Today is the day Amazon hates Holden (Digital book burning)

When I wrote about books being recalled and disappearing from the hands of people who had already bought them once someone like Amazon decided that some group was offended I did not believe that day would truly arrive so soon.

The author says that the material was removed from the customers device and then the buyer was chastised and that exactly the outcome I was fearful would happen. The book may very well have never existed at that point.

My original:

Todays pull by Amazon:

> Excerpt:
> On December 9, 2010, I was contacted by CreateSpace (Amazon's
> Print on Demand service) who publishes my print books. They
> informed me that my title, Back to the Garden, had been
> removed for violating their "content guidelines." When
> I consulted their guidelines I found them so vague as to
> be useless--were they saying my content was illegal? Public
> domain? Stolen? Offensive? (All of these were on the list).
> When I inquired as to the specifics of the violation, they were not
> forthcoming, and sent a form letter response stating that Amazon
> "may, in its sole discretion, at any time, refuse to list or
> distribute any content that it deems inappropriate."
> [...]
> When some of my readers began checking their Kindle archives for
> books of mine they'd purchased on Amazon, they found them missing
> from their archives. When one reader called to get a refund for
> the book she no longer had access to, she was chastised by the
> Amazon customer service representative about the "severity"
> of the book she'd chosen to purchase.

Some people are arguing about the content and if it was appropriate but that entirely misses the point here. Any number of books have been considered inappropriate by some group at one time or another.

The advance to digital book burning may be one of the worst outcomes of the printed age.

Sustaining ourselves revisisted

I happened through some old blog posts of mine and found this from 2005.

"As we continue the long switch from industrial to knowledge, most of us couldn't create the things we consider critical to our everyday lives, so know we can't create our food or the tools to prepare it.

If we are beginning to give up knowledge, perhaps we are switching again, to what I haven't heard yet, or is this just simply that we are switching from knowledge to consumer, with everything on demand, all created by specialists.

So what I am left with is that in a matter of a few hundred years we have gone from self-sustaining to just existing and the only purpose being to consume all that is around us.

Somehow this doesn't seem like a great way to go."

Since then I believe this trend has continued and has even sped up. I am glad to have seen some local food movements in the meantime.

Now that peak oil and other peaks are becoming more apparent to everyone I suspect that this change will become a much larger problem.

For my own efforts I have actually gone to cooking from scratch a very large portion of what we eat from regional sources. I even can make my own bread.

I have been thinking about some larger regional whole economy sustainability ideas further to this that I will expand here soon.

The day Apple and Amazon hate Holden Caulfield

The recent actions of Apple and Amazon to punish e-book publishers that had differing views and to further control over book consumption. As well as the death of J.D. Salinger and the issues surrounding his book The Catcher in the Rye lead me to believe we should be concerned about the future of books for all of us.

Both Amazon and Apple are moving to control distribution of e-books to their respective devices, and thereby dominating delivery and consumption as has happened to music. The music business has been very happy to get Digital Rights Management services on their itunes music and we should expect the same from the book publishers. You will not own your book but instead have a possibly term limited, third party controlled access.

The unfortunate thing is that people are more likely to try and break the controls on music and not on books. The very information that we have collected to advance our society will be exactly that which is locked away. The library industry is surely fretting at its ability to continue to delivery borrowable materials in a world where the false scarcity no longer exists. But we still need the library, we need the access and we do not need it limited.

Now what does Holden have to do with this. Well for anyone who doesn't know, the book has had a long history of controversy for its content. I quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Catcher_in_the_Rye

  "In 1960 a teacher was fired for assigning the novel in class. He was later reinstated.[28] Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.[29] In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.[30] According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the tenth most frequently challenged book from 1990–1999.[9] It was one of the ten most challenged books in 2005, and has been off the list since 2006.[31]"

There were then, are today, and will be books that annoy parents and various groups. But maybe next time the material will exist in an e-book DRM vendor controlled format. That makes it only one short click from being filtered forever.

Who would do such a thing? Well this is where we get back to our vendors. Amazon had pulled an entire publisher Macmillan, and Apple is well known for filtering and rejecting Apps with little or no feedback or reasoning. And they both have this power as they are the only way to get to those users.

Someday, Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs companies will come under pressure to filter, or define material as inappropriate for their platforms. When that day comes I hope Holden and his future friends have also spilled some real ink and not just been as virtual as any other imaginary electronic world.

Scientific knowledge locked away

In todays Guardian there is a bit about the dangers of intellectual property in science. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/26/science-shackles-int...

"The drive to commercialise science has overtaken not only applied research but also "blue-skies" research, such that even the pure quest for knowledge is subverted by the need for profit."

"For example, it is estimated that some 20% of individual human genes have been patented already or have been filed for patenting. As a result, research on certain genes is largely restricted to the companies that hold the patents, and tests involving them are marketed at prohibitive prices. We believe that this poses a very real danger to the development of science for the public good."

I personally cannot believe we are doing this to ourselves. I find the idea of someone owning a discovery ridiculous, there is no invention, there is no need to keep it for yourself. And in most cases, research is already funded through tax dollars and grants fron the public purse.

Imagine if you will other discoveries about the natural world throughout history if today's conventions applied.

  • Fire - Lightning hits tree, falls on deer, deer is yummy. Pay Thor 2 rocks for watching a tree get hit by lightning.
  • Floating - Log floats down river. Pay Thor 2 more rocks for imagining himself on the log.

  • So probably not my best examples. But the reality is that these are things that happened in nature. This is the world around us. Should anyone own gravity? Or be able to license breathing a given mix of air?

    So what about the argument that discovery costs money? Microscopes don't just appear, science has a price. This is indeed true, but also why for thousands of years research has been performed both by the independent scientist and with the assistance of public money. Advancement of knowledge like the rising tide, lifts all minds for the better. Science must continue as a public good. Sell me your mousetrap, not license me the genes of the mouse.

    As we continue the endless march into the future ask if it should be behind a pay wall and make sure to stock up on rocks.

    Seeing with less

    Here is an interesting story about learning from flies and simplifying the computational requirements of sight in order to better emulate vision and provide for a much lower cost way to detect motion and obstacles the coming generations of small robots.


    I was just in a conversation (or is IRC only ever a fight) this morning where I was arguing against trying to construct large exact models of things in order to replicate human biological behaviours without looking around at simpler implementations that could be the inspiration or answer.


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