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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Unhappy Endings - Will Amazon Control Our Reading?

UPDATE: This text is published as a guest post on FightToWrite. FTW is an outpost of writer self-affirmation and pride, welcoming everyone who believes that the word is a sword. The commander is Ace Baker, my fellow Canadian author, who knows what it takes to fight for a dream. 


This article by Chris Abouzeid caused quite a stir in my head. Actually, I was infuriated as I pictured the prospect.

Article intro and my own comment/rant below:


"If you’re using a Kindle to read ebooks, Amazon already knows a lot about you. They know you bought all the 50 Shades of Grey books. They know how quickly or slowly you read them. They know on which page you got bored and stopped reading, or which passages you highlighted for further “investigation.” In fact, at any given moment, publishers and big retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are trying to gather as much data about you as they can—and they’re succeeding.
Unfortunately, it’s not a one way street. Not only can they keep track of what you’re reading. They can also control what you get to read. Violate the terms of agreement for that copy of Capital in the 21st Century? Poof! It’s gone from your library. Something funny going on with your account? Zap! Your entire library is gone. Yes, Amazon can delete things from your Kindle. And they can push ads onto your Kindle—whether you want them there or not.
So with all this data flowing back and forth, doesn’t it seem like the next logical step will be for publishers and retailers to control what’s in the books themselves? Ebooks won’t just be digital text anymore. They’ll be smart ebooks. Everything about smart ebooks will be mutable. And everything inside them will be for sale.
Great. That’s taking the concept of fanfic a bit too far. Authors having no control over their canon of stories after they are published? It’s like someone would ship my kid to the hospital and perform surgery on him without even calling me first.
OK, as a reader, if I cross some contractually established line, be my guest, delete my Kindle library – I personally prefer hardcopy anyway!
But as an author, I will not tolerate Amazon and its likes fobbing off consumer-customized versions of what we so painstakingly create and therefore want to offer in unadulterated form to our readers.
And what happens after I die? Join Charlotte Bront—Ď in a jolly turning-over-in-our-graves session? Dominatrix Jane Eyre my bass! (this is just a fish-themed euphemism - you know what I mean!)
Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn't this little Geschaft be out of line in terms of copyright law? I’m no specialist, but here’s what my research of copyright violation for rookies yielded:
“Even if you rewrite someone else’s work, it can still be a copyright violation. For example, spinning a copyrighted article or making minor word changes to someone else’s story could still run afoul of copyright laws. If you take a concept from someone else’s work — such as a business idea or character — and then use that material for your business, this could be a violation of copyright laws. Whether or not it’s a violation will depend on how closely you copied someone else’s concept and whether you had permission.” (c) Houston Chronicle
To my innocent non-lawyer eyes, this is violation of the letter of the law if not of its spirit. And I sure as Hades wouldn't give permission to tailor my stories in the framework of such glorified pandering. OK, when an author creates a universe, there are levels of control over the story, from canon to fanfic… but all this fits into the copyright law landscape presently.
Orwellian bugaboos or not, we still have a little power to fight dystopian influences on our lives. If this prospect will become reality, it will call for a major revolution in copyright law. And everyone should be on that barricade – from authors and jurists to mommies who want their 50 shades 100% grey without any B.S. palette changes by Amazon.
And If you’re under 18 and reading an Awakeners novel at night under your blanket, you will most definitely prefer the artwork in line with the original underpants policy of the book.