Posts Tagged ‘Amazon.com’
I’ve entered the e-book world cautiously. I like the Kindle as a reading device, and generally have had very satisfactory experiences as an Amazon.com customer. I actually like the Nook more than the Kindle as an e-book reading device, but I remain irritated at Barnes & Noble for its wholesale destruction of New York City’s independent bookstore scene beginning in the early 1990s. I’ve never forgiven them for that, so since then, I have pretty much avoided doing business with Barnes & Noble on any level beyond a bathroom break.
Mostly, I’ve not gone “all in” with e-books for three basic reasons. First, too many publishers set prices too high for the value proposition they’re offering. Unless there is something special about the e-book offering — multimedia elements, for example — don’t come at me with a price higher than $10. Let me be clear: I can pay more than $10; I won’t pay more than $10 because there’s no value proposition to me beyond $10.
The second reason I’ve not gone all in with e-books is availability. Quite simply, the works I want (or need) to be available in an e-book format for the Kindle too often aren’t available. (And by the way, a price above $10 means I consider that title to be unavailable, because as I mentioned above, the value proposition usually does not warrant a price greater than $10.)
The third reason I’ve been a little wary about fully committing to the e-book situation is because of this nagging little concept called the first sale doctrine. If I buy the print book, I can pretty much do whatever I want with the copy of that book. But if I purchase the e-book, I’m not buying the material; instead, I am licensing that content subject to terms and conditions of a license into which I had no customer input. Many already know about Amazon.com’s Kindle kerfuffle two years ago involving Orwell’s 1984. That certainly gave me pause. Now, a recently discovered situation is giving me pause again.
Since I read only non-fiction, mostly for research purposes, the Kindle value proposition for me lies in being able to search the book, highlight passages, and take notes. For quite a while, Kindle downloads excluded page numbers that matched the print edition. The omission made using the Kindle for research purposes virtually worthless. But Amazon fixed that issue in February. And earlier this week, I discovered how to access and export those Kindle highlights and clippings. So now I’m figuring I’m golden.
I login and am reviewing notes and highlights from various e-book titles. For Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, I see this message
Let me repeat the relevant provisions
You have 120 highlighted passages but we can only show 86 of them. What’s this?
And then the link associated with “What’s this?” provides further information
Clipping Limit Exceeded
For some books the publisher allows only a limited percentage of a book to be “clipped” and stored separately from the main body of the book, as normally happens when you add a highlight. If you exceed this limit then you will see fewer highlights on this website than you actually marked on your Kindle. Popular Highlights are not counted towards this clipping limit.
I purchased The Big Short for leisurely reading, so the clipping limitation doesn’t hurt my research. But I didn’t know about this “limitation” when I purchased the book. Further, why is there a clipping limitation at all? Does Lewis’s publisher, W.W. Norton, really think that excessive clipping is a potential “piracy” issue? (Ironically, all of my settings restrict sharing of clippings and highlights.)
Amazon.com is not off the hook on this issue, either. As a vendor, Amazon must know that part of the Kindle’s appeal is the ability to clip and take notes. If that capability is restricted in any way, to me that e-book title is defective — at least for my purposes. I will not knowingly purchase an e-book that restricts note taking and clipping. So Amazon needs to clearly identify this as a publisher-induced e-book “defect” in the same way it tries to frame excessive e-book prices (not coincidentally, usually above $10) as a publisher-induced “defect.”
Now, I’m back to being real skeptical, and keeping my money in my pocket.
Pull Quote #1
As the digital era unfolds, the role of libraries in the distribution of e-books has emerged as a significant issue of contention.
This misses the broader issue. In a piracy paradigm environment, ANY use by ANY consumer or organization that cannot be metered, measured and monetized is, de facto, “a significant issue of contention.” Former AAP executive director Patricia Schroeder made this apparent a decade ago when she made now infamous remarks about libraries expecting publishers to give their content away. The “digital era” was in full swing when Schroeder made her remarks in 2001, and libraries’ role in the [free] distribution of books was “a significant issue of contention” for publishers even then.
What has changed, though, is the corporate publishing industry realizes it finally is facing the same issues the recording industry faced in the late 1990s. Corporate publishing executives know they can’t stop it, and they don’t even know how to contain it. Unlike the recording industry, though, publishing cannot fall back on a lucrative format shift market to bail them out, and Amazon is viable enough an option for writers and self-publishers that both groups can opt out of standard contracts that, if signed, would make them indentured servants.
Now the smart libraries will figure out a way to pull an Amazon and connect writers (both for trade and scholarly publishing) with readers — and do so in a way that doesn’t compete with Amazon, and which doesn’t rely on advertising. Hard work, yes, but it’s not like libraries can afford to wait on municipal or institutional funding.
There’s another way to go for librarians and library executives: forget about being super smart and competing with Amazon.com. Instead, just be professional: know what is in your electronic content contracts, and learn how to negotiate better terms and conditions for your institution and patrons. Or connect with someone or some institution that does.
Connecting writers and readers as I imagine above requires extraordinary resources and access to extraordinary talent. Those things may not be within reach for every library. On the other hand, every time a librarian signs a license agreement without understanding its terms and conditions, he or she is committing professional malpractice. It is inexcusable, especially when tens of millions of dollars are at stake each year. Turn in your MLS and find another line of work.