Why the Kindle freaks me the hell out

The kindle is a great idea. It’s a small, single purpose device that replaces the book. Apparently the user interface isn’t all that great, but the screen, which appears much more similar to anetch-a-sketch than a LCD display, is so readable that users have been overjoyed with the deviced despite of the UI. Portable books, easy readability, a library in your hand, digital distribution: what’s not to love, right?


DRM, or Digital Rights Managment is crap. It’s what says that you don’t OWN the song you bought on itunes, you own a LICENSE to play it. This is why MP3 is actually winning. Those services like yahoo music and rhapsody (which I like) are going under. Yahoo just announced that as of the end of this month, songs bought at the yahoo music store will no longer be able to re-up their licenses. Your music will keep playing, but only if you keep it on the same computer. Ouch. This sucks, but you can work around it. It’s only music, right? Imagine if this happened with books. Maybe books are a little too important not to own. Right now it’s not a big deal, but imagine the kidle became the basis of future generations of book readers, and we essentially stopped making paper books at some point due to environmental factors and whatnot. Now imagine ::poof:: amazon goes under. After two hundered and fifty years of profitability they’re closing the doors and shutting down. And, oh, your books aren’t going to work anymore.


I generally don’t consider myself too much of a conspiracy guy. I believe in privacy and the fourth amendment, but I don’t go all crazy about it. That said, having my book phone home freaks me out — and it will phone home. That’s what DRM does; it won’t play unless it’s authorized, so something needs to check if it’s authorized to be played by you on your device. Things have gotten a lot more Orwellian since 9/11 in this country, and there was already that uproar soon after the patriot act about the government being able to pull people’s library records. Fortunately, some librarians who did their collegues proud refused and made a stink about it. Big corporations probably aren’t going to be nearly as concerned, as the phone companies so nicely showed us.

Can’t loan your books

“Dude, you’ve got to read this!” Isn’t that one of the best parts of reading? Passing on the gems that you’ve found? I mean, litterally, passing them on? You can’t do that with a kindle — it’s not legal. You can’t sell your “used books” when you’re done. You don’t own them.

So to summarize:

  • DRM is scary. It’s scary on music and movies, but it’s INCREADIBLY scary when it’s books.
  • DRM phones home to licensing servers.
  • DRM means you can’t pass on your books when you’re done… you don’t own them anymore.

Here’s what I hope happens – we take the screen and put it on tablet pcs, or phones. The one laptop per child program has a dual screen mode which in it’s low power version looks very similar to the kindle. Once it’s on the computer, lets just buy fricken PDFs and be done with it.

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