May 16, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts on the Peeping Kindle

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A couple of week's ago Amazon bragged how they took Kindle users highlighted passages and figured out what ones were highlighted the most (apparently Outliers is #1). Why? Just for kicks. When they published these findings, half the reading world went, "How dare you?!" the other, "Chillax. Have another brownie." I fall into the first half. To me this is just creepiness for the sake of creepiness.

I've been thinking about this since I heard about it and wondering why I feel the way I do. As some of the commenters in this Red Tape article eloquently state, there is a lot of creepier info about us floating around out there. I'm sure my credit card company knows more about me than I do. But somehow the Amazon highlighting issue freaks me out more. Why?

Maybe it has to do with the history of books and freedom of thought. Long ago, before the printing press, only the wealthy had access to books. The rest of us poor slugs were mired in our own ignorance and told to like it. Then Johannes Gutenberg (not Steve) made the written word cheap and accessible to the masses. And the world changed.

Revolutions are fueled by books. Authorities would destroy printing presses and jail the owners. If someone had an idea, the best way to share it was to get yourself in print. People ban and burn books for the ideas in them. Even today, certain publishing houses are banned in Iran. No wonder we don't like people reading over our shoulders.

As readers, we think that as long as To Kill a Mockingbird is on the shelf at the local bookstore, all is right with the world. So, when a company like Amazon starts fiddling with books in this way, people get twitchy. It makes us uncomfortable. It's all very innocent, for now anyway, but that still doesn't make readers okay with it. What else can they do? Delete your copy of 1984? Oh wait, that's right, they already did that. If readers are being alarmist, I don't think that's a bad thing. Amazon is the holder of this information and they have a responsibility to use it wisely. Not just because it seems like a cool idea at the time.

The thing is we have to control the technology, not let it control us. I have nothing against e-readers (I have one) and it seems that it will be the way we read in the future. So why not say this is not okay now rather than later?

So, what do you think? Creepy or Cool?



BookBlips: vote it up!

19 comments :

  1. I'm going to come in on the "slightly creepy" side. Some things I mark in books are meant to be private.

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  2. I'm with you Other Chris...I find this a little creepy too. Even though the great masses will never know who I am when Amazon unleashes their results, it's still upsetting that they do this!! Like Amy said, a lot of what I mark in books is very personal to me. Yeah..creepy :/

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  3. I'm on the creepy side as well. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that I just recently was told about a website where you type in your name and your address, personal info, and other info pops up for anyone to see. I checked it out and sure enough I was on there. It creeped me out a bit too.

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  4. Another vote for creepy...and besides, don't people have better things to do?

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  5. I do think it's creepy, but I think it's something users of technology have to accept. If you don't want the government reading your marginalia, get a print book. I'm not against e-readers, but I do think we are going to need to be comfortable with a loss of intellectual freedom with their use. We can't control what the organizations do with our information, like reading habits, markings, etc. and we better be prepared for censorship to be a bit easier as well with e-Readers (can't you picture parental controls on these things quite easily?). Okay, I'll stop being such an alarmist now. ;)

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  6. I think it's creepy, but you're right there's a lot of creepy stuff out there - like the grocery store collecting data on us.

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  7. Definitely creepy. It might have been okay if they at least ASKED users first. Amazon seems to do arrogant things like this a lot...it's part of the reason I'm inclined to buy a nook or kobo over a kindle.

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  8. I think it is creepy too, Chris. I see Trisha's point as well.

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  9. I think it is WAY creepy. If they'd told users ahead of time that they were going to do this (or even that they had the ability to track that data) I'd still find it creepy, but not a crazy deal breaker. They didn't, though, as far as I can tell, so definitely a crazy deal breaker. Pretty much cemented my resolve against getting a Kindle.

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  10. Amy- Yeah, it's like they are trying to figure out what you are thinking.

    Chris- That's the point others were making. No one will know it was you but still...

    Samantha- I wouldn't even want to look it that!

    Jill- You would think so.

    Trisha- I hadn't thought of the censorship issue with e-readers.

    Kathy- We leave quite an electronic trail in our wake.

    Bookish- Yes, they have to make opting out a clear option.

    Lit- Yes, I definitely see what she is saying too but it doesn't make it less creepy! lol

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  11. Jen- I think some people would have been taken aback by it, especially if they had never considered that they're info would be used this way.

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  12. That spelling mistakes post would be great for any English classroom in non-English speaking countries. I have to say that I think I write most of those words right, but definitely did take a long time to get right without checking word spelling checker every time I wrote it.

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  13. that's totally creepy. I don't quite understand how kindle works. I thought you bought something and it was yours? How do they get into your personal kindle? Does it all go back to Kindle headquarters. That is very disturbing...

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  14. Rebecca- I think it's because the Kindle is always in communication with Amazon. I'm not 100% sure how it works either.

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  15. I think that is very creepy. I just got a Kobo and am quite happy with it. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Kindle but it suits my needs. I also like that I have to plug it into my computer to download anything into it. I think theres less room for creepy stuff.

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  16. Teddy- I like the look of the Kobo. Glad you like it. My Aluratek is pretty similar- I have to plug it in. It's no big deal really.

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  17. Creepy for sure. Apparently Amazon thinks if you buy their products that gives them the right to spy on you, and who knows what else.

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  18. I think it's wrong. Makes me glad I don't have an ereader.

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