Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Brick Factor

This is something that you have to be careful about, now that many electronics are being sold with an electronic umbilical cord still attached to their manufacturer: The manufacturer could come to the conclusion that you should no longer be a customer, and suddenly you are in posession of a very expensive paperweight.

Look what happened when online bookseller Amazon decided that one of their customers (apparently because he returned too many items for a refund) was too much of a pain in the ass, and cancelled his account and banned him from future purchases as well.
As you may already know, Amazon's electronic reader, the Kindle (and newer Kindle 2) is linked to the owner's Amazon account where the inventory of purchased books is managed. In addition, although there are a few other sources, it is primarily the only way to buy books for the device. When this user's Amazon account was closed, he also lost access to all the books he had purchased, as well as the ability to shop for new material.

This situation brings the bigger picture of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to the forefront. When you purchase any form of media from a company, do they have the right to deny you access in the future (presuming it was not purchased on a subscription basis)? The above mentioned user ended up with a $360 device that was totally worthless to him. He couldn't even access books he had already paid for.
Your IPod, your Wii and Playstation, even your computer (via Windows)... they are all very similar to your cable box now (except that you shelled out hundreds of dollars to have them in your living room): Step out of line, and somebody back at headquarters might just flip a switch and you are out in the cold.

1 comment:

TheMindFantastic said...

Admittedly his situation was less than what was claimed, all his books that he bought worked, it was the subscriptions he had that no longer would update during his downtime. But Amazon could have the ability to do just what you mention in part because of its 'whispernet' capability, I don't own one myself to know if this feature could be turned off but most people wouldn't... but if someone flipped the switch at HQ on you, it would receive said signal and you would then have your lovely very expensive brick. I own a Sony Reader and I don't use the sony store, I don't download from DRM places, I download a lot of books and put them onto either my SD card or the Memory Stick and bingo Sony find them and I can read them (for the most part, some of the formatting can be annoying but thats not sony's fault usually, thats the original file most of the time) my ipod is the same, I don't use Itunes, and I given that I don't have windows its hard to get the ipod 'updates' onto my device, so its stuck being usable!