Archive for the ‘Freedom/censorship’ Category

1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free

January 27, 2017

1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free

George Orwell’s

1984 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is currently “Temporarily out of stock” in hardback and paperback at Amazon, and that’s getting some media coverage.

It’s widely believed that the dystopian novel (written in 1948…which reportedly is why 1984 was chosen as the year of the future) sales’ spiked massively after people saw a parallel between a term used by a member of the President’s administration and the Orwellian term of “Newspeak”. I think it’s reasonable that there was a connection: there hasn’t been a new movie or TV adaptation, a big sale, a sequel, or a death related to it, all of which can cause an uptick in sales for a book.

So, given that there is also likely to be a waiting list at a public library for the p-book (paperbook), does that mean people can’t read it right now to get the perspective?

Thanks to e-books, the answer is no.

1984 is available as part of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which is Amazon’s subser (subscription service) for e-books. If someone is already a member (we’ve been happy members since it launched), they can read it as part of their $9.99 a month price (it has also been discounted from time to time) at no additional cost. If someone isn’t a member…they can get a trial membership, and could hypothetically cancel after reading 1984 and before the money came out the first time.

Do you have to own a Kindle?

Again, no.

There are free

Kindle reading apps (at AmazonSmile*)

for a multitude of devices.

This is important, and not just from a retail point of view.

I have talked about the legal market so far, but imagine that what we are talking about is a document in opposition to a totalitarian government (I say totalitarian because they tend to suppress the free exchange of information…most small “d” democratic countries allow the populace to buy books critical of the current government).

It is much easier to control the exchange of physical books than of e-books, as I wrote about roughly six and a half years ago in

Fahrenheit 111000011

There was a lot of concern expressed when Amazon removed copies of (ironically) 1984 from owners’ Kindles back in 2009, and which was the subject of one of my first posts in this blog (and one which got a mention from Stephen Windwalker (@Windwalkerhere) back then, perhaps helping spur interest in ILMK):

All’s Well That Orwells

People were afraid that e-books could mean that control of literature might be concentrated in very few (or even one) organization.

In that case, my understanding is that what happened was that a company that published the book for Australia, where it is in the public domain (no longer under copyright protection), did not intend it for the USA market (where it is still under copyright protection). Amazon accidentally made it available in the USA, and the e-tailer removed the copies which people had purchased.

Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) called it “stupid” and customers were more than compensated for Amazon’s error.

Still, if Amazon decided not to sell that book or some other one, would that control the literature, affecting opposition thinking?

E-books can be illegally distributed pretty easily…I am not advocating that, of course, but it can be done. Those could be e-books of what was published in paper: someone could take a picture of each page, for example, and then “publish” that as a pdf.

What if a government shutdown all access to the internet, and outlawed every kind of electronic device?

Well, yes, that would hypothetically be possible, but would really impact their economic viability…even China doesn’t do that. Internet access in some countries is very limited, but people often still have electronic devices so hand-passed media would still be a distribution channel.

Would it be easier to make and distribute digital copies…or paper copies? I think that seems obvious…electronics could be done in a much simpler way.

This example of 1984 being easily available legally in e-book form right now and not available easily as a physical book is one example of the difference in distribution…and how it would be harder to suppress.

Two hundred years from now, it’s possible that p-books will have survived and e-books won’t have…but if your concern is the ability to spread information to affect a modern government right here and right now, e-books are going to be more effective.

Bonus deal: for a limited time, Amazon is giving a 10% discount when you buy two Fire tablets, and a 15% discount on two Fire cases:

Fire Tablet (at AmazonSmile*)

Some restrictions apply (although it appears to apply to all current models), and it may not apply in your country or still be in effect when you check…so do check that it is available (there should be a banner at the top of the page) before you check-out.

The deal currently is that you use a promo code of FIRE2PACK for the devices and CASE2PACK for the cases.

What do you think? How did people make the connection between what they heard in the news and an almost 60 year old science fiction novel? Are e-books harder to suppress than p-books? Is a bigger fear that a government would subtly alter a book, rather than censor it altogether? Has a current event ever prompted you to read an older book for perspective? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Utopia is banned in Texas prisons? It’s Banned Books Week

September 27, 2016

Utopia is banned in Texas prisons? It’s Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week again:

Official Site

“Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.”

