Amazon Reminds Us — We Don’t Own Ebook Content

Far less than actual size

Think you own that digital content on your Amazon Kindle (s amzn), or any other device, for that matter? Think again. Although it appears we follow a “buy to keep” business model, consumers ultimately license most digital content. Not too many years ago, this wasn’t much of a problem because most media was physical — CDs, DVDs, printed books, etc…

Today, it’s a digital world which presents unique problems. Problems like the one that David Pogue shares today at the New York Times:

“This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.”

Although Amazon certainly did the right thing by crediting back the purchase price, what kind of precedent does this set for the future? Can you imagine if this same thing happened with digital files like your music, software, or videos? This situation also shines the ugly spotlight on DRM in general. Had the content not been locked into Amazon’s infrastructure, customers could have maintained control with a backup copy. In reality though, we’re just renting what digital content providers allow us to.

One of our readers tells me via email that his Kindle was hit with this content removal. I feel badly for him and for anyone else that lost their rights to the digital content. Ironically, the content in question was none other than “1984” and “Animal Farm” from George Orwell. Talk about “big brother” — rather fitting in this case, no?