Every cloud has a digital file

Every cloud has a digital file

Amazon is changing the game…again.

Look, they don’t have to keep giving us more free stuff…but it makes us more loyal customers.

It’s also about tying us into Amazon, and that’s fine with me.  I mean, if Amazon ever went under, they’d take me for Pop Tarts and pacemaker.  :)  Just kidding…I actually don’t use either of those, but I just thought it was a good idiom to make up.  ;)

Seriously, I don’t recommend you risk your relationship with Amazon by breaking your Terms of Service.  That includes installing “hacks”, by the way.  You’d be amazed what you might miss afterwards.  I’ve never heard of Amazon going after someone for using a hack, but they could.

If Amazon stopped doing business with you (which they wouldn’t do lightly), you would lose:

  • The ability to buy things from Amazon
  • Amazon’s archives for your Kindle books…when your Kindle died, your local files wouldn’t work on other devices, generally, without illegally stripping the Digital Rights Management.  I expect my descendants to have access to my Kindle library, but that won’t happen if Amazon drops me.  It could happen, by the way, if Amazon went out of business…if not one is commercially supporting the format, it may become legal to strip the DRM
  • Your notes, bookmarks, last page read info, and so on
  • The ability to Whispersync, so your books stay in the same place across devices
  • The ability to get on the internet through 3G (but not through wi-fi)
  • Your Great American Novel manuscript

Did that last one make you do a classic Spanky McFarland double-take?  A Danny Thomas spit take?  A comic book “What the–?”  An online “WTF?”

If it didn’t, it probably should have.  ;)

Amazon just announced two new “cloud” services (and one comes in two varieties):

press release

Let’s first deal with the one that doesn’t immediately impact you with the Kindle.

Amazon has created a “cloud player” for the web and one specifically for Android.

What does it do?

It lets you play music that you store with them…from anything with a browser (that can do streaming music).

I’ll probably use this.  I currently have some music on my Kindle, and that works fine.  However, the current K3 doesn’t have much volume, and playing the music does run down the battery charge.  It would be nice to be able to play it from any computer.  That’s not downloading the music, by the way: you aren’t going to take up a bunch of memory on someone else’s computer, and your company might not appreciate you downloading music (some of them won’t appreciate you streaming, either, of course).

So, it does affect my Kindle a bit, by possibly freeing up memory on my Kindle.  I do, though, listen to this music in the car sometimes (I’m far more likely to use text-to-speech, but I do music sometimes).  I’ll probably keep some music on my Kindle for convenience sake.

There is a player for the web and one for Android devices.  I tested it with my SmartPhone.  It worked fine…I was running it on wi-fi.  Be aware of data charges from your carrier when streaming music.

The player does MP3s…it doesn’t do .wavs (I have some music in that format), and the music that’s in your iTunes would have to be converted, I believe.

So, you could store up to 5GB of music for free Amazon…and listen to it on any web-connected computer with a streaming audio browser.

Note that all you have to do is buy an MP3 album, and they’ll up that to 20GB (only for one year, though…after that you would pay.  Thanks to my reader Common Sense for making that point).

Here’s the other really key thing: MP3s you buy (from here forward) automatically go to your cloud storage…and do not count against your storage space limit!

Yes, you have free unlimited music storage, as long as you buy your MP3 music from Amazon.

That’s somewhat similar to the storage we have for Kindle store books…free and unlimited.

Is that going to encourage people to buy from Amazon rather than, say, Apple?  I think so. 

We may, in the future, see some superlight devices with very little onboard storage…and stream our media and access our documents online.   Google has already seen this future: I use Google Docs, and it can work very well.  I can create a spreadsheet, and people can fill it out…food being brought to the potluck, for example.  :) 

That brings us to the other part of this, and to me, a really interesting one.  You probably won’t see it in most of the headlines for today’s move, but I think it’s possibly more important than the cloud player.

That’s the “cloud drive”.

Amazon is giving you 5GB of storage (more than your entire Kindle’s local storage) in the cloud.  You’ll be able to store any digital files.  Keep that manuscript on there, and work on it in the hotel’s business center.  You won’t have to carry that PowerPoint on your jump drive.