Since 1982, the group (which includes the American Library Association) has listed the most “challenged” books.

I write about this every year, and my feelings on it are simple and I think pretty clear. Reading books is a good thing. Reading diverse books is a good thing. Limiting the books people read, as a rule of thumb, is a bad thing.

I can understand banning the distribution or sale of books which infringe copyright: that’s not the same thing as banning the book, it’s enforcing the law on a particular version or circulation of a book.

This year, I thought I’d highlight a particular issue: books banned in prisons.

Let’s start with this article from The Guardian (a British newspaper):

The Guardian article by Stuart Miller

It talks specifically about the Texas Department of Criminal Justice banning a wide variety of books for prisoners.

It kicks off talking about Wolf Boys, a non-fiction book which doesn’t encourage drug use…but does have a short section on an obvious way to smuggle drugs, which is apparently why it was banned.

I would have linked to it…but the publisher has blocked text-to-speech** access, which is another whole issue and not, let me stress, equivalent.

This is the government preventing prisoners from getting books…legal censorship for a particular population.

Now, unquestionably, prisoners have fewer rights than the non-prison population. As a simple example, they can’t freely assemble within the prison…they can be told specifically they can’t gather together.

I tried to find an official list of all the books that are banned…and was stymied in several attempts. I found broken 404 links, and comments (including from news organizations) about not being able to get such a list.

That seems a bit odd. Doesn’t seem like the family of a prisoner, who might buy a paper copy of a book and send it to a prisoner, should know if it will be confiscated and the rules offended? They might not want to break the rules: but how can they do that if they don’t know what they are? Sure, I can see a spot decision made on a book which has not been previously evaluated, but you might as well tell people the books about which you’ve already decided.

I’ve seen some books listed, but can’t confirm them…hence the “?” in my headline.

I saw a report that they ban

Utopia (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This is a 16th Century book by Thomas More about a fictional society…the word has come into common use as a “perfect society”, but I’m sure that’s not how people tend to seriously interpret it (for one thing, slavery is part of the society…although the slaves do have gold chains).

On the other hand, I’ve seen a report that Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler is permitted.

I would give prisoners free access to any legally produced books.

I can immediately see some objections raised.

Sexually explicit material?

Sure, that’s fine with me, when legally produced.

Books on making bombs? If they are legal, I’m not banning them. What, you think when criminals have served their terms they can’t get those books on the outside? They won’t have the materials they need in the prison…you aren’t preventing them from learning how to make bombs, you are just delaying it.

Racist/homophobic/sexist books and so on?

Yes, I would allow that. I wouldn’t have the government determining what fits certain rules and what doesn’t. Fifty years ago, many topics which we consider to be acceptable, even empowering today, would have been banned as potentially dangerous…that they would make people not “right thinking”.

I suspect that unfettered access to public libraries for prisoners would have a net positive effect on reducing future criminal acts.

I don’t have the evidence for that…just my feeling. I would guess that the TDCJ doesn’t have science that shows that reading a book that advocates hatred against a protected group being read by prisoners actually increases activity against that group.

I don’t know much about them, but I did run across this organization:

Books to Prisoners

You can choose to support them through

http://smile.amazon.com

if you like…maybe just for this week. There are other organizations you can support that way that may tie into this issue, of course.

All of this reminds me of the campaign against comic books in the 1950s, covered more than ably in

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

by David Hadju, which I recommend.

That’s not to equate prisoners with children, but in both cases, the concept is that reading may corrupt the morals of a population (although, clearly, there are other justifications given for banning books for prisoners, including, as noted above, practical knowledge).

What do you think? Should prisoners have free access to books? If not, which types of books should be banned? Why should they be banned? Is it because of the impact of the book on the prisoner, or as a form of punishment? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle/Fire with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Today’s KDD: up to 80% off banned books

September 26, 2015

Today’s KDD: up to 80% off banned books

September 27th through October 3rd marks this year’s Banned Books Week. You can find out more about the event at the

Official Site

Although it’s called “Banned”  Books (mostly due to the power of alliteration, I think), it’s really more about books that are challenged by people. Banning suggests that the government prevents the book from being sold or read. Challenging is more a case of people in the public, often parents/legal guardians, wanting a book removed from a school, a school library, or a public library.

2014’s most challenged book, according to the site?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

by Sherman Alexie.

What contributes to a book being one of the most challenged books?

