The revelation that Amazon can delete content off users’ Kindles has raised more than a few questions on privacy and ownership rights (and, I hope, gets people questioning the wisdom of the extended copyright laws in the States). That the books deleted, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, evoke themes of censorship and revisionism is delicious irony. What it does for me is reinforce my mistrust of some aspects of the Cloud.
I fully support using the Internet for storage, web applications, and data sharing. What I don’t support is trusting your data entirely on someone else’s server. If a local copy can be kept, great. But if not, I don’t trust it, and that’s the problem with ebooks bought from Amazon, as I wrote on my blog when the Kindle was introduced:
…when you buy a book for the Kindle, you’re actually buying the right to read that book. The data resides primarily on Amazon’s server and temporarily on the Kindle for access.
…Your rights to Kindle ebooks have an undetermined lifespan and are non-transferable. If Amazon loses the right to distribute a book, you could lose the right to read it, since the data resides primarily on their server.
The title of that blog post was “Why Amazon’s Kindle could fail.” Now before anyone pats me on the back for my prescience, I did also pen a companion piece called “Why Amazon’s Kindle should succeed.” My point in that one was to describe how Amazon could make the Kindle a success. Wish I had listed “don’t delete people’s ebooks off their Kindles” as a way to do that.
Update: The Consumerist has posted a list of ways to dodge Big Brother on your Kindle, which includes backups and turning off Whispersync, as mentioned in the comments here by Phil and Will. Basically, don’t trust the server and read in secret. Sounds good to me.