In fact, I would guess this may seriously hurt jump drive sales.  I use those to move files from one computer to another…this eliminates that need.  My employer recently installed Credant on all our machines…meaning we can’t save to a jump drive without putting a password on it.  That’s sort of a bother, and I largely won’t need to do that now.

Some of you have http://www.dropbox.com …this is similar, although Dropbox allows for easy sharing and syncing files on your devices, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Dropbox has a free program…why wouldn’t I just use that? 

This is Amazon.

That makes a difference to me.  I’ll be able to get to it from anywhere I could shop at Amazon.com.  I won’t need to install anything or do anything special.

I tested it…worked like a charm.  :)

Now, some of you sharp-eyed folks might have been wanting to correct me for saying “any digital file”.

There is a size limit, but there is a more important limitation.

No illegal files…you assert that you have the right to copy the file to that drive.

I think this has some very interesting possible implications.

If you put illegal copies of Harry Potter up there, could Amazon stop doing business with you?  I presume so.  They can’t let you do it…they would get in trouble for it.

Interestingly, I would also presume that you are guilty of a federal crime at that point. 

Amazon is famous for protecting customers’ privacy, but if the Feds had a warrant to search your cloud drive, they’d have to let them do it.

This is a little complicated, and I want to stress that I’m not a lawyer.

However, here’s how I understand it:

Copying is generally a right reserved for the copyright holder (with certain exceptions).  You infringe on the rights of the copyright holder if you copy a file without the rightsholder’s permission.

Having an unauthorized copy on your computer is, according to the Supreme Court, not the same as having stolen goods.

Copying the file is illegal (with certain exceptions).  Downloading an unauthorized file is not, as I understand it, illegal…although I still don’t approve of doing it knowingly.

However…in this case, you are copying it to Amazon’s cloud drive.  Certainly, if you copy it to your cloud drive and then copy it from there to somewhere else, you could have a problem.

I’m not planning to use it for copyrighted material…unless I own the copyright, as with my own material.  That’s the big plus for me.  I’m currently working on a couple of things I’m writing.  I tend to work on them on the same computer…this could change that.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Note: your Kindle doesn’t do streaming audio, so I don’t think you’ll be able to use the cloud player on that.

What do you think?  Will you use this?  Are you afraid for Amazon to have your storage?  Will you back up everything locally, or just trust Amazon to keep it for you?  Does this make any difference to you at all?  Will you buy an MP3 album, just to get four times the storage?  Feel free to let me know…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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17 Responses to “Every cloud has a digital file”

  1. Dave Says:

    I’ve already got this up and running on my HTC Incredible and I absolutely love it. I was hesitant to upload music directly to my phone before, just as a storage concern, and this alleviates that completely. Plus, like you, I love Amazon so I’m confident with using it. I use Google Docs a lot too, so I doubt I would use this for anything like a manuscript, but for music it’s great. I was exceptionally pleased that I could close the app, go read my mail and have the tunes keep on rolling. I also love that Amazon beat Apple to the cloud player that everyone expected Apple to roll out after their purchase of lala.com last year.

  2. Common Sense Says:

    First point, the 20GB is only free for the year. After that, you have to pay to keep it or lose it. That’s not a very appealing offer to me.

    Having any new music automatically available in the cloud without it counting towards my storage limit is great, but they should have offered to automatically transfer all of my existing Amazon-purchased music too. I buy most of my music from Amazon already.

    Finally, I can’t use the Android app until next year, my phone only has version 1.5 which Motorola can’t update and I’m caught up in the T-Mobile buyout.

    So for now, I’ll keep using my 32GB MP3 player, it works just fine.

    As for the service itself, it’s OK, but has some issues. It takes a long time to upload 5GB of music, 9 hours for my cable modem. If you close the upload window, it doesn’t remember what you selected or where you were, you have to start over. You need to upload in small chunks. Sometimes it doesn’t recognize some of my music files. They’re all MP3s that I either downloaded or ripped myself so I’m not sure why.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Common!

      Thanks for making that point about the MP3 album’s 20GB upgrade only being for a year…I’ll make that clearer.

