Over the past few weeks I've come across a lot of both speculation and information relating to Amazon's Kindle ebook reader. I've heard of kill switches and Amazon's ability to remotely disable content and even the whole device. Is spending money on a Kindle (and content for the device)just too much of gamble?
The problem I have with the Kindle is that it combines a proprietary device with content that's shackled with DRM (Digital Right Management). Now throw in the ability for Amazon to be able to access each and every Kindle remotely, snoop through it and disable content that it deems somehow dodgy. I've also had first-hand reports from people who have had their Kindles (and Amazon accounts) disabled for odd reasons such as returning too many items. Once a Kindle is disabled all the purchased content is also disabled. That could result in the user being significantly out of pocket.
But there are even more unknowns. We know that there exists a kill-switch for the text-to-speech feature that allows publishers to disable the feature for specific titles. While this feature protects the publisher's ability to control how content is distributed, it sucks for people who really wanted this feature. If there's one kill-switch, it's likely that Amazon, and publishers, have other kill-switches at their disposal. Personally, I'd be uncomfortable with so many players having the ability to remotely tinker with my Kindle.
What I'd like to see with the Kindle is clarity. Clarity as to what kill-switches exist, who has the ability to activate them, under what circumstances a Kindle can be remotely disabled, and what recourse the customer has to try to set things straight. Amazon (and the publishers for that matter) have no right to enter my home and remove books (or features from products that I have previously purchased) but with devices such as the Kindle companies seem happy to bestow these privileges upon themselves without even having the decency to lay out the terms clearly. When I buy a physical book or CD I'm buying the product as a whole, but when I buy a digital product what I'm buying could be very fluid. Today I might have text-to-speech ability for a book, tomorrow I might not.