Amazon.com recently remotely deleted some digital editions of books that had been purchased by customers for the Amazon.com Kindle device. In an ironic twist, two of the books were George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.”
According to Amazon, the deleted books were added to the Kindle store, through a self-service function, by a company that did not have rights to them. When Amazon was notified of the copyright problem, they remotely deleted the books and refunded the money to the customers who had purchased them.
The action brings up many of the conflicting issues of intellectual property laws in today’s wireless age, specifically the rights of the purchaser versus the rights of the copyright holder. While the rights of the holder of the copyright are always important, remotely deleting the books from the Kindles of the people who had purchased them also violates property rights. It would be unthinkable for a company to enter a person’s home and remove items already purchased.
In addition, books downloaded to Kindle cannot be legally “loaned” or sold to another reader, making the rights of the purchaser of a Kindle book more restricted than for the purchaser of a “hard copy” of the same material.
What does this mean for authors who would like to publish e-books? The first thing to remember is that Kindle is not the only game in town when it comes to creating electronic editions of your work. Most e-books that have been created in the past decade use a secure Adobe PDF file. The advantage of this format is that it can be read on virtually any computer, while e-books created in the Kindle format can only be read on a Kindle device.
As computers grow ever smaller and more portable, it seems only natural that more books will be available electronically. While many people still prefer the experience of reading a paper book, it is foolish to ignore this growing trend. According to one report, 240,000 Kindles were shipped by Amazon in their first nine months on the market, and it has been over a year since that report was published. Other companies, such as Sony, are also marketing digital reading devices. While it may take a few years to sort out which format will dominate the market, or for intellectual property laws to catch up to this new method of publishing, we can’t dismiss e-books; they are here to stay.
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