Censorship and the Kindle
David Ulin’s August 3rd commentary in the Baltimore Sun http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.amazon03aug03,0,6041063.story raises a provocative issue about the ability of unknown (or in this case known) individuals or companies to impose control over what is available to us to read. As we move into the enticing new world of electronic books and media, we are excited about the possibilities of downloading any book we want and reading it on a Kindle. No trips to bookstores or waiting for mail delivery—just instant gratification. Convenience, lower price (over the long run,) and ease of search features are attractive.
But last month Amazon unilaterally deleted two respected classics from their customer’s Kindles—it is ironic that they were George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm—without informing said customers beforehand of the suspected copyright violation.
What implications does this have for the future? As electronic books become more ubiquitous (and cheaper,) more people will choose to read books this way. Is being able to choose a book only from among titles that are selected by Amazon a version of censorship, although less blatant than when books were banned for violating community standards?
Mr. Ulin, a book editor of the Los Angeles Times, frames the question this way, “But what is this brave new world, and are we sure that it’s one we want?” Let us know whether you are dismayed by this possibility or excited by the technologic advance and disregard the concern about censorship.