Readers-writers problem

big_brotherWe all have some books we absolutely love. We love them so much that we lend them to everyone we know. There are shops thriving on renting and re-selling of used printed books. With ebooks taking over the market, this may not be the case. Possessing unauthorized copies of these ebooks may become the only ethically acceptable way. Sharing, according to most ebooks market leaders of today, is a crime. With the market at its transition phase, ebooks can either increase or decrease a reader’s freedom. We, the authors, the readers and the lovers of literature must strongly demand the increase.

Take the example of Amazon Kindle. It does-not allow a user to buy a book anonymously. These books available in Amazon stores only, can not be purchased against cash. Amazon knows exactly which books each user has read. Big Brother is indeed watching us! What guarantee do we have that our privacy will not be compromised? Lending is a not allowed because the reader does not ‘own’ the book. In 2009, people reading ‘1984’ in the Kindle suddenly found it missing. Apparently, Amazon deleted it from using a ‘back door’ program in their software, due to some dispute with the publisher. They later promised never to do this again, except by order of the government. So we already have a Big Brother, a doublethink, a thoughtcrime, a newspeak, and a memory hole. 1984 is no longer a dystopian and satirical novel. It’s a manual!

Kindle is only an example. Other ebook dealers’ policies are almost similar. Publishers claim all of this is in the interest of the authors. Let’s ask them, what share of their profit actually goes to the author? In practice, the copyright system does a bad job of supporting authors, aside from the most popular ones. Other authors’ principal interest is to be better read, so sharing their work benefits them as well as the readers. Why not switch to a system that helps us share? Sharing is good, and with digital technology, sharing is easy. So sharing should be legal, and preventing sharing should be a crime; not the other way round. This is one of the many areas, big-corporates have encroached the line that separates humane and inhumane.

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