Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Saturday, May 14, 2011

advice sought

Yesterday I got this email from Amazon:

We're writing about your past Kindle purchase of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The version you received had missing content and typos that have been corrected. 

An updated version of The Lord of the Rings (ASIN:B0026REBFK) is now available. It's important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost. 

If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word "Yes" in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.

Hmmmm. I’d certainly like to have the corrected edition. On the other hand, the copy I currently have has lots of underlined passages, and I have some notes keyed to the locations of those passages — I’d like to keep those. One possibility: I could go to the Your Reading page, and save all my annotations as a PDF, then update the book.

What a strange situation. Can you imagine buying a book at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, only to have the store manager call you six months later to apologize for errors in that book? And offering to bring you a brand-new corrected copy? But only on the condition that you return the first one to him? It’s all just too weird.


  • I have received many of these emails. I agree the loss of notes is very disturbing part of it. But I do think that updating to fix errors is a great feature of ebooks. Just need to figure out how to do it without loss of notes.

    Really not much different from other recalls though. Your car maker will contact you (or post recalls) if something is wrong. Costco and Sams have capacity of knowing everything you buy can can recall based on specific food lots if something is wrong since your purchase is tied to a membership card.

  • When you buy a book via Kindle, you don't own it. It would be more appropriate to say you're renting it. At anytime, Amazon has the right to simply delete it from your account and hardware without prior notice. And that's because of the terms you sign to use Kindle and buy a book via it. That's mainly one of the reasons why I haven't bought a Kindle yet... I don't want to have anyone else looking into what I'm reading and having the right to simply take it away from me. That's a huge turn off. =P

  • There is something different from the capacity to delete something and the "right" to delete something. Amazon has the capacity and maybe that is enough. But this email, is an example of how Amazon asks for permission.The 1984 book deletion was an issue of a copyright violation. People bought a book that did not have permission to be sold and Amazon deleted it. Amazon has since agreed that in the future, the person will be notified before deletion and will need to agree to the deletion.

  • It seems like the best solution would be both/and and not either/or. That is, something along the lines of "we'll send you the corrected book, and you get to keep the older version that has your notes." Your Kindle library would then include "The Lord of the Rings - with errors" and "The Lord of the Rings - corrected".

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