Kindle is Heir-Apparent to Betamax

They really just don’t get it.

In a move to prevent the possibility that someone could use the Kindle to buy e-books from (gasp!) a retailer other than Amazon, the same had its attorneys contact MobileRead and demand that they remove some user posted scripts that effectively “unlocked” the Kindle so that it could be used with e-books from other vendors.  (Of course, these are no longer available on MobileRead, but they’re posted elsewhere out there if you search around).

Taking a lesson from the big technology bullies, they couched their demands behind DMCA (an act originally designed to defend copyright holders, now a big club with spikes for large corporations to wield their power).

And, of course, MobileRead complied, because:

…we decided, due to the vagueness of the DMCA law and our intention to remain in good relation with Amazon, to voluntarily follow their request and remove links and detailed instructions related to it…

Of course, this translates into:

…what can you do when you’re threatening to be sued by a huge corporation?  Even if you’re right, and might win the case, you lose in the end.  Because they have literally millions of dollars set aside to snow you under in a protracted court case with appeal on appeal and filings on counter filings.  So you win, what, 20 years later – long after your business has declared bankruptcy and your personal debts look like Citibank’s?

So MobileRead made the one choice they could make, and took the script down.  I understand their choice, as we’ve had a couple minor tussles with companies whose paper clip budget is larger than our entire payroll.  Instances where we were pretty convinced we were in the right, but instances we backed down from, nonetheless.

Unfortunately, when you’re a small guy in corporate America, you’ve got to choose your battles.

Anyhow, back to the whole Kindle thing:

The bad news is that trying to prevent people from reading e-books from other vendors is very bad manners (especially when they’ve already handed $400 to you for the thing!), and has the appearance of a really clumsy attempt at creating a monopoly.  And its obnoxious, too, because the selection on the Kindle is pretty lame – additional e-tailers could help expand the shelves, so to speak.

Want an example? Try finding a single book by Graham Greene or Malcolm Muggeridge on the Kindle (two very important 20th century writers, in case you’re not familiar).

The good news is that its about the stupidest thing they could have done, and if they maintain this stance, the Kindle is guaranteed to become Betamax to someone else’s VHS.  If they lighten up and allow competition, then the Kindle will survive – maybe thrive – and we’ll all be better off and thanks Amazon for a handy piece of technology that allows consumers’ to make their own choices about what books they read and where they get them.

One thought on “Kindle is Heir-Apparent to Betamax”

  1. Pingback: Why should I care about e-books? Lessons learned the hard way from the newspaper biz |
  2. Trackback: Why should I care about e-books? Lessons learned the hard way from the newspaper biz |

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