Publisher restrictions crowd out useful Kindle features
November 2, 2011 | 1:15 pm
When he was reading Haruki Murakami’s new 944-page book 1Q84 on his Kindle, Gizmodo blogger Mat Honan encountered an unpleasant surprise. One of the best-known features of the Kindle is its WhisperSync, that enables readers to stop reading on one device and pick up where they left off on another. To Honan’s annoyance, when he tried to load the book into a second device he got an error message explaining that the book is only licensed to read on one device at a time. (He also found he couldn’t share passages from the book on Amazon’s social sharing service, but that was minor by comparison.)
Now, I get it. This was mostly likely a publisher restriction. Amazon has been working so hard to push features into the Kindle, it would be foolish to kill that added value. But shame on you, Amazon, for going along with this. And double super secret shame on you for not better warning me that you were quashing my ability to easily read this book on multiple devices when I bought it. Look, Amazon, if some idiot at Knopf (and make no mistake: this is idiotic) wants to shit on your customers, you have a duty to tell us there is a turd on the way.
I checked out the Kindle listing for the book myself, and there was certainly no indication that it was device-restricted. It does say “Text-to-Speech: Enabled”, which indicates Amazon does have at least some consciousness of consumers wanting to know if particular features work before they buy the book, but leaving out such an important restriction as number of devices allowed is very lame at best (and makes a great argument for cracking the DRM to read it on as many devices as you want to). When you buy an e-book, you shouldn’t be getting a pig in a poke.
Honan points out that all sorts of innovative features are possible with e-books, including applications that remix books in interesting ways. But when publishers and vendors lock the e-books down in this way, trying to force them into the mold of paper books, they deprive readers of those chances for innovation.