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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Why can't we own our books?

It's been a re-occurring gripe of mine... but why can't I own my books anymore?

We're a family of readers. We're constantly after one another to read our latest discovery in an almost cult-like way to indoctrinate others. My parents are currently chasing me to read the Pendergast crime series and I have just reiterated how they have to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle right now.

Fortunately for my parents, I prefer physical books to e-readers. Unfortunately for me, they prefer e-readers. There's a rather one-sided lending going on currently...

And this is the source of my gripe. I come from an era where the property I owned was mine to loan or even resell. Not so anymore. We're rapidly entering an age where we are leasing our digital media from companies like Amazon, Audible, Steam, Apple, etc.

Did you read the t&c?

The terms and conditions Kindle gives are very explicit on the subject:

...the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Kindle Content an unlimited number of times... solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.

Kindle has developed a feature where you can 'lend' your book to friends and family. Provided they have the Kindle app, of course. However, books can only be loaned once and for fourteen days only.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to be able to tell my friends and family 'I want this book back in fourteen days or else'. And there are some books I've lent I've never seen again. I hope that my copy of American Gods is enjoying its new forever home.

Kindle in death?

Kindle - or should I say, Amazon's concession to lending is nothing more than a nod to the archaic idea we should be allowed to distribute our property as we wish. It got me thinking - what's going to happen to my Kindle library after I die?

Turns out Kyle Jarrard, a senior editor at the International Herald Tribune was way ahead of me on this one. In his frankly hilarious article, he explains that, as the terms and conditions say, content can neither be resold nor transferred. However, you can choose to leave your account details to your next of kin.

So I really can leave my account to someone, along with the keys, and holler out as I head for the hereafter, “Drive, she’s all yours!” This was heartening, and quite compassionate of the great online dispenser of e-manna.

If you're looking for a laugh, I beg you to go check out the article. It reads like a man who's had a particularly long day at the office with one too many cups of coffee.


Buggered if I know.

The fact is, we're moving ever more into a digital world. And what began as a revolution in the way we impart, ingest and retain information and media has now become commonplace. Unfortunately, the laws and the common sense we need to negative this hasn't kept up. Would we all have signed on the dotted line if it meant giving up what ownership used to mean? Yes. And we did. I know you all skipped past the Terms of Use pop-up like I did.

We've traded away our right to do whatever we like for our media for convenience. I don't want to have to go to HMV just to pick up an audiobook on CD when I can download it off Audible. What would I do with the CD after I downloaded the files?

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