Amazon Kindle extinguishes the fire of learning

Amazon came out with their newest line of Kindle ebook readers today, including the appropriately named "Kindle Fire".

To quote their TV commercial: "The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all."

This device does not kindle that fire -- it extinguishes it, with more of the same digital restrictions.

Let's look at the facts:

  • Amazon claims you have no right to sell or share the books you buy. They advertise a "lending" feature which, at best, allows you to lend a book one time ever, to one person, who must also be a Kindle user. You don't get to make the decision about whether you can lend a book or not -- the publisher and Amazon do. That's not sharing.

  • In fact, when people tried to cooperate to make large-scale use of the lending function, Amazon shut them down. The most prominent example of this was the web site Lendle, which is back up now, albeit with fewer features, including a feature which made it easy to lend the books you have without typing in all the titles -- a move forced on them by Amazon to discourage sharing.

  • The power exerted over its users, arbitrarily blocking lending of books and remotely removing books, is unacceptable even if they later change their minds or promise to stop doing it.

  • Amazon is working its way into public libraries and schools now, subverting the functioning of the very places they, in the above quote, claim to support.

  • Via the wireless connectivity of these devices, Amazon can hold data about everything you read.

  • Also via the connectivity, Amazon can delete books from Kindles. They have already done this multiple times. They say they won't do it anymore, but they make users sign an agreement which still gives them the authority to. They have demonstrated only reasons to doubt their word.

  • Although it is possible to use the Kindle for DRM-free materials, that is not the system that Amazon is promoting or working most actively toward. Funding Amazon's work in this area, even if you use it differently, is supporting their moves at limiting sharing and access to books.

The result: More of the same: A major threat to the shareability -- like fire -- that has enabled human culture and knowledge to advance.

Take action!

  • Send a message to Amazon's Kindle Team via Twitter -- @amazonkindle -- be wary of using Twitter directly, as it uses proprietary JavaScript. Using your Twitter account via is a good choice.
  • Contact Amazon customer services: Chat, phone and email support here and ask them to drop DRM from the Kindle.