There are various kinds of content, but that alone won’t get enough responses. There are plenty of books with content that offends a lot of people that almost no one even knows exists.

So, one thing we can assume about challenged books? They are impactful. People have heard of it, people have bought it, people have read it.

Now, it’s possible a book is preemptively protested, before it is even released…but I don’t think that’s going to get these sorts of challenges much…that’s going to be blogosphere material.

That’s one reason to read “banned books”: they are probably emotionally moving and/or intellectually challenging.

Another reason people read them is, well, to make the point. They want to counterpoint people who won’t read them and who want to prevent people from reading them, by doing just that…reading them.

Amazon has done this before in conjunction with Banned Books Week, and it’s a great opportunity. One of today’s

Kindle Daily Deal(s) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is up to 80% off banned and challenged books.

Today’s deals include:

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
  • Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  • Paula by Isabel Allende
  • The F- It List by Julie Halpern
  • In The First Circle by Alexandrr Solzhenitsyn
  • I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates
  • God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell
  • Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern
  • Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson
  • When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
  • Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks
  • Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott
  • Chican by Richard Vasquez
  • Great Short Works of Mark Twain
  • My Book of Life by Angel by Matine Leavitt

Looked to me like the prices ranged from $0.99 to $2.99…nice! Remember to check the price before you click that Buy button: this deal may not apply in your country (and I have readers around the world…that’s always humbling to say).

You can also buy these as gifts, and delay the delivery date until the appropriate occasion.

Enjoy!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Censorship, free speech, and the (non)selling of symbols

June 25, 2015

Censorship, free speech, and the (non)selling of symbols

Amazon, along with several other retailers, is reportedly no longer going to carry items with the “Confederate flag” on them.

This is one of many articles on it:

CNN article by MJ Lee

This is a more complex issue than it might appear at first, and lands squarely in the middle of a topic we’ve discussed before.

Let’s talk about this in more general terms, rather than in the specific of this issue. That’s an important thing to do, especially for something involving a public entity. What may seem obvious to some people in one case then becomes a precedent for other cases where it may appear to be less clear cut.

First, First Amendment free speech of the publisher/product manufacturer is not involved. The First Amendment to the US Constitution has to do with what the government can do. It doesn’t have to do with what your friends, family…or employer can do.

An employer has the right to tell you that you can’t talk about politics with the customers. The government can’t tell you that you can’t talk politics with your social circle, but that’s entirely different.

Similarly, the government telling you that you couldn’t display a symbol or publish a book on a topic would be an infringement of the First Amendment…a bookstore refusing to carry books that promoted murder )or supported civil rights) can do that.

So, Amazon has the right to not carry books on pretty much any basis.

As a customer, you also have the right not to shop at a store that carries certain items…or refuses to carry them.

Amazon has other items it chooses not to carry…while carrying other controversial ones.

Snopes, which is a wonderful resource for checking out urban legends has even addressed a story that Amazon pulled Confederate flags, but not ISIS flags:

Snopes article by Kim LaCapria

As readers, it’s important to note that books are usually treated quite differently than visual depictions. Pornography prosecutions are going to go after videos or magazines with pictures far more often than text erotica.

I just did a quick search for

Confederate flag in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile*)

Right off the bat, there are visual depictions of the symbol on book cover images…even though Amazon has supposedly removed sales of items with such displays.

Books are, as I would have expected, apparently being treated as a different class.

Even if you wish you would never see that particular flag again, you have to think about how you would like to achieve that goal. Do you want the government to ban it? Do you want stores to choose not to carry it? Do you want people to elect, on an individual basis, not to show it publicly? Privately?

Extend this to other symbols…the swastika might be a choice of some, perhaps necessitating cover changes to books like

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (at AmazonSmile*)

For some of you, that may seem like a slippery slope argument…and I’ll keep sliding for a moment. 😉 If banning the symbol makes sense, does banning writing about the symbol make sense? Should you ban pro-Confederate non-fiction? What about fiction? Are books required to condemn the Confederacy if they are going to write about the “War Between the States”, “American Civil War”, or “War of Yankee Aggression”? You’ll see all three terms used in the USA, by the way, in part depending on where you are.

That’s not going to happen…not by the government.

However, industry groups have had “moral codes”.

The Comics Code Authority, for example had some very specific rules:

“3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”

“5. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.

