sell multiple copies of the publication, which violates copyright laws and screws over authors, publishers and others.

But, that's illegal, as I said.  Somebody can press charges and whoever is doing the illegal selling of ebooks goes to court and if found guilty, is probably punished. At least in a world that makes sense.

In the case of the Norwegian woman who had her library wiped away, there's apparently some complicated issue over territorial rights between different publishers in different countries that's involved in this, according to Forbes.

But how is the nice Norwegian woman supposed to know the intricasies of international publishing law? Couldn't they just tell her she was screwing up, and how she was doing it, in plain English, and make her promise not to do it again?

However, explaining this would make too much sense, and besides, cost a small amount of money better made available to billionaire CEOs.

I'm sure there's something in the terms of service verbiage that explains all that. But my theory is the companies that put out these long, complicated terms of service written in incomprehesible legalease that way so we're confusesd, we don't read them, and they can get away with murder. "Well, you agreed to the terms of service," they could say.

As if anybody in their right mind could read, much less understand that garbage.

When the media started poking around this case, Amazon responded with this:

"We would like to clarify our policy on this topic. Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help."

She did contact customer service and got no help, people!  No more details. Apparently, the media has no business asking Amazon about this, according to the brain trust there.

I know this type of incident doesn't happen too often, but it's enough for me to decide that my decision to keep buying traditional books is a good one.

People complain about government over-regulation taking away our freedoms. And there certainly is the potential for that. But why doesn't anyone complain about corporations coming up with dense incomprehensible rules. Doesn't that diminish our freedoms, too?

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