Tonight, May 15, 2014, I wanted to look up something in Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth, a book I only bought in Kindle format because I needed the book for a project back in December, and it was faster and cheaper than buying a new or nearly-new hard copy. Usually, if I really want a “best seller” book, I’ll wait for it to filter down to “used” status, or at least publisher overruns, but this book was so new there was a “hold” list for the library copy, and like I said, I needed it. It’s one of only three (I think it’s three, I can’t exactly look it up right now) books I’ve actually boughten in Kindle format.
Y’ see, when I buy a copy of a book, I expect to read it now, and twenty years from now, if I choose to. With the rapid pace of change in computers, today’s hottest formats could be unreadable five years from now. Just think about everything that’s been lost already because nobody wants to make the effort to figure out what’s on that old 5.25″ floppy, or convert from WordStar. (Sometimes, when people ask for a “.doc format” file, I’m tempted to send a document written in MindReader format (an old DOS-based word processor, which despite being as unrelated to MS Word as one can get while still being a “word processor,” still shares the “.doc” file extension)
So far, the only “perennial” document formats seem to be “.txt” (though that comes in a few flavors) “.rtf” (though there are a few variations of that, too), and maybe “.pdf” (It seems universal today, but tomorrow?) Whether the generic “epub” format is going to join them remains to be seen.
And the Kindle format is not only unproven as a perennial format, but proprietary, to boot. That means that, like my beloved PageMaker format, Amazon could dump it tomorrow and everything I have for Kindle would be so much wasted capacity on my hard drive. And like I said, when I buy a copy of a book, I don’t expect it to evaporate into the ether just because someone else decides it’s time to change the technology.
Not only that, but since it’s Amazon’s format, Amazon gets to decide how you read it. And they assume you’re always online. Nearly every time I’d purchase a book, I’d go home, try to look at it, and discover it wasn’t there. In purchasing it, Amazon had merely put it into my Kindle account. In the Cloud. The thing which Amazon assumes everyone has 24/7 access to and which I don’t have access to 16-20 hours a day, and not at all between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.
So the next day (assuming I can get to the library the next day), I log in and tell my cloud account to download the book to the reader on my laptop. It seems to be a straightforward, idiot-proof process, but I won’t know for sure until I get home/offline, since as long as I am online, it will appear to be on my laptop, even if it was only pretending to download (not all downloads give evidence when they fail). I also have a nook for PC to read the books I got from Barnes and Noble (Fortunately, they’re all free classics, so it’s no great loss if the whole system goes the way of floppy discs.)
I “bought” a few freebies off Amazon, too (even if the price is $0.00, you still have to go through checkout and offer a credit card). And a few $0.99 books that I got in a “buy-our-book-and-we’ll-throw-in-all-this-other-stuff” packages. And, of course, Undisputed Truth.
Like I said, I was going to look up something in it tonight. I tried to open the Kindle Reader on my laptop, only to be told that my version had expired and I needed to download a new copy. And like I said, you have to use Amazon’s reader to read Amazon’s ebooks. So I can’t read the book I paid for when I want to, even if I’ve got the file and don’t want to “update to a newer version.” With my luck, it’ll probably be a version that won’t run on WinXP. (Wonder if Microsoft is paying other companies to dump XP compatibility for their products in order to force people to buy their ever-more-bloated-and-junkier OS?)
And why I’m not sure how many books I actually paid for? I looked into my program files to see what extension Amazon puts on their Kindle editions. I found the files for the free classics, but none of the books I actually paid for. So apparently, they expired, too. I guess I didn’t actually “buy” them, because if I bought them, they would be in my possession, and I currently do not have possession of them.
Thanks for justifying my concerns about Kindle, Amazon.
P.S. About a week ago, the Kindle my sister gave me popped up this dialogue box saying it couldn’t close the Title. I’m stuck in the game Every Word and I can’t even see half the board because I can’t close the dialogue box. I emailed Amazon about it, figuring someone could take note of the problem, look up the solution at their convenience, and get back to me. Instead, they send me an email saying they can’t deal with something like that in an email and I might want to call them about it–apparently so they can take 10-20 minutes to walk me through their little step-by-step troubleshooting books instead of just sending me the relevant page. Or else want to access the Kindle by remote. How much you want to bet they’ll ask me to connect it to the internet if I call from (my internet-less) home?
(I’ll upload this the next time I get online and get through my emails. Hopefully tomorrow.)