Kindle e-reader: A Trojan horse for free thought
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When Facebook, for example, proposed revisions to its terms of service last month – claiming ownership of user profiles and personal data – the successful backlash it spawned caused complex (even existential) ideas about property, identity, and capitulation to bubble up: Is my Facebook profile the essence of who I am? If so, who owns me?Skip to next paragraph
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The hallmark of a constitutionally governed society, after all, is the acknowledgment that we are the authors of our own experience. In an Internet age, this is manifest not only in published works, but also an ever-evolving host of user-generated content (Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). If service providers lay claim to digital content now, how will it all end?
Print may be dying, but the idea of print would be the more critical demise: the idea that there needs to be a record – an artifact of permanence, residence, and posterity – that is independent of some well-appointed thingamajig in order to be seen, touched, understood, or wholly possessed.
"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture," Ray Bradbury once said. "Just get people to stop reading them."
Access equals control. In this case, it is control over what is read and what is not; what is referenced and what is overlooked; what is retained and what is deleted; what is and what seems to be.
To kindle, we must remember, is to set fire to. The combustible power of this device (and others like it) lies in their quiet but constant claim to intangible, algorithmic capital. What the Kindle should be igniting is serious debate on the fundamental, inalienable right to property in a digital age – and clarifying what's yours, mine, and ours.
It should strike a match against the winner-take-all casino economies that this kind of technology engenders; revitalize American libraries and other social institutions in their quest to preserve the doctrines of fair use and first sale (which allow for free and lawful sharing); and finally, spark Americans to consider the extent to which they are handing over their baloney sandwich for a plastic spoon.
Like a lot of people, I'm a sucker for a good book. But not at the expense of freedom, or foreclosure of thought.