6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.”

http://www.comicartville.com/comicscode.htm

Imagine if those rules applied to modern television…

Remember that the Comics Code applied to publishing…and while some of it has to do with what is drawn, the above examples and many others have to do with the narrative.

My personal philosophy on this?

Let me give you an analogy.

I would prefer that people never started smoking cigarettes…that the product never existed.

I have a very bad reaction to cigarette smoke, and someone I know with asthma has had to go to the Emergency Department from unexpected exposure.

Would I pass a law banning cigarette smoking?

No.

What I would want is that everyone simply stops smoking or selling cigarettes. I know that won’t happen, at least not for a very long time.

Now, smoking in public is an issue for me, because there are clear public health impacts. I understand laws about that. I’d equate it to you not being able to drive your car on the sidewalk…but its fine with me if you want to drive your own car into the side of your own unoccupied house

Some people are going to equate displaying what they see as a symbol of hate with smoking in public. They think the exposure to the idea is psychologically/morally harmful in the same way that second hand smoke is physically harmful.

To that, I would say, “Show me the science”.

If it can be reasonably shown that exposure to an idea (visually or textually represented) in public is a threat to public safety (the classic example of yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre), then it makes sense to me for the government to regulate it. Not destroy it entirely, but removing the public safety threat.

If an error is going to be made due to fuzzy results, I’m going to tend to lean in favor of intellectual freedom.

Could someone argue that reading Gone with the Wind or Tarzan makes someone racist? I suppose, but in order for action to be taken, I’d want there to be very solid evidence of that public impact, and then only take actions against what  I would assume to be a narrow set of circumstances. I’ve read Tarzan, and certainly recognize the racial depiction of Jane’s maid…but I don’t think that made me any less tolerant. I would guess that recognizing it actually may have contributed to me being more tolerant. There are studies that suggest that reading makes you more tolerant, not less.

I realize that this a controversial topic, and debated even writing this piece…but I’m very interested in what you think. Should Amazon be compelled not to carry certain works? Should the e-tailer make that choice, or should they leave it up to market forces? Why are books treated differently from visual depictions? Does consuming media change people’s morals and behavior…and if so, for both good and bad? I do think I have  benefited from modeling my behavior to some extent on fiction (I think I’m a much better person for wanting to follow certain ideas of Doc Savage…although I do think those books have been reasonably challenged for ethnic/racial depictions). Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Is Amazon testing a content advisory system for books?

March 23, 2015

Is Amazon testing a content advisory system for books?

I’ve written before about how people sometimes want a rating system for books like there are for movies, TV, and videogames.

They want to know if a book is “X-rated” before they buy it.

Well, as I’ve explained, all three of the content types above which do have it are industry created. I think some people believe the government puts those ratings on movies, and that’s just not the case.

The movie studios may have been motivated to do it in part by fear of prosecution (for corrupting a minor and/or distributing pornography).

The TV ratings were…um, “suggested” by the government in 1996, but are implemented by the industry.

In both cases, the audiences are tiered…the ratings don’t tell you specifically about what is in the works, but about who should watch it.

It would be much more complicated to get that sort of thing to happen with books.

It’s not just that there is a lot more reluctance to regulate the written word, although that is part of it. There are also issues of how the industry is organized.

However…

Many people do want some kind of guidance about the content of works.

They don’t want to be told what they can and can’t read, for the most part, but there are people who would like to make their reading choices informed in part by language, sexual content, violent content, and more.

That desire has created independent review boards, and even a new buzzed about app, Clean Reader:

Huffington Post post by Claire Fallon

Clean Reader (not available from the Amazon Appstore at this point) sells you books…and then has a filtering system that will cover-up different levels of profanity for you. It doesn’t actually remove the words, just prevents you from seeing them (although you can reveal them if you choose, I believe). You can see a demo Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.inktera.cleanreader

and it is listed at 1Mobile.com, so you could get it for your Kindle Fire if you choose (although with all 3rd party apps, you take responsibility for what it might do to your device…only reasonable, since it won’t have been vetted by Amazon’s team).

Well, Amazon is apparently experimenting with something new…which I think could be effective.

I wrote yesterday about a book I recently read

Spinster’s Gambit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

where my appreciation of the book was reduced a bit by a “love scene”.

I doubt, by the way, that Clean Reader would have done much with that…I don’t remember any likely trigger words.