      I’m going to look at that previous purchases thing…I want to be clearer about the options (or lack thereof). I assume they would have had a tough time putting presumably millions of MP3s up there all at once. However, I do think they could let us import them over time. You are right that they aren’t doing that right now, though.

      Interesting about the files…the only thing I ran into was that I had some I had forgotten were .wavs, and I did have to tell it where to look for the MP3s if they weren’t in typical music folders.

      I appreciate the insight!

  3. Morgan Says:

    hmmm, i think what would convert me is the amount of documents you can upload at one time. i haven’t located the maximum yet (not sure where it is hiding out -_-) but if it exceeds MediaFire then consider me a convert ;-)… in answer to your backing up of files question, if i used their cloud i would trust them to keep it for me. my dad raised me to have brand loyalty and Amazon sure has gained mine. Keeping my files, having access to my doc’s, etc- none of it bothers me in the least. bottom line is that Amazon has never given me a reason not to trust them.

  4. Donna Brown Says:

    I’ve already started using this for my daughters’ wedding pictures. I shudder to think about losing them (almost 1000–two daughters married within 5 months of each other) if my hard drive crashed. Yes, they are on other computers but this saves the hassle of moving them. And I can show them to others (I’m sure I can find someone who is interested;) ) on other computers. I love Amazon and anything they do I’m usually a big fan of.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Donna!

      Good use! Do you think 1,000 pictures are going to fit in the 5GB? Just curious.

      Congratulations…twice! That must have been an adventure!

      • Donna Brown Says:

        Not sure how many I’ll get to fit. It’s a rather slow process and I just do a “few” (50 or so) when I get time.
        As for the “adventure”? It was. Of course when you add my unexpected lymphoma diagnosis (in remission now) and a broken foot the day before daughter #1 gets married, you REALLY have adventure! It all turned out lovely and I am very, very blessed.

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    In some ways this is just like Skydrive (even to the name: Cloudrive instead of Skydrive). The one thing that Amazon has going for it is all the linkages they can provide going forward to all your Amazon and non-Amazon media purchases. The fact that they will let you upload any music whether bought from Amazon or not, is already giving the music industry bigwigs agita (as reported today in both the tech sections of the NYT and the WSJ).

    Anyhow, I got to thinking what about using Clouddrive as the backup location for ALL the stuff on your kindles — not just the stuff bought from Amazon. Certainly one could probably configure Calibre right out of the box to use Clouddrive as their book DB storage location. What if Amazon provided some Clouddrive kindle backup apps? What if an Android app developer wrote a reader app to read any kindle doc stored on Clouddrive (whether bought from Amazon or not)? What if some other enterprising app developer wrote an app to provide backups for Nooks, and iPads on Clouddrive?

    Now what if some super app developer were to write a reader app that could read ANY book stored on Clouddrive -no matter whether the source of the book were a kindle, nook, iPad, etc? Admittedly that would be one heck of a complicated reader app needing to handle multiple formats and DRM credentials, etc.

    I must be dreaming, yes? Amazon would surely shut such an activity down, No? But maybe not — think of the howls in the BN, Google, Apple spaces if Amazon aimed to take over the management of a whole multi-vendor, multi-source eBook environment?

    May we live in interesting times….:-)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I see a very different possible scenario. I see how this could be used by the Feds the same way they trick criminals by inviting them to a fake lottery winning. :) It might be the most effective way to catch pirates in decades…

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        My point here about the kindle didn’t really have anything to do with piracy (perhaps my next post). Here I’m positing the storage of LEGALLY obtained ebooks from a variety of sources: Amazon, Baen, BN, iBooks, etc, and then an Android app/web app that could provide a single interface to all your LEGALLY obtained ebooks no matter where acquired — what the consumer ultimately would want (I think) is the separation of reading devices from content. A blue ray player from any MFR can play any video from any source whether studio or personally created. I would like to not have my choice of reader device dictate where-from I can buy my content. A universal reader app might be a step along in that direction.

        Heck using an active content kindle app, I might even be able to provide some of that on garden variety kindles (technically that’s possible with the KDK — not sure about how Amazon and other entities might feel about that from a business and/or legal viewpoint).

