Why Amazon's Power to Delete Books Is Absolutely Horrifying

Illustration for article titled Why Amazons Power to Delete Books Is Absolutely Horrifying

Editors from Columbia's Science and Technology Law Review explained to us a year ago the pitfalls of not owning your Kindle books, a fact that Amazon revealed to be more horrifying than we thought. Guess what? It's worse.

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Slate's Farhad Manjoo points out more reasons (bothered from Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain) why we should be absolutely terrified of "tethered" devices like the Kindle, especially if we're headed toward a truly paperless and discless future, where books, movies and music are all downloaded. Imagine if there were no paper copies of 1984, and Amazon—or whatever company wins the ereader war—deleted it. Or any other book or film that's been banned at one point. It's much easier, after all, to delete them off of a million devices than to actually pull one thousand paper copies out of people's houses. A possibility that's more, uh, possible with breakthroughs like self-destructing data. (One more reason we'll always need something like BitTorent, more than ever in the future, not less.)

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If hypotheticals aren't your thing, take the 2004 TiVo vs. Echostar patent infringement case. When TiVo won, the judge ruled that Dish didn't just have to stop selling infringing DVR boxes, they had to actually remotely kill the boxes they'd already sold. Boxes they had installed in people's houses.

Granted, Jonathan Zittrain is the same crazy guy who says that the iPhone is killing the internet, but you know, this time he actually seems kinda right! I hope he's still just crazy though. [Slate]

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DISCUSSION

"If this trend continues" is the worst level of analysis currently pervading modern cultural discourse. Assuming a trend will continue is a horrendous logical fallacy, used to justify entirely pointless speculation and is fundamentally LAZY intellectual analysis. This is a grade A example. We will never reach a point where all medium is digital. Period. End of conversation. The Kindle incident emphasizes why. There are actually benefits to analog mediums that create a valid rationale for their continued existence. People need to get over this concept that everything is going to go digital. Will there be a digital option for most, if not all, forms of media? Sure. Will that digital option eliminate the existence of a tangible and/or analog version? NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!