Has Amazon ruined eBooks?

I used to like the Kindle platform and between Deana and I, we have purchased quite a few of them. Unfortunately, over the years, Amazon’s greed has ruined it and today, I’m done with the Kindle.

eBooks should be amazing. The zero-power persistence of eInk combined with cheap flash storage, wifi, and powerful microcontrollers should have made it possible to have an entire library in your pocket. The hardware is great, electronic distribution saves natural resources and, by nearly eliminating printing and distribution costs, eBooks should be able to lower book prices and give authors a higher share of sales.

The problem is that Amazon got greedy. Kindle editions now cost as much or even more than a real physical book, but much worse is that you can’t really buy a book for Kindle at all anymore, you can only rent it. I say you’re renting the book because you don’t own it in any meaningful sense: you can’t lend it or gift it to a friend when you’re done with it; amazon retains full control. Would you buy a car or a house that you couldn’t sell when you were done with it?

DRM – Digital Rights Management – is the technology that allows amazon to retain full control of a book that they’ve ostensibly sold to you.The solution might be to only buy books in the .epub format which does not include DRM (so you actually own what you’ve bought). You can read more about that here. Fundamentally, the issue is a legal concept called “first-sale doctrine“; you can read more about the eBook problem in this very good article.

Over time, Amazon has gradually raised prices and limited what you can do with a book you’ve “bought” until Kindle eBooks no longer make sense to me. It’s a great example of how monopolies hurt consumers: amazon owns more than 2/3 of the eBook market. Shame on amazon for ruining a good thing.