Gutenberg gaffe: when someone good does something bad
I consider Project Gutenberg one of the great unselfless acts for the good of the community in the history of humanity.
I really mean that. In a way similar to the public library system, Michael S. Hart’s brain child has made public domain books available to virtually anyone at no cost.
That’s why it really pained me to see the site direct me to a “review” of the Kindle Fire which was (in my opinon) negative about the people who have bought it or received it as a gift, and ignorant as well.
It particularly saddened me because this is by their webmaster, and it validates the stereotypes many people have of geeks who act as though they are intellectually superior and enjoy making those they see as less intelligent suffer and feel bad about themselves.
I’m a geek, and like many others that I know, I love helping people. If I see someone who could benefit from something I know, I want to assist them, to make their lives better…not leave them wallowing in a pool of tears.
As you can tell, I’m emotional about this one…and I think it’s because I see Project Gutenberg as doing so much good in the world, and this, in my opinion, sullies their site. This “review” will probably discourage some people from donating to the project, and that’s a shame.
Read it and judge for yourself:
Note that the review says it is by Project Gutenberg; the organization takes responsibility for it.
This excerpt is one of the main problems I have with it:
- Don’t buy a Kindle Fire. Buy the very similar Google Nexus 7 instead, that costs the same and is not locked down.
- If you have already bought a Kindle Fire, return it, and then buy the Nexus 7 instead.
At best I can describe that as insensitive.
I called the review ignorant. Now, there is nothing wrong with being ignorant, it just means you don’t know something. However, one can always hope that a person writing for public consumption knows when they don’t know something, and will frame a statement to indicate that.
According to the site, the page was last modified on November 27, 2012. That is well after the ability to opt out of the ads on the Kindle Fire was made available.
That means that at that point, a customer chose to see the ads in exchange for a discounted price, or paid the full price not to see them. Yes, the default on the site is for the more popular version (the one in which advertisers help defray your cost of the device), but that’s really how it works.
The review indicates that the writer, a webmaster, could not figure out how to get it to stop showing ads…not even buying out of them, by the way, but just getting it to stop displaying. The person claims that even turned off, it turned itself back on to show an ad. Now, it’s possible that the device updated and rebooted, but if it was really off, I’m hard-pressed to see how it would have turned on. My guess is that the device wasn’t off. If it was having electrical problems, it seems excessive to thereby condemn the entire model (and those who purchase it or give it as a gift). Amazon is very good at replacing defective Kindles, when that does occur (and it has happened to me).
Second, the writer suggests that Amazon has made it difficult to get free books onto the Kindle Fire from outside sources.
I”m not sure what the author found so cumbersome. I just tested it (admittedly, I tested it on my 2nd generation Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB, which is what I had handy when writing this). I long-pressed (held my finger on it for about a second) the book I wanted on Project Gutenberg. It told me it was downloading. I went to the notifications (as is typical). I tapped the book: I could start reading it.
Of course, Amazon makes it easy to share public domain books, like those from Project Gutenberg, through its free
You can start reading your Project Gutenberg book on one device, pick up where you left on another and sync your notes and bookmarks…with up to 5GBs of material stored for you for free.
Project Gutenberg could make this easier by adding an “e-mail link” to the books (as, say, the Baen Free Library had done), but even without that, e-mailing it doesn’t seem that difficult.
A public service organization such as Project Gutenberg shouldn’t, in my opinion, post needlessly cruel “instructions” on their website.
Here’s the kicker.
The last item in the “review” is that they have a free app for the Kindle that makes getting Project Gutenberg books on to it even easier than it already is.
I thought it had a very nice interface, although I didn’t find downloading particularly easier that way (after I’d found the book, which was easier) than with the Silk browser.
I will continue to support Project Gutenberg as I have done in the past, but my hope is that they remove that “review”, or rewrite it substantially. The intended result seems to be to make Kindle Fire users feel bad, and that doesn’t seem to fit Project Gutenberg’s mission.
I’m going to include here the place where you can donate to support their efforts:
If you do donate, and I hope you will, you might want to mention how you feel about that review. I know you may not feel the same way I do, but regardless, expressing yourself is a good thing.
What do you think? Am I overreacting to some not atypical online snark? Am I being oversensitive because this is anti-Kindle and anti-Amazon? Do you think I wouldn’t have reacted the same way if it was a NOOK “review”? Do you feel like the webmaster has the right to say what they want to say? Does having the review muddle Project Gutenberg’s public image, or does it really not matter? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
Update: I have edited this post to remove language which I think was overly inflammatory on my part. I used an especially negative term, and I think one of my commenters correctly called me on that. I think I was being overly defensive about Project Gutenberg. My hope is still that the “review’ is either rewritten or removed.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.