goodreadsI wrote earlier about converting my account over to the .ca portal. Amazon seems to be strongly preferring that people shop at their ‘correct’ country portal these days—they let me keep using the .com site for my Kindle purchases, but had annoying banners and pop-ups regularly encouraging me to switch over.

More recently, they started offering enticements such as a month of free service from Kindle Unlimited. So I bit the bullet, and switched. All my books transferred over just fine. I understood that some people had problems with subscription content such as magazines, but I had no such content to worry about, just Kindle books. My personal content (i.e. sideloaded ebooks I emailed to my Kindle via the Send to Kindle app) showed up just fine too, and a test run of browsing the Kindle store from both my Kindle and my iPad Kindle app showed that all of my devices were recognized, and my information had all transferred over.

There were just two casualties of my migration. Firstly, I no longer get a notice when I browse a book I own already. It used to show a little banner saying I purchased that content already, and that is now gone. Secondly, the Goodreads integration has been problematic. It seems Goodreads can only recognize one store at a time.

To clarify, the Kindle books I have already ‘shelved’ and added to my profile show up just fine. But there is a button to ‘add your Amazon books’ which is no longer displaying my .com-purchased content. I had been using that as a holding area for books I had not yet read. When I found that it was now empty, I logged out of Goodreads, logged back in again and found that it has imported all my my purchased paper books from the .ca site—but still no eBooks.

As a test, I purchased an eBook from my new .ca portal. About an hour later, it popped into my ‘Add your Amazon books’ window.

I emailed Goodreads support and got back a reply this morning which basically conformed my suspicion—Goodreads will only deal with one Amazon portal at a time. The email acknowledged that the .ca portal is a ‘recent addition’ and that many customers purchased content from the .com site prior to its launch. But the only suggestion they had for me to merge my prior .com books with my new account was to change my country back to .com, shelve the books and then change it back to .ca afterward. Hardly an elegant and seamless integration, you know?

I know I can easily add any book I want to my Goodreads account via the search function, but I admit, I miss the convenience of having all those Kindle books one click away. On the other hand, I had some junk on my .com account—freebie I will likely never read, for instance—so perhaps it is not so terrible to start over with a clean slate with the Goodreads folks.

Still, anybody doing the merge should be aware that your books may transfer over to your new account just fine, but your Goodreads data will not.

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  1. Sorry to hear about those troubles, Joanne. I hope you find a way to sort them out.

    What’s happening to you is, I have long feared, a harbinger of trouble for digital media of all sorts. The problem is that digital is not real in the physical, material sense. If I got run over by a bus while on this afternoon’s walk, my family could sort out who gets my physical books without any third-party being involved.

    Not so digital media. Amazon, Apple and the others control who has access to them and for digital products, access is ownership. As mere citizens, our ownership can only be transferred if they agree and provide a means, something that, as far as I know, they aren’t offering. At present, no will and no private family agreement can override their unwillingness to act. Nor have I heard about any laws being passed. That means that it’s likely to take a costly, complicated, and muddled series of court cases to settle what should have become a matter of law about a decade ago.

    My hunch is that most of those in these sorts of businesses want matters to stay that way. They’d be quite happy to see a baby boomer’s large collection of apps, music, movies and ebooks simply fade away when he dies. No inheritance means that those who want what he once owned but buy it again. Amazon and Apple may be putting “Buy” buttons on their store, but what they’re hoping to get away with is a lifetime-only rental.

    More and more, I’m being pushed toward the conclusion that there really is what I call the Geek Syndrome. It’s the inability of many of those in high-tech companies such as Amazon and Apple to put themselves in the shoes of others. Geekiness is, you may recall, a sort of halfway point to an autism spectrum disorder.

    You see it in a host of areas. Google cooperated with China’s repressive government to be able to do business there but went ballistic when Chinese hackers dared to break into Google Mail. The former is about the freedom of 1.2 billion Chinese people. The later is about Google’s own software.

    Apple is much the same. The company routinely postures about being different, even pointing to Tibet’s Deli Lama as a great figure. But its own products say otherwise. Look at the Clock app in iOS. Cities in brutally occupied Tibet have China as their country, while Taipei, the capital of Taiwan and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, have no country. And kowtowing not just to the Chinese dictatorship but to terror, Gaza is given a country. Apple doesn’t care about Tibetans, but it cares immensely about its own safety. Yes, there’s a heavy element of cowardice in the Geek Syndrome. If you don’t care about someone, why sacrifice for them?

    I could go on and on with other examples, but those are clear enough. In general, the more lucrative corners of technical world seem to have a deficiency of empathy for ordinary people. Not letting you and I really own our digital media and give them to whoever we want merely illustrates that.

    When I was editing Chesterton on War and Peace for publication, I came across a brilliant term that G. K. Chesterton used to describe those he disagree with. He said that they lack “moral imagination.” Moral imagination is the ability to see life from through the eyes of someone else. It’s why he opposed his own country in the Boer War. He didn’t like to see his nation put in the service of gold and diamond magnates.

    Moral imagination is also another way to state the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The inability to do that is common among large high-tech companies. I do, however, believe that Amazon is worse than Apple. Apple at least pays authors market rates. But I find all of them profoundly disappointing, particularly when accompanied by claims of moral superiority—Google’s infamous “Don’t be evil,” Apple’s “Be Different.” I guess I should be happy that, on the home page I just checked, the closest thing to an Amazon slogan is “Try Prime.”

    Claims not backed up by deeds is another illustration of the Geek Syndrome. Another name for that is the Bono Syndrome, named after Apple’s favorite musician. Recall Bono of U2 lecturing European leaders about giving more to poor countries while using every imaginable trick to evade paying the taxes that would fund that assistance.

    [He steps down, shoves the soapbox under his arm, and leaves for his usual afternoon walk.]

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