If you’re anything like me, you are likely a collector of some thing or another. Anyone who has helped me move can tell you that the two things I collect (almost obsessively, and certainly compulsively) are books and movies. There’s just something about owning a library that anyone who isn’t a book lover may not understand. Maybe it’s the smell of a new book or the smell of an antique book–both are specific and unique, and a seasoned bibliophile can tell the general age of a book by this alone.
I buy some books to complete a collection of a series by a particular author. I collect other books because they are editions of the same book with different commentaries and appendices. Some of my books are worn and tattered from use and sharing, and some of those contain notes in the margins from myself and some books have marginalia from others who read the book after I did–a running commentary, if you will, with a “mini-review” on the blank pages containing thoughts, impressions, and opinions regarding the book or subject matter. I treasure these books above others for the impressions as much as the shared experiences.
Other books I have for my “show” library. A conversation I once had with a close colleague comes to mind, and for the longest time I argued with him about the purpose of owning a personal library and placing books where people could see them. He contended that personal libraries are only fractionally about collecting and more about visually demonstrating and expressing the breadth of your intellectual capacity and “polarity” to others without delving into those kinds of (snobby and “boorish”) conversations. To him, personal libraries were about stereotyping yourself and portraying various aspects of your personality based on what books you chose to display for others to see. A shelf lined with Existentialist thinkers, 20th century Russian classics, Renaissance Literature, and various collections of “canonical” poetry would (according to him) be owned by someone far different from a person whose shelves were lined with Danielle Steel and “Oprah’s Book Club” covers.
Not until Amazon crept in to the Kindles of 1984 and Animal Farm owners in the dark of night to snatch back the bought and paid for copies of those e-books without alerting those Kindle owners, did I realize he might be right. Amazon claimed that those copies of the Orwell books were “boot-legged” and uploaded by a third party application and added to the Kindle Store by a party who did not have the rights to do so. Perhaps the irony of the deleted books being two of Orwell’s greatest social commentaries about social control, “Big Brother” interfering in independent, unique thoughts, and propaganda monitored by the powers-that-be caused Amazon to pledge to never do that again, or whether they’re just providing an apology to quiet the Kindle users up in arms, at least the issue is being discussed. (Apparently Orwell wasn’t the only author whose works went missing–Ayn Rand’s trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books also had been removed in the past few months.)
Fair enough. If you don’t own the rights, you don’t get to sell, use, or profit from a work. I have no problem with that.
I DO have a problem with Amazon sweeping in and deleting something I bought (meaning I handed over cash–be it digitally or with the antiquated paper and metal stuff) without my permission or my knowing why. Big Brother Amazon just took it upon themselves to remove the product (I.E. the e-books) without first informing the customers of what the issue was or why. What they did was akin to Louis B. Mayer or George Lucas breaking in to my home in the middle of the night with a crowbar and taking back a movie I paid for and leaving me a check or some equivalent dollar amount on my nightstand.
Their refund doesn’t make it right.
If you read Amazon’s Kindle terms of service it states that: “Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times…”
Non-exclusive. So you can “buy” all the e-books you want for your new “digital” library to show off on your public page on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, or wherever the new social media equivalent to your personal library collection might be today, but you should also know that Non-Exclusive means that, in essence, you’re merely renting it. Amazon is selling the illusion of purchasing and owning something.
When you buy a physical book, you own it. Period. When you rent a movie, you don’t own it, you’re paying for the right to watch that movie over and over again for a finite amount of time (assuming you return it without late fees, and you’re not a Netflix subscriber. Think old school Late Fees here). So you don’t “own” anything when you rent. But no other “rental” company gives customers the illusion of ownership. When you rent a U-hall, you don’t assume you then own the truck until someone comes and takes it away when you aren’t looking. When you rent ice-skates at the skating rink, you don’t assume you’ve just purchased those skates permanently. When you buy a movie, audio book, e-book, or CD, customers naturally equate this process to that of their former experience. They assume they own it and can do with it what they will (within legal standards). Amazon has just opened the eyes of quite a few people regarding transitioning their personal libraries online and in digital format by erasing these e-books from the readers. You already can’t sell used books, give away your already read books, or buy used copies of books with the Kindle, and now you can’t technically own the ones you did “buy.”
I considered transitioning some of my library to a digital format seeing as my virtual bookshelves are more visited and more readily accessible online through social media than they are in my home, and I have been talking myself in and out of buying a Kindle since they were launched. This stunt just guaranteed that I’ll continue collecting traditional (analog) books. I’d only buy the digital e-book version of a book I don’t care about losing, and only if it’s on sale…. and only if Amazon drops a gift wrapped Kindle in my lap overnight when it sneaks in to my bedroom to steal back my hard copies of Sixty Years Later.