However, when I wrote the review of the book on Amazon, I saw something new that I thought was worth mentioning in another post.

You may not see it when you review a book…Amazon is big into “A/B testing”, meaning not everybody sees the same thing at the same time, so they can evaluate the impact.

When I wrote the review (and, full disclosure, the author is a friend of our now adult kid, although I don’t know the author personally and am not otherwise connected to the book except as a reader…I bought our copy from Amazon, just as you would), I was given some dropdown lists from which to make choices.

Alexis Radcliff’s Lexirad

blog post

has screenshots of at least some of the choices (I didn’t capture them at the time). Those match what I saw.

Two of the have to do with content.

You could say, for example, if there was violence, with “no violence”, “some violence”, or “graphic violence”.

Obviously, those choice are subjective. What defines graphic violence, for example? Does cartoon-style violence count? Does it have to do with the amount of description? For example, what if a work simply said someone was “stabbed” and the person dies of the wound, versus a passage that explains in minute detail someone who has an ear cut off? Are either of those “some violence”, “graphic violence”, or neither?

It was also interesting that I could choose the “mood” of the book. The mood choices hardly seemed all inclusive, and I wouldn’t say they were there for a content advisory in the way that sex and violence are…unless some people would return a book because it was “light-hearted” or “nostalgic”. 😉

I looked to see if there was any evidence of my choices or other people’s choices on the product page…I don’t see anything.

This can be used in a few different ways.

One would be to have it visible on the product page. Amazon would not be “censoring” the books, or putting an “age appropriate” label on them…it would be sharing crowd sourced assessments. They could either show the most popular choice, or always show all of them.

However, there is another way they could use it where it would not be visible on the product page.

They could use this to give you more targeted recommendations.

If you always ranked a book with graphic violence as 1 star (or as 5 star) that would be guidance to perhaps improve Amazon’s recommendations for you.

The third thing I see is that it could be used to aid discovery, in a way similar to

AllReaders.com search for a book by element

which I’ve also written about before.

That could also tie into something like Amazon’s Echo (mine is “not yet shipped” still, although my estimated delivery date runs from this Wednesday through April 9th). You could ask the Echo to recommend a light-hearted book, or simply to just recommend a book (if it already knew your preferences, based on your reviews).

To be fair, I want to point out that Radcliffe saw (and wrote first about) these same ideas. This is a case of us thinking alike, although I would say we approach this from different backgrounds.

I think Amazon asking these sorts of questions is an important way for them to improve their “context awareness”. We will increasingly want that…we want our devices to understand us, and not show us things which we feel are irrelevant to our personal preferences.

There is a risk in that, of course. I hope that I never feel like I know what I wouldn’t want to read…before I even read it! While some may want to search by “no violence”, if they did so, they might miss out on Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and…wait, what books don’t have any violence? 😉

I do think that knowing ahead of time if a book has a graphic sex scene would be helpful for me, though. I use text-to-speech quite a bit, and more than once, my phone has included part of a book in a text I was dictating to my Significant Other. That might be confusing… 😉

What do you think? Have you seen those questions when reviewing a book on Amazon? Did you see different options? Would you filter searches based on the “mood” of the book? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Books as a vaccine against hate

February 8, 2015

Books as a vaccine against hate

There has been a lot of discussion recently about people who choose not to vaccinate their children.

That doesn’t seem like a particularly complicated issue to me.

I should say first, I’m not a clinician, although I have worked with them for more than a decade.

This is the way that vaccines generally work, as I understand it.

You are exposed to a version of a disease. That version might be dead, or it might be greatly weakened.

Your body develops antibodies against that disease.

It needs to know that the threat is, analyze it, and blueprint something to go against it…that’s why the vaccine exposes the person to it, but in a generally harmless version.

There is a great deal of evidence that the concept works.

There are people who are unusually at risk from the vaccine…just as there are people who are unusually at risk going into a school or a mall.

For example, a child might have a tremendously compromised immune system. Most kids do fine going to school with other children around them. They get exposed to diseases, but are able to cope with that.

An immunocompromised child might be unable to fight off those same diseases, so going to school is an unusual risk.

In extreme cases, those children might become “bubble children”, and live at home in a specially designed protective facility. Fortunately, nowadays, they may be able to “attend” school through the use of a telepresence robot. The child stays at home in the “clean” environment, and steers a robot from classroom to classroom. The robot has a screen and sensors, so the child can both see and be seen.

