Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

UK version of the Kindle

According to the BBC news, Amazon has at last released its Kindle ebook reader for the UK market. This is combined with the release of the latest update of the Kindle,  which is lighter and has more storage. Since release in 2007 the Kindle has been available only via Amazon’s US website but it is now also available from the UK website with more ebooks aimed at the UK market. This is an interesting move, especially as the Kindle is currently out of stock on the US version of the website (has all stock been diverted to the UK warehouses?). There’s a downloading arrangement with Vodaphone over their 3G service or a cheaper wi-fi only version.

It comes at a time when ebooks seem to have come to prominence (again?). Amazon say they are selling more ebooks than hardbacks – an important indicator but as most people buy paperbacks not quite epoch-changing just yet. More significantly, Apple’s iPad release a few weeks ago poses something of a market threat. The iPad of course isn’t just an ebook reader, more of a hand-held multifunctional device, but it can be used as an ebook reader . The Kindle is optimised for one purpose, and its e-ink technology probably makes it better for this one purpose than the iPad, but I suspect most people would rather carry one device on a train journey than 2? Amazon sensibly have also made available a Kindle reader app for the iPad, indicating that they’re hedging their bets.

Although several libraries have experimented with ebook readers and handheld devices the best course of action still seems unclear. For years we’ve supplied DRM-restricted ebooks viewable over the web (some with time-limited download options) but I’m not sure when one physical platform will emerge, and when we can expect users to start adopting it. I suspect I won’t be sitting on the fence for much longer however……

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , , | Leave a comment

E-Books and ownership

Kindle e-book reader

Kindle e-book reader

A rather interesting story has just emerged about Amazon’s Kindle and e-book versions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. There is a well-researched account of it at Copyfight. From my reading of this, Amazon distributed the e-books and then found out that the third party which had made them available via the Kindle store didn’t have the rights necessary to make them available. Hence Amazon pulled them from the store, removed them from user’s Kindles and gave them a refund.

I don’t own a Kindle, but if I did I would be worried when I found that something I thought I’d bought was removed from my device without asking me. That ‘purchase’ of an e-book becomes something more like a ‘license to view’, and even the ‘ownership’ of an e-book reader becomes questionable when Amazon can access it and delete items without authorisation. However on the other hand,  as the e-books weren’t fully legal they were in a sense stolen property, and as such the moral rights become blurred. I wouldn’t claim to be a lawyer and I would imagine that Amazon must have taken legal advice before taking any action.  In my own mind I’m undecided where rights here should lie – I sympathise with the people who bought the e-books in good faith, but I can also understand that this was a breach of copyright.  I wonder how many more new questions of this kind await us as we move to new forms of media?

July 23, 2009 Posted by | General | , | 1 Comment