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Industry News: E-readers and Privacy (and forced ads), Amazon Snubs Penguin on Novel Contest

December 8, 2012

You May Not  Be Browsing on Your E-Reader In Private

The battle over whether to use an e-reader or old-fashioned ink and paper usually plays out based on personal preference. After looking at the Electronic Freedom Frontier’s report on which e-readers facilitate the most tracking of your browsing, shopping, and reading habits. The report asks seven privacy-related questions and answers for nine software choices, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony. (Apple is not included for some reason.) The results are not comforting if you’re a privacy fan. For instance, Kindle, Nook, and four others share personal data without the customer’s consent. A Kindle can keep track of what you’re reading and how you’re reading. For several others, the answer is unclear. The answers to the questions are based on the license agreements and privacy policies for each platform.

What this means to you: It depends on your comfort with letting others know what you’re doing on your reader. Like any other online activity, your online reading habits are going to be tracked by someone. Some of the tracking is benevolent. For instance, when Barnes & Noble tracks your purchases, it allows you some ability to get help if your downloads are lost or damaged. Others, like sharing data with law-enforcement agencies when required, are part of doing business. But some of them, like sharing your data with other entities without your consent, could be problematic for many.

Waterstone’s Imprints Logo on Kindle Screensaver, and You Can’t Change It

UK bookstore Waterstone’s has pushed a software upgrade to many of the people who bought Kindle Fires there. There’s no security or performance improvement. The only change appears to be that the screensaver has been changed to the Waterstone’s logo. And the users can’t disable or change the screensaver. Some Kindle models are cheaper, but come with ads that appear when you aren’t reading. This change does not come with a discount–just with a receipt from Waterstone’s. For their part, Waterstone’s done not consider the screensaver to be an ad. They will, however, allow you to return the Kindle for a full refund.

What this means to you: If you didn’t by a Kindle Fire at Waterstone’s, it currently means nothing. But the story and related trend are worth watching. If Waterstone’s weathers this storm, you may see other retailers force their logo onto e-readers they sold. Screensavers, like wallpaper, are often considered something to personalize. One hopes Waterstone‘s has a lot of e-reader returns to process.

Amazon Drops Penguin From Breakthrough Novel Contest

Each year, Amazon holds a breakthrough novel contest. Before this year, they ran the contest with Penguin and used Penguin editors and other industry insiders as the judging panel. Now, all ties with Penguin and all other outside interests have been cut. Penguin will no longer publish the winners; Amazon will. And all judging will be done by Amazon. The Christian Science Monitor article says this move won’t improve Amazon’s relationships in the publishing world.

What this means to you: The big publishers are scared enough of Amazon that they arguably conspired together with Apple to limit Amazon’s influence. And author and bookstore owner Ann Patchett probably wasn’t hyperbolizing when she said “Amazon aggressively wants to kill us.” But this move falls far short of a life-threatening maneuver. Based on Amazon’s growth as a publisher, this move makes business sense. Why partner with Penguin on a contest like this when you have the ability to do the work in-house?  Amazon’s hardball negotiating tactics are a much larger danger to the industry. Their lack of business partners for this contest is not a damaging move.

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