I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who shivered a bit when I heard that Amazon.com had reached into people’s Kindle electronic books and snatched back copies of “1984″ and “Animal Farm” they thought they’d bought.
Silly people. Big Brother – er-Amazon can do that any time they want. As the article on Slate.com here (click!) makes clear, Amazon still claims it owns the books you t hink you buy and can take them back any time you want.
Spooky. And if they can take them back, they can modify them, too. Or change them from one thing to another. As George Orwell said in “1984,” “He who controls the past controls the future,” and if the power to alter a book while it sits in my possession isn’t the power to control the past, I don’t know what is.
Why am I suddenly reminded of proposals that our dear Sen. Orrin Hatch made in the past for government agents to use their computers to seek out pirated songs on my computer? Why shouldn’t I assume that the NSA is monitoring my keystrokes even as I type this? Seriously, when the paranoics are right, it’s time to hide the silver and — gasp! — load the guns.
Amazon said it took the books back because they weren’t published to its site properly. Well and good — I buy their reason, but the technology that the kerfuffel revealed Amazon controls is very scary. If I didn’t already have plenty of reasons to not want an electronic book — and I have many — this is a good one, more than sufficient all by itself.
Books are ideas. Books are knowledge. Ideas and knowledge are the basis ofcivilization, and when govenrment, or someone, starts messing with those things we’re all in trouble.
Plus, on a personal level, when I buy a book, it’s mine, I hold it in my library and I like to think what’s left of the Constitution protects my right to keep it there. Amazon — or Big Brother — snatching it out is simply wrong.