Monday, July 20, 2009

A different 'rights' theory on Amazon '1984' action

This is an update to the Orwellian tale - Part 1 that has non-customers more angry than most Amazon customers posting on the forums (probably because Kindle customer service has been so responsive over the last year), though we are definitely watchful -- but Amazon took less than 8 hours to respond that they're changing their systems so that this doesn't happen again.

Note the still hilarious ongoing Amazon Kindle forum thread in which customers create new scenarios of Amazon dropping by, unannounced, to make various changes in their homes.  Yes, this was serious stuff but Amazon seems to know it stepped into a dark, deep spot it'll want to avoid in the future.

  When publishers have decided to withdraw a book from Amazon, actions haven't been done retroactively insofar as customer copies are concerned -- but if you finished reading and then deleted a book which is later withdrawn by the publisher, and you then want to re-download that book to take another look at it, the publisher's new wish takes precedence at that point and it's not re-downloadable.

  TIP:  Keep a back-up copy on your computer.

As an addendum to the earlier "Furor" story, I came across an unusual CNet article by Peter Glaskowsky which included, in its Comments area, a unique theory about this mess, by "Jaleth."  He wondered if Title 17 of United States Code:
(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks at Direction of Users
could apply to Amazon affecting its predicament with the illegal edition of the book.

It's far-fetched except that a case could be made that Kindles are a part of a network within which Amazon regularly makes contact to add files, move them into folders, back up, record last-page read for synchronization with iphone apps, and replace once-a-day blogs with newer editions.

 And, while the Terms of Service say that Amazon grants the customer "the right to keep a 'permanent copy of the applicable digital content'," this right was not exactly assignable with a book edition that Amazon and Mobile Reference weren't entitled to sell at all.

It doesn't change the fact that Amazon should never have just deleted the book and they're not likely going to be doing that again, as they said.

The network-reach theory explanations by Jaleth (above) are an interesting read as are the arguments against his.  These are found in the bottom third of the final comments page.

I wrote a post in response about the way Kindle interacts with the Amazon servers, and I'll add it here (edited) in case some readers haven't read about that.
It also includes customer-approvable backups of highlighting and annotation in connection with the books on the Kindle - to two ends:

1) the customer has a web area on Amazon which holds all the highlighting and notes for viewing at any time by the customer, sorted in various ways -- and recently Amazon created the option to see all your notes for a book on one unbroken web page. This has been very well-received.

2) Once a customer finishes a book, they can delete it from their Kindles. At that point, it goes automatically into "Archives" -- meaning it is still held at your personal Kindle-management area at Amazon and can be re-downloaded if you want to look at the book again (no add'l fee of course) -- and this includes any highlighting and notes you made to the book, if you approved the backing up of annotations.
  For each user the notes-area is reviewable at (a private page).  Amazon's servers need access to move subscriptions and periodicals into a periodicals folder, after a certain length of time, and non-Amazon papers into the Personal Docs folder.  They also need to be able to overwrite single daily issues of blogs as those are not accumulated for the customer, though each daily download will tend to include the last 25 blog entries, useful for searches and more leisurely reading.

That's all in connection with how this works as a network.  It's my own firm belief that Amazon shouldn't have deleted the illegal edition of the book once it was purchased.  At the least, they should have let the customer know the reasons the book should be deleted but they should have let the customer do it.

Apparently, they will do something like that in the future since a spokesman was quoted as saying that they are changing the systems so that this doesn't happen again in these circumstances (I suppose he means when they delete a book from their servers for copyright reasons).

For those concerned about the 17 year old student, Justin Gawronski, whose plight was described in Brad Stone's NY Times piece, a couple of us were able to contact him and let him know that Amazon replicates the highlights and notes of any book into a file called "My Clippings" and that this is kept separate, in straight-text format on the Kindle, and that his notes should still be there.  That is done so that the customer can edit and print the notes.

Justin confirmed they were still on his Kindle, in that file.

That doesn't mean Amazon was 'right' to delete the book -- only that they have a sometimes flexible and, in many ways, well-thought-out system for the study-use of books.  Since people voiced concern over how this affected a student's work on his notes, of course - I wanted to let any readers of this comment area know.
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