A child with a medical condition like might have a very strong contraindication for the same vaccine which would be beneficial for the majority of children.

Some people choose not to vaccinate their children for other reasons…religious reasons, for example.

If you think that the government should make decisions based on your religion, you may then think that the guardians of the child have the right not to vaccinate.

If that’s the case, it also seems reasonable to say that the unvaccinated child should not be in a position to expose other children.

That unvaccinated child could be a carrier of a disease (they might have the disease and be able to spread it without showing symptoms or being noticeably affected themselves). It’s possible that there is an immunocompromised child in the classroom who has not yet been diagnosed. Even a disease which would generally be survivable might be fatal to that child.

If someone is unvaccinated, it’s a risk to have them around other people, depending in part on the contagious nature of the disease. I would feel differently if the vaccine mitigated the risk of a noncontagious condition than if it did the same for a contagious one.

I understand the controversy and the emotional desire to protect your children evidenced by both sides.

I see a parallel to reading books.

Many people want to protect their children from ideas which they consider dangerous.

We talk every year about “banned books”: books which have been challenged by individuals or groups, to get them removed from school and public libraries.

There are typically reasons given. I created a pie chart of those when I wrote about Banned Books week for 2013:

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

In my case, I want my child (who is now an adult) and other people to read ideas with which I disagree.

I think it’s much better that someone gets exposed to the ideas in the form of a book, where it is a more controlled situation than in a personal interaction. It’s much easier to set a book aside and think about it and look at contradicting ideas than it is to do that during a face to face conversation.

I’d never thought of it this way before, but it is like getting a vaccination.

By being exposed to the ideas, you can develop a defense against them (if that’s the way you go). That defense can be used when encountering it in an active situation.

I’m sure many of my readers have done that. “Actually, I’ve read such and such, and that’s not what it says.” Alternatively, “I’ve read about that: how do you answer this question?”

That seems like a similar mechanism to getting a vaccine.

Arguably, there might be people who shouldn’t be exposed to a particular idea because of an unusual  susceptibility…like the immunocompromised children above.

It might not make sense for someone to read a book with a glorified suicide (MINOR SPOILER ALERT, I’M NOT SAYING WHO OR IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES: Romeo and Juliet comes to mind END SPOILER ALERT) if they are actively diagnosed with suicidal tendencies and being treated for it.

Let’s take this analogy one step further.

If books are a vaccine against hate, is there a “herd immunity”? If more people read something hateful and develop a mental/emotional defense against it, would that tend to protect the community?

My guess is that it would.

If, say, 95% of the people in a town have already read and rejected an idea, and a person espousing that idea comes to town, I think the idea would be less likely to be able to “infect” the town successfully.

Does that mean that “protecting” your child against ideas with which you disagree is potentially putting the community at risk?

I think that’s a possibility.

For children, the guardians are part of building the “idealogical immune system”. Being open to discussing a book with your child is a great way for them to develop a response to something.

My inclination is always towards openness in terms of reading choices. If my child chose to read a book by a hate group, I would hope (and expect) that we would discuss it. That discussion would help a child build that “blueprint” of an antibody, which could then be used later in the event of a full-blown confrontation.

One last thing.

As I’m writing this, one of my challenges is thinking of what would be these dangerous ideas. I think that’s individual, and difficult to determine…so I would let a child read as many different ideas as possible: especially ones which contradict my own.

Note: there are books which are produced through harming people. For me, that’s a different thing. It is the production of the book which is the problem, and you may not choose to support that methodology. I completely understand that, and find it a reasonable position.

What do you think?

We are talking about ideas here…is preventing exposure to an idea a good thing? Under what circumstances? Do you seek out books to read which contradict your own beliefs? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #274: Americans’ fear, hardware sales

October 23, 2014

Round up #274: Americans’ fear, hardware sales

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Hardware sales

There are a lot of sales lately on hardware from Amazon.

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation – 3rd) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

$179…$20 off

This the model I use every day…and I like it well enough that I’m not looking to upgrade to this year’s models (although I’m hoping to get to review them for you).

In fact, I’m watching the World Series right now on mine, using the free

FOX Sports GO (at AmazonSmile*)

app. It looks great, by the way!

