Amazon Have Damaged the Case for eBooks

Written by Alexander Hill

29. October 2012

You have likely read about the recent scandal regarding a woman who’s Kindle was wiped and her Amazon account closed with no reason. Of course, this will have hurt Amazon’s image, who are now seen as tyrants refusing to even inform her the reason for the sudden lockout.

But this hurts more than just Amazon’s image. This damages the way people perceive ebooks as a whole. Many people I know still claim that physical books are in some way superior to ebooks. Objectively, this is clearly false – books are heavy, unsearchable, bad for the environment and require physical shops (or long waits for delivery) to purchase them*. And yet the most common argument I (and I suspect you) have heard describes the intangible ‘goodness’ of books. ‘You can really turn the pages!’. Incredible.

Nonetheless, the sense of ownership is strong with books. People do like to physically hold and own the words on the page. Now, Amazon have successfully shown that when it comes to ebooks, they are not yours. It’s already known that ebooks can’t be lent around in the same way real books can, and now Amazon have gone further to suggest that you really don’t own these books at all – you’re merely being given permission to use them. Can you imagine a bookshop walking into your house and taking books off your shelf for doing something they didn’t like? Or even Amazon themselves taking products you’ve purchased from them back for the same reason? Of course not. And yet this is exactly what Amazon have done. They have shown that possesion of ebooks is an illusion, and taken away what little tangibility and trust consumers had of them.

Your things should be yours. No matter the medium, no matter what you do with (or without) them.

* this is about technological differences only here – pricing issues aren’t what I’m talking about. Battery life would be the only genuine technological disadvantage, minor as it may be.