Will DRM kill the Kindle?

There is a lot of news lately about Amazon remotely deleting Kindle books that they belatedly discovered should not have been sold (the publisher apparently did not own the rights to the works). That the works were Orwell titles adds a nearly irresistible ironic element to the story. The legalities involved seem to cover virgin territory in the copyright law which also makes the case fascinating. The purchasers have all apparently been fully refunded, however some people have complained that they annotated their version which resulted in their notes disappearing back into the same ether that the books themselves vanished into.

Amazons position seems to be “we are absolutely right in what we did, and we promise we will never, ever, ever do it again”.

But the biggest damage to the Kindle brand from the story is the discovery by many people that remotely deleting a book from their Kindle was even possible. Surprise, surprise. What the Kindle giveth the Kindle taketh away.

And that may be the biggest problem for Kindle now. When the average person “buys” a book, even an electronic one, they believe they should own it. But Amazon will either sell them one of two things:

  1. A physical book
  2. A perpetual license to display an electronic copy of a book that has been downloaded to an approved Amazon device but for which Amazon (and by extension the publisher) retains ownership and control

That difference may be too much for many readers.

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2 responses to “Will DRM kill the Kindle?

  1. The explanation that made it all crystal clear to me was this one: http://www.emergentchaos.com/archives/2009/07/kindle_brouhaha_isnt_abou.html.

    People NEED to understand the difference. It is a good thing if people understand the difference. That way they can make an educated, enlightened choice one way or the other. Amazon needs to stop pretending that e-books and regular books are the same, and advertise the Kindle as a bookshelf service, not a purchase of a physical book in electronic form.

  2. I just don’t buy Kindle-is-a-cloud-service argument. The key feature without which the whole thing is worthless is that the book is on the device to be read anytime anywhere. That there is a cloud backup and distribution is peripheral at best.

    I also believe that last thing Amazon wants customers to realize is that they aren’t actually buying the book. I think that kills the perceived value (rightly or not) for many people.

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