The Future of Reading – A Play in Six Acts – Redux

Now that it’s been nearly six months since Amazon introduced the Kindle, it seems like a good time to revisit some of the dire predictions that were made about its prospects and the future of the book. A particularly foreboding scenario is painted (complete with Orwellian overtones) in the following post from DiveintoMark on November 19, the day the Kindle was announced:

http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/11/19/the-future-of-reading

The “play” cleverly juxtaposes some comments Jeff Bezos hade made in earlier years in favor of consumer’s rights with respect to books they own,

“When someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this.” Jeff Bezos, Open letter to Author’s Guild, 2002

...with the excerpts from the Kindle TOS that includes the somewhat Big Brother-like DRM restrictions Amazon imposes on Kindle owners who purchase content for it. Several quotes from GNU-Guy Richard Stallman’s “The Right to Read” (his manifesto against the DMCA) are thrown in for good measure and contrast.

The “play” is well presented, if not a little melodramatic, but what’s of greater interest is the 250 comments that were posted in the two weeks following the original post. They mostly rail against the restrictive nature of DRM’ed e-books, and some are misinformed (such as the comments that claim the PDFs cannot be downloaded to the Kindle). Nearly all predict that the Kindle will be an abject failure. However, if you read through all 250 comments or so, as I did, you will gain some valuable perspective into the whole debate around authors’ rights to royalties, publishers’ role in the world of e-books, and the open source movement’s impact on the future of content.

Probably the most insightful post was a quote by the author Margaret Atwood:

“The biggest threat we [authors] face isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity”.

It would be nice if the author of the original post re-opened comments, to see if anyone has revised their predictions.

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