        Once Amazon comes out with a tablet, I think that things like universal reader apps are a foregone conclusion. The attempts to lock devices down to specific content streams only from “approved” providers are getting ever more tenuous. Gee, now maybe I am approaching the legal boundaries :-) — I thought I had reserved that for my following post …

        While the feds (NSA in particular) are very good at breaking encryption — they are not omnipotent — witness their desires to have hardware “backdoors” into the backs of all kinds of devices simply because not all encryption is breakable. The Israelis in particular give the NSA fits. On a political level the US government is in a bit of a cleft stick — witness their positions on the attempts by the Indian, Chinese, and UAE to prevent RIM Blackberries from being used/sold — just because of their very good hard to break encryption.

        As I said below technology over time trumps all — that is to my mind a fact — not necessarily a good one — more like a double-edged sword :-).

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Ah, but the storage of the files on the cloud drive, and subsequent access (including download), could have something to do with piracy.

        Let’s say somebody downloads an unauthorized copy of Harry Potter. That person then uploads it to the cloud drive. As you know, the file isn’t moved to the server, it is copied to it. My guess is the person has committed a federal crime at that point.

        Amazon told the person not to do it (in the EULA…End User License Agreement), and the person agreed not to do it. That helps protect Amazon.

        Let’s say the person next downloads the file from the cloudserver to a different device. Amazon has now participated in the distribution. Not intentionally…but perhaps negligently, if they don’t monitor activity?

        That’s one concern of rightsholders…and I think they’ll be all over Amazon if it happens and they find out about it…even though this may increase sales.

        Second, there is a convenience factor. Let’s say I buy a copy of an MP3 from Amazon and it goes in the cloud drive. My offspring downloads the song from the cloud drive. In the past, we might have each bought a copy…lost sale due to increased convenience in sharing.

        That might be a concern as well. However, the Copyright Office finds it odd that you don’t assert your rights until it becomes convenient for people to violate them. ;) That’s why vigilant companies, like Disney, jump on infringements even if by tiny entities.

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    You mentioned Dropbox — there’s also Sugarsync, and Skydrive also has an automatic synch capability. Currently Amazon isn’t doing anything like that save for music bought from them — everything else is manual upload (some press reports say its because of unresolved licensing issues), but they could provide an autosync capability! All of the press coverage has been about music. I think this is just as important (maybe more so) for eBooks and movies. Couple this with what Time Warner is doing in allowing their cable subscribers to stream any of their on demand content to ANY in the house device with a WIFI connection to their router/cable modem, and you’ve got a major Hollywood meltdown (or at least a heckofa migraine) in the making. There’s not a lot the studios can do about with what Time Warner is doing as the existing contracts (as well as some court cases) basically say that stuff can be streamed any which way but loose as long as it stays inside the house.

    Similar things are possible with what Amazon is doing — although they are pursuing a different legal strategy. Control over distribution of content is just about going to be impossible for publishers going forward. As we have seen time and time again technology tends to trump whatever a legal statute might say … (sorry for the duplicate post — I really wish there was a way to edit already posted stuff) :-)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Syncing is one place it may be possible to draw a line. Amazon has not enabled us to sync a folder between two Amazon accounts…which is Dropbox does.

      The studios already can’t keep the videos in a house. I’ve used Tivo to Go, people have Slingbox…and my offspring could hypothetically log into Xfinity.com (Comcast) in another part of the country.

  7. KindleLover Says:

    Worried about Amazon or the Feds looking at your stuff? Just upload everything encrypted, simple as that.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kindlelover!

      Encryption is a way to basically turn it into code…um, the Feds are really good at breaking codes. :) All those hackers that get busted? The Feds get that software…and they develop their own. In fact, our computers would be very different if we hadn’t been developing them for cryptanalysis (code-breaking) in World War II.

      I would not consider any of my material “safe” from the government because it was encrypted. It’s like protecting it from Superman’s x-ray vision by locking it in a wooden box. ;)

      Does it make a difference for Amazon? I would say yes, because they wouldn’t know immediately that you had hypothetically infringed on someone’s rights…and their knowledge does matter in their liability. I could see the Feds using the fact that an e-book looking file (right size, format, and such) that was encrypted as probable cause to check the file.

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