July 2009 Archives

No Sales Are Final

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For the last few months I have been tempted by the Amazon Kindle. First by the Kindle 2, which is a neat, relatively small, portable device that can hold within in it more books than I would ever need to carry around at once, and instantly download, just about anywhere, any books that I might need. The release of that Kindle DX, a larger device with a bigger screen, seemed even more attractive, since I am rapidly going blind in one eye.

All of that ended today when I discovered that Amazon had, at the request of a publisher, went out to all the Kindles in the world and deleted a bunch of books, ironically including George Orwell's 1984, because the publisher decided that they should made a mistake in offering a digital version. So Amazon, using technology they had not fully disclosed to the purchaser, went out and zapped those books, and gave the purchasers a a refund (I assume in store credit) for the purchase. Imagine if Barnes and Noble had decided to break into your house, take a couple of books off your shelves and leave a gift card on the nightstand. Same thing, for all intents and purposes.

It was already bad enough that Amazon was using the DMCA to take away your right of first sale (the ability to sell something that you have purchased to someone else). They have now made it quite, quite clear that you don't own anything even for your own use.

This is, as I have said before, the biggest threat of digital goods. While in their raw, un-administered, un-DRMed form digital goods are generally vastly superior in utility to their physical equivalents (searchable, portable, scalable in resolution, etc) the restrictions that are put in place by the people doing the "selling" are making them useless and unreliable. Music that has DRM generally only works so long as the company that sold it to you is in business - once the DRM servers go off line the music becomes unplayable. Media purchased for one system cannot be used for another. As President Obama learned a DVD purchased in in the US cannot be played in a DVD player purchased somewhere else in the world. Now we find that Amazon can decide to "unsell" you a book without your consent just because they feel like it. Apparently they have said they won't do this again, but there is no reason to take them at their word, since they didn't say they would do it in the first place, and the technology to do so remains in place.

Consumers need to begin resisting this move away from ownership and towards "licensing". "Licensing" is presented to the consumer as a sale, however the terms are always mush less favorable, seldom fully disclosed,and what is disclosed in generally disclosed in a EULA that consists of several pages of dense legalese that the consumer by-passes since the transaction is presented as a sale and they think they know their rights in such a transaction.

Personally, I did not use the iTunes music store until it went DRM free. Instead I purchased CDs and ripped them, or when it came out, used the Amazon MP3 store. While both of these still have ridiculous licensing agreements that attempt to deny me all manner of rights that I have as a consumer, at least since they are not DRMed they do not fall under the DCMA and if I choose to violate the EULA by exercising my rights as a buyer (say by selling a song I purchased and deleting all of my copies, something that the right of First Sale clearly allows) I have a leg to stand on in court. If it was DRMed I would be violating the "no circumvention" clause of the DCMA and would certainly lose, pay fines and maybe go to jail, even though I clearly have the right to re-sell something I have purchased.

While some might call these restrictions, and Amazon's recent intrusion into private citizen's personal devices to remove material they found unsuitable "Orwellian", I have to disagree. "Orwellian" is really tied up in associations with government oppression and control of the population, while what we are experiencing is an attempt by corporations to use the law to take away the rights of consumers.

So, in honor of this latest, and most vulgar attack on the rights of consumers, I would like to propose a new phrase, one to specifically apply to these cases of corporate overreach in an attempt stamp out the rights of consumers - "Bezosian", in honor of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

Hopefully, having this word coined will casue him to stop and rethink his position, just as Dan Savage's popularization of the new noun "Santorum" caused former Senator Rick Santorum to abandon his homophobic hatred and lead a better life.

Update - An boingboing post with comments I am posting more stuff into.

Christian is the New Goth, Apparently

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So, I have a pair of shoes that I love. Unreasonably so, since they are just cheap slip on canvas deck shoes. I bought them a while ago after I broke my toe just walking around the house - something that filled me with a dread of breaking my toe again just walking around the house.

These shoes, which I love unreasonably, are from Hurley, purveyors of crap the I would normally never buy, but they were, as mentioned cheap, and they were actually kind of cool - with a skull and knife piratey kind of thing going on. For you edification, here is a picture of them, in their current "battered, worn constantly for a couple of years" state:


Because they have been battered and worn constantly for a couple of years, I have been looking to replace them with something similar for the last month or so, without any luck. I went to maybe a dozen shoe stores looking for something similar, but never found anything that was really what I was looking for.

Fast forward to today. we were having a late breakfast and just across the parking lot was one of Colorado Springs many Christian Megastores. "Ho, ho!" we chortled, "What a lark it would be to go in and look around!". As we entered the store though, there were some shoes and shirts in the window that looked, dare I say it, kind of cool. I mean, yes, if you looked closely you could see that the hip fake-vintage over printed and then distressed text on the shirts was bits and pieces of scripture, but otherwise the stuff looked like something that you would find in a skate shop or maybe even a hot topic.

Encouraged, we walked through the store and saw many things that were exactly as we expected - a giant home schooling section with lots of Veggie Tales and copies of baby's first "Darwin is the the Bunk!", and this poster, which I think, given his views on money changers, Jesus would not be too happy with. Yes, yes, all very amusing.

But the clothing section - that was a wonder. Shirts, shoes, hoodies, even BLUE JEANS (the devil's trousers) with actually pretty awesome designs on them. She actually found a pair of shoes and two hoodies that she HAD to buy (and the hoodies were only $10 a piece - so cheap I claimed it was a miracle! One of them was a rose floral design, while the other had a cool repeating pattern of three thigh bones in a triangle with a sacred heart looking thing in the middle. Really, really *sweet*.

I on the other hand found my shoes. The very shoes that I was looking for. Not just *as* gothy as the Hurleys they were to replace...these shoes were, if anything MORE gothy. They were perfect. Exactly what I was looking for. For your further edification, here is a picture of them:


Awesome, am I right? And from the outside you would never guess that they are Christian shoes. Yes, if you look inside there is some nonsense about being submissive before God, but from the outside these are totally rocking goth shoes. They may even be MORE gothy because of the scripture inside!

Anyway, the point of the story being if you are having a hard time finding sufficiently goth cloths, I would highly recommend checking out you local Christian Store - apparently Christian is the new Goth.

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