Lots of people have pointed out that one of the massive downsides of an eBook device like the Kindle is that you don't actually own the books you bought. Unlike a real book, you can't share it with a friend, resell it or donate it to the local library. And, in some cases, you can lose access
to books you thought you "owned," based on the whims of employees at Amazon deciding you somehow abused their system. One of the big controversies over the Kindle was the TTS feature, which the Authors Guild claimed (without a shred of legal evidence) violated its rights
. The Authors Guild had no claim here. It doesn't violate performance rights, because reading aloud isn't a performance. It doesn't violate copyright, because there's no fixed copy made -- and if it did violate copyright, so would reading a book aloud. Yet, for no clear reason, Amazon caved in
and agreed to take away this feature.
Mark alerts us to the news that, as of May 13th, Amazon began remotely disabling the feature for certain eBooks
, including many popular titles. In other words, Amazon remotely took away a feature
that you used to have. That doesn't happen with a physical book. Random House doesn't get to say "oh, wait, we're now taking away the ability to dog ear pages." I love the concept of eBooks, but it's quite troubling that you don't actually get ownership of the eBooks you're buying -- and that Amazon can, at its own discretion, suddenly take away valuable features from books you had already purchased.