Log this in the paper trumps digital books column.

Purchasing a book on Amazon doesn’t mean you own the book in the same way you would if you purchased it hard copy from your local bookstore. It could disappear right along with your money.

From Life Hacker:

When you purchase music, movies or books from Amazon or Apple’s iTunes store, you might be under the impression that that material is yours to enjoy forever; that’s how CDs and paper books work, after all. Why rent You’ve Got Mail for $3.99 every few months when you can “own” it and watch it whenever, forever, for $9.99?

But you’d be mistaken. Anything digital is temporary, even if you clicked “purchase” rather than “rent.” One unfortunate side effect of that you won’t experience with a physical book or record: Your purchases may just disappear if licensing agreements change.

I knew this, and have always been fairly slow to purchase any book on Amazon for more than a couple of bucks because of it. If it costs me more than $5 on Kindle, I cough up the $10 -$12 and buy hard copy if it’s something I think I may want to have in my permanent library.

A lot of people, however, are unaware of the loose hold they have on digital books they thought they owned, so consider this a public service announcement:

“This wouldn’t happen in the physical world. No one comes to your door and demands that you give back a book,” Aaron Perzanowski, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, who studied these digital purchases, told the LA Times in 2016. “But in the digital world, they can just go into your Kindle and take it.”

It’s not like the companies are hiding this fact, though the “buy” buttons may confuse consumers.

For example, Amazon notes in the fine print that “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms for use within its Kindle Content.” You also can’t sell or redistribute your ebooks, as you might with a physical copy. Apple’s fine print states that the licensor “reserves the right to change, suspend, remove, disable or impose access restrictions or limits on any External Services at any time without notice or liability to you.”

As with all technologies, if you’re savvy enough, you can work around it:

There’s no simple way to keep the content you purchase from Apple or Amazon “forever,” though there are some shortcuts. For example, you could try converting Kindle books to PDFs (details on that here). You can also download music you buy from Amazon onto your computer.

At the end of the day, when it comes to books, Gutenberg is your best option.






6 thoughts on “Log this in the paper trumps digital books column.

  1. stmichaelkozaki says:

    I used to be bothered by this. But the only real negative IMO is that I can’t pass on books when I die unless PDFd (or buy it as a business which lives forever). But do I really think my kids will read my books when I die? If so, they can keep my password and PDF what they want. But I’m not holding my breath!

    As I’ve mentioned before here I find physical books a huge negative anymore since I can’t a) search them, nor b) play them audio (TTS), nor c) highlight them and then erase it, nor d) carry into the wild without possible damage. So I mostly only read physical from the library to kick the tires before I buy them on Kindle if it’s a rare keeper I want to get deep into (my two latest I’m going to buy after library testing are Choice Theory and The Hungry Brain. You aught to review them :-).

    But were i worried about the “rent not own” angle I would just PDF like you mentioned. Yet I really don’t think anybody cares since I bet our digital forms we use today will become even more obsolete than paper in 50 years and be given away, like old music tapes or records.


  2. Elspeth says:

    I have books that I anticipate my kids will definitely want to have.

    The Life and Times of Joseph E. Clark. I grew up in the town he founded and there’s a permanent dedication to my father on the main street there.

    Anything by Zora Neale Hurston (she was also from Eatonville), but in particular anything she wrote that offers in depth history of the town.

    And there are other books that, when the cultural screws tighten on Christians or anyone guilty of badthink, that we are very serious about having as a part of our library.

    If the digital becomes obsolete, I’d think the paper would be all the more valuable. You don’t agree?


  3. Bike Bubba says:

    I love real books, and there are some that are never going to make it onto Kindle, and quite frankly I don’t quite trust Amazon and others to keep some of the good stuff “in bits.” Love online reading, obviously, but this is an issue that occurred to me, too.


  4. stmichaelkozaki says:

    If the digital becomes obsolete, I’d think the paper would be all the more valuable. You don’t agree?

    You misunderstand me. Current digital formats will become obsolete rapidly and suddenly, like tapes/8-tracks/VHS/floppy disks did (if you are as old as I :-). So why own reading formats that will be worthless soon enough? Our progeny will laugh at us and our 8-tracks. Look, for me, paper was worthless a decade ago for my prior given reasons, and what I use now will become worthless even faster than paper did. On the way? Wholly new mediums, say where AI will provides simultaneous commentary worldwide being instantly translated, connectivity to authors and their blog commentary and amendments, plus reading bio-markers as you learn “read” (brainwaves, pulse). People are seriously cutting open animals and attaching chips to their brains right now and it’s working. Yes, this is gonna happen to humans sooner than later, just like our mechanical hearts and bones and hormone replacement, which already exist. Look I don’t know what’s on the way, but it won’t be PDF, that’s for sure! For example: I publish/sell technical books on Kindle and update them many times before they are even a year old based upon reader feedback; I won’t even publish on paper for this reason alone. That paper stuff is obsolete and expensive to boot…I get my readers an instant update with a download for free. Books are now like blogs, interactive.

    Look, I know conservative/traditional people are skeptics by nature, and I am too. But this is stuff is real. Too real. We are hitting some very big information technologies right now due to information exponential growth, and the rest of the world is coming online right now and this will dwarf prior sharing and talent. Look at China alone – high IQ and massive. Prior examples: we broke the human genome in less time & under budget 20 yrs ago and we now know “too much” to handle it politically. Computers now beat humans in chess or Jeopardy with ease, they can fly helicopters upside down (no human can), computers will soon outperform the bets pilots and racers (that race is on and closing). and the list is exponentially growing. Even much of what we read “for” today is becoming obsolete, like practicing math memory (due to calculators), or handwriting stills. Big changes ahead for better or worse.

    Liked by 1 person

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