If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ve come to realize that Funny is a dyed-in-the-wool techno-skeptic. Yea verily, even a techno-troglodyte. Today from Bloomberg comes a report that confirms my suspicions: China, uncomfortable with the twin horrors that are freedom of thought and freedom of expression, has shut down iTunes and iBooks. Herein lies the problem with e-books and e-tunes: you don’t really own them. You may pay for them, but it’s altogether too easy for someone to block you from reading or listening to them.
We’ve seen this happen with Amazon: there was, for example, the 2009 flap that arose when Amazon remotely erased digital editions of George Orwell’s 1984 (amazing choice!) from consumers’ Kindle devices. More recently, a Norwegian woman discovered all her paid-for content had been erased from her Kindle; Amazon flat refused to give an explanation for its actions.
As Amazon states in its ToS, you don’t buy a Kindle book — you rent it: “Kindle content is licensed, not sold.” So, with this wonderful magical mystery machine, any creative work you buy can be taken away from you without warning and without recourse.
Apple has a similar proviso hidden in its iTunes ToS: “The Apple Software enables access to Apple’s iBookstore which permits you to license digital content, such as books (the”Service”).”
If Amazon can take it away, so can a government. And what we’re seeing in the current election cycle provides exactly zero reason to believe that Americans will forever be ruled by a fair, just, and civil government. There are those, probably crackpots, who think it never has been. In the Kurt Vonnegut novel in which we all live, the crackpot view could win out, over the long run. It never pays to dismiss “crazy”ideas out of hand.
If you own a book made of paper and cardboard, yes, someone can take it away from you. Surely, they can throw it on a big bonfire and order you to stop thinking forbidden thoughts on pain of beheading. But they have to come into your home to take a hard-copy book away from you. They can’t just flick a switch somewhere and erase knowledge, opinion, and art.
A real book costs money. A real book takes up space. A real book collects dust. But a real book is yours.
IMHO, that’s worth it.