Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

May 9, 2010

Frank Remarks: The Dark Side of eBooks

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 3:11 PM

There’s a nasty little secret that most people who own eBook readers – specifically the Kindle – don’t know about eBooks. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

eBooks are fast becoming more and more popular and are stealing market share from p-books. For those of you not in the know, p-books are printed books – Come on, people! You gotta get with the program!

Anyway – so what’s the dirty little secret?

I found it in a recent Wired Magazine article. Essentially it is about how Kindle eBooks can be updated/revised after you’ve purchased them. What can go wrong? Right?

Well, let’s see. From the Wired article.

….when you are connected to an e-reading service, the seller does have the capability to mess with the content on your device, whether you ask it to or not. People were shocked to discover this last summer when Amazon, realizing that it had mistakenly sold some bootlegged copies of George Orwell’s 1984, deleted all of them from customers’ Kindles. An outcry ensued. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos issued an apology, calling the action “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” 

Why? Because according to Amazon, you don’t purchase a Kindle book – you lease it!

Hmmm…so, what can this lead to in our heated politically correct, multicultural (read any culture that’s not white European) over sensitive times we live in?

Not over sensitive you say?

How about this?

Cinco de Mayo American flag shirt flap: Cops step up patrols at California school

So, if Amazon can change at a click of a mouse, the content of an e-book, what would happen if our beloved hate speech or hate thought crimes are established over eBooks?

Hoe about the ‘N’ word being deleted from Tom Sawyer or Of Mice and Men? Maybe even whole derogatory paragraphs of racial stereotypes incentive to the Negro plight in those eBooks? Or perhaps, history being changed in non-fiction books to suit the current politically correct stance at the time?

Get my drift?

If you think 1984 was bad – just wait until our politicians get hold of the eBooks.

Food for thought.



  1. College books have long been annotated by the professors. Now that students have ebooks, professors make changes to the content without a trace those changes have been made. Don’t believe in Darwinian theories? Change the books. It is happening, it will happen and there is nothing anyone will do about it. The wave of the future? Books as Wiki’s?

    Comment by thejobcoach — May 9, 2010 @ 3:31 PM | Reply

  2. This is a great piece of information. And lets not forget that now the FBI does not need to check everyone’s library card to see what you are reading anymore. They will know exactly what you are reading and what page you happened to book mark. Sounds crazy but as a former cop, it is not that crazy!

    Comment by Jon Renaud — May 10, 2010 @ 7:15 AM | Reply

  3. This may be a problem for those who only buy their ebooks on devices such as the Kindle, where the contents are constantly under the control of the seller (Amazon.) It is NOT a problem with ebooks on such devices as the Sony ereaders, where the ebooks are purchased via the computer, reside on the computer, and are then transferred to the ereader. No one without direct access to my Sony Touch ereader can change anything on the device, and I can back up my books to an SDHC card if I like, just in case the books were deleted from the device, accidentally or otherwise.

    The Kindle (and other directly-connected) ereaders are handy, to be sure. But when books by George Orwell (1984 and ANIMAL FARM) suddenly disappeared from Kindles all over the world in July of 2009, I began re-thinking the idea of being permanently tethered to the bookseller by a device like the Kindle. That’s why I have a Sony ereader instead. No one can easily muck about with the ebooks I have on that device.

    Comment by Tony Burton — May 10, 2010 @ 8:30 AM | Reply

    • If one purchases an ebook from Amazon for one’s Kindle, and does it on the computer rather than directly, can Amazon still make the changes at will?

      Comment by maybusch — May 10, 2010 @ 9:54 AM | Reply

      • It appears so, May. I do not have a Kindle device, but I have the Kindle reader software installed on my iPhone and on my desktop computer. When I order a book through iPhone (usually a free book), Amazon seems to “know” about my KIndle reader software on the other platform, and offers to update it as well. So, in that sense, I assume they could make the changes to your on-the-Kindle ebooks that were purchased via your computer connection, or your iPhone connection if you have one.

        As I don’t have a physical Kindle to test that theory, though, I am not certain. I installed the Kindle software mainly to test samples of ebooks that I publish through Amazon’s Kindle program.

        Comment by Tony Burton — May 10, 2010 @ 4:06 PM

  4. The 1984 incident got quite a bit of press when it happened — I’m not sure that’s much of a dirty secret for Kindle users.

    That said, the potential censorship in ebooks is a cause for concern. Some folks are using that update ability to good effect, though. The Pragmatic Programmers ebook publishers release beta versions of their books that I believe can be automatically updated in the Stanza iPhone app when new versions are available. That’s pretty slick.

    Then again, technical books tend to be less politically-charged. 🙂

    Comment by Melissa — May 10, 2010 @ 8:39 AM | Reply

  5. Yowza! Just because we’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not after us!Who knew?
    On the other hand, why is this such a surprise? They’ve (the infamous, and secret “THEY”) have been deleting information from text books for years and years AND replacing it with agenda driven drivel. Better take a trip to Washington DC and see all the important historical documents with your own eyes before they disappear.

    Comment by Kathe — May 10, 2010 @ 3:34 PM | Reply

  6. Terrific info, and great points you bring up. Well, the history books are already being changed anyway. And novels are being censored for “political incorrectness,” which is a pity, because we will lose the understanding of why people wrote that way in their eras. This could lead to not being able to learn from history and repeating the same mistakes again.

    (Found you on LinkedIn).

    Comment by Sheryl — May 14, 2010 @ 1:41 PM | Reply

  7. hi wats your myspace page

    Comment by what does my name mean — May 17, 2010 @ 9:12 PM | Reply

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Lindemann. Richard Lindemann said: Leased E-Books? I concur with Frank Remarks: The Dark Side of eBooks « Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Frank Remarks: The Dark Side of eBooks « Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter -- — May 18, 2010 @ 9:12 AM | Reply

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