Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kindle, Free Economy, and how they are connected.

It may be old news now, but because I was looking for "thirtysomething" on DVD, I've been exposed to Amazon's capitulation to the publishers by removing "text to speech" from some books that have already been purchased. While I imagine that this is covered in some obscure "License Agreement" I still thing it's crap.
[Texas: EULA -PDF File-] Here, a Texas court decided that when you click "I accept" in a terms of service that you should have to click "I accept" again if changes are made to that service.
For example: If your ISP decides that they are going to start selling your data to third parties, the fact that the original EULA says "You consent to any changes" is complete crap.
I wonder if Amazon's EULA for the Kindle would hold up to this kind of scrutiny?
But, that's only part of the story. In the end it comes down to the fear of the free economy.
When the publishers complained to Amazon about the Text-To-Speech function of the Kindle, it opened up a huge can of bees.
1. Amazon had to decided if they were going to fight the suggestion that having an inanimate object speak words in a poor imitation of a human voice was going to provide them with a win. If Amazon had fought, they surely would have won, but at what cost?
2. While fighting, Amazon could have been subject to fines, or sanctions that forced them to disable the Text-to-speech in every one of their books. (As it stands, publishers can opt-out. And it seems that many, many of them are.)
3. While fighting, many publishers would refuse to offer their books in Kindle format, citing the short-sighted and obtuse objection that having a robot read a book is piracy.
In the end, even if Amazon won the legal battle the publishers would come to see Amazon's Kindle as an aggressor, and move to products such as Sony's reader.
As far as that goes, I can see the boardroom where this decision was made. Presented with the option of losing publishers, and a huge amount of revenue, or not really loosing any revenue to people who have already bought a Kindle... Well, I think we could all see where that choice would naturally go, I'm sad to say.
How does this apply to the Free Market? Kindle owners are rabid, jealous, cutting-edge, techno-nerds. They are the ones that will sell this product to the mainstream. And if the mainstream catches wind of something like this and interprets it in the wrong way, the Kindle will fall apart as simply another product and company that has no other interest in mind but its own. And we already have enough of those.

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