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Originally published July 21 2009

Big Brother Deletes Books from Your Kindle Device

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) I love It offers the most pleasant online shopping experience in the world, and its rating and recommendation systems are remarkably good at predicting what you might like. But as the world's largest e-commerce company, also has a lot of power over consumers, and last week that translated into a truly Orweillian stunt by Amazon that deleted copies of the e-book 1984 from Kindle devices everywhere.

When I first read the news, I couldn't believe that books you buy on Kindle could be remotely deleted by -- without notice and without your permission. That this actually took place (with the Big Brother book 1984, no less) brings up some very scary realizations about's Kindle book reader:

• You apparently don't really own the books you buy through Kindle. You're just granted a temporary rental at the pleasure of, which may rescind that "right" at any time, without notice.

• If can delete one book off your Kindle (without your knowledge), it could delete them all. What happens when the U.S. government begins banning books (you know, books about freedom, or the U.S. Constitution, or how to make a backyard mortar out of PVC)? Will initiate a global delete process to remove any "illegal" books from your Kindle?

• If can delete books from your Kindle, it also stands to reason that it could modify books on your Kindle without your knowledge! Can you say, "Revisionist history?" One day all the books seem somehow... simplified...

• History is full of Police State governments that banned books and burned books in an attempt to limit the People's access to knowledge. Is now engaged in digital book burning?

• It's not just that's acting out the themes of a police state dictatorship: Don't forget that Google, Yahoo and other technology companies have openly cooperated with China's censorship schemes that have continued an inhumane state of political oppression in that country.

• The advantage of owning a real book (printed on trees) is that no one can take it from you without getting past your front door and your German Shepherd. Plus, the screens don't crack and the batteries don't run out. You can set a book down when you need a pause, and when you pick it up you'll find the page right where you left it. Amazing...

Just say no to DRM

The Kindle device is, by definition, a DRM device (Digital Rights Management). DRM is a term describing technologies that limit the ability of consumers to exercise control over content they've paid for. Record companies, of course, are famous for their battles over piracy, and for the longest time they insisted that downloadable music only be sold with DRM protections.

Ironically, now sells DRM-free MP3 music, as do many other websites. But that evolved only after years of heel digging and foot dragging by the brain-dead music industry that would have much preferred to keep the world stranded in the days of cassette tapes (where bootleg copies get progressively worse with each copy generation).

Today, you can't buy downloadable audio books without DRM limitations, nor can you download movies without DRM. This content-compromising technology is everywhere, seeking to limit your use of content you've already paid for.

That Amazon would sell DRM-encoded books on its own proprietary Kindle device is really no surprise: Selling DRM-free electronic copies of books that could be widely pirated could threaten Amazon's entire business foundation. Amazon sells books, after all. (Physical ones, printed on paper, with free shipping under their Prime program.)

How to turn your physical books into digital books

I have a much better solution for consumers: Just buy the books at a local bookstore, chop off the binders, scan them and OCR them into text files. Then you can read them on any device (such as a Sony Reader, or your laptop, or whatever).

Of course, it's a big operation: A good book binding chopper costs $1500 - $2000. A good double-sided scanning machine that can handle large books costs another $3000 or so. Decent OCR software costs another $300, and then you have to go through the song and dance of actually OCRing the files on a Windows computer somewhere. Not many people are willing to go through this trouble to read some books. But I am. Of course, I have other uses for the same equipment, so it's easier for me to justify. Today, I have more than 1,500 books that I've scanned into text files. They all fit on an SD card that plugs right into a Sony Reader. (This is what I carry with me when I travel.)

Given the relative ease of doing this, it's probably only a matter of time before the book industry faces its own Napster -- an offshore website where you can pay a monthly fee and download non-DRM scans of popular books.

Even now, you can download music, movies and all sorts of other content from similar sites operating outside the laws of the United States (like MP3Fiesta, MP3Panda, MovieBerry, etc.). Somewhere, somebody is probably gathering up the world's best-selling books, scanning them into PDF documents and preparing to unload them onto the world in exchange for a monthly fee.

If continues its Big Brother shenanigans with Kindle owners, I wouldn't be surprised to see a whole lot of people ditching Kindle and switching to buying DMR-free text books from pirate sites. The advantage of pirated content is that nobody can remotely delete it from your hard drive. The disadvantage, of course, is that authors and publishers don't get paid a percentage of the sales. And that means pirates would be doing to authors what publishers already do to authors: Screwing them over.

Just say NO to Kindle

I don't own a Kindle. Never had any interest in a device with DRM control over the books I supposedly "buy."

I like, but I don't trust 'em. And this massive deletion of 1984 on Kindle devices demonstrates exactly why I don't trust 'em.

Amazon engages in a tremendous amount of psychological profiling in order to make recommendations for related products you might want. By storing your entire purchase history (and wish list, and browsing history), Amazon's computers know far more about you than you might suspect: They know where you live, your gender, your hobbies and interests, whether you have kids and probably even a whole lot about your love life. By profiling the (DRM) books you read and the (DRM) movies you rent (through their movie service), they can assemble very accurate psychological profiles describing your views on gun rights, abortion, terrorism, health freedom, environmental protection and many other topics.

With this information, Amazon customers who buy "fringe" books (like books on "survival") could easily be flagged and handed over to U.S. government authorities. I'm not aware of abusing this information in any nefarious way (yet), but the fact that it exists on their servers -- and that they could abuse it if they wanted to -- is cause for some concern.

Perhaps this "accidental" deletion of the book 1984 from Kindle devices was a covert warning. Maybe there's a rebel technology expert working inside that's trying to send a message of freedom to all the Kindle owners: Beware of Big Brother! Deleting the book 1984 would be a clever way to send such a message (if anybody picked up on it).

Amazon, of course, claims it was all just a snafu. And they're sorry. And it will never happen again. And the fact that it reportedly happened to some books by Ayn Rand is also just pure coincidence... imagine that...

Okay, sure, if you trust then keep buying all your books digitally, giving complete control over your library. On the other hand, if you'd rather maintain control over your own library, just pop into a local bookstore, plop down some cash and buy a real book that you can take to your real home where you can really sit down and read it on your real toilet like a normal human being instead of some electronically-enslaved consumer leashed to a digital tether from Amazon's servers.

Buying Amazon-controlled electronic ebooks is, in my view, a complete waste of money. (And I even like the company!) What you buy today can be taken away from you tomorrow.

Don't hand control over your personal library. Just say NO to Kindle... and NO to DRM in general.

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