I saw some interesting reviews of the app…some may have been written for an earlier version, since it works fine for my Fire HDX. I also saw someone saying that it would kill cable…nope. I had to sign into our cable provider before it would let me watch.

I can also mirror it to my TV, using my Fire TV.

Right now, there is a sale on a bundle of the Fire HDX and the Fire TV:

Amazon Fire TV & Kindle Fire HDX 7″ Wi-Fi 16GB with Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

$259

If you think of the FHDX as $179, that makes the Fire TV $80…$20 off. That’s $40 off both!

I like my Fire TV a lot, too…this might be a case of you keeping both (they go together very well, thanks to the mirroring), or giving one or both as gifts at the holidays.

That deal is so good they are limiting it to one to a customer…while it lasts.

The

Amazon Fire Phone, 32GB (AT&T) (at AmazonSmile*)

which isn’t my favorite Amazon device at this point…but it does work as my phone, it’s available for as little as…free (with a plan).

Meanwhile, you can get a refurb (refurbished) Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ with 4G…for as little as $159!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AFKC9UO/ref=gb1h_rlm_c-3_4282_1b6b5d9c?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_t=701&pf_rd_s=center-new-3&pf_rd_r=109CTB24BCY6KJRT4A18&pf_rd_i=20&pf_rd_p=1952684282

To use the 4G (which is like a cellphone connection…it’s another way to connect to the internet, in addition to the wi-fi it can also do), you’ll need to pay for a dataplan…but$159 for an 8.9″ device is a really good deal.

This is the model that has an HDMI out, so you can show what’s on your tablet on your TV using a cable (if your TV has an HDMI in…most modern TVs will). That’s a plus, in just needing a cable. However, some apps will detect the HDMI cable and refuse to play…the Xfinity app used to do that for me.

The refurbs have the same warranty as new ones.

New 10.1″ NOOK tablet

You think 8.9″ is big?

Barnes & Noble and Samsung have just announced a 10.1″ tablet:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1

It’s $299.99 (with a $50 rebate), and comes with $200 of NOOK content (they pick, not surprisingly).

Yep, they are still in the game…

A charter for readers’ rights

I have to say, this

CBC article by Jason Proctor

strikes me as truly bizarre.

Certainly, it’s reasonable to write an article setting out what you think should be the rights of readers…I was expecting something to balance what the authors have recently been saying, and what the publishers and retailers say.

This one just has some very odd points.

Before I do that, let me say…the title actually says “reader’s rights”, and maybe that’s appropriate. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be plural, but just this writer’s personal pet peeves. 😉

Second, the photo that they have of a Kindle is the original, 2007 model.  Perhaps Proctor would be a bit less anti-Kindle if the current models were compared to paper?

Maybe not…

I’ll just mention the first complaint: movie tie-in editions. Yep, Proctor doesn’t like it that you can buy a copy of a book with pictures of the actors from the movie on the cover.

I think, perhaps, Jason Proctor doesn’t realize how much movies affect sales of books, and how much they can turn movie watchers into readers. This strikes me as a kind of literati snobbery…if you aren’t a “pure reader”, don’t be a reader at all.

I’d rather encourage everybody to read…and if a movie is a gateway to reading, great! I suspect it wouldn’t have been too hard to find an edition of the book without the movie cover, if you wanted to do that.

You can add your own comments as they build this list at

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/book-lovers-unite-a-plea-for-a-charter-of-reader-s-rights-1.2791581

I might do that, but I’d want to do it in a positive way. Of course, one of mine might be:

1. The right to read any edition of any book, even one with a movie tie-in cover, without having anyone look down on me and try to discourage me from reading 😉

British perspective on USA and book banning

I don’t want to suggest that there is only one British perspective on…well, anything. 🙂 Just like there wouldn’t be only one American perspective on anything.

However, it does say something when a person from outside your group is stating that they are looking at you in that way…as an outsider.

This

The Guardian article by Mary O’Hara

The article looks at books being challenged in America (challenged in libraries, school curricula, that sort of thing) for being “anti-capitalist”.

I’m not sure that it’s a widespread problem, but it happens…remember that this isn’t censorship by the government, but individuals and groups requesting that books be withheld from readers.

I think the article reasonably makes its point: I believe that some people don’t want people reading books which go against “American values”.

I think that attitude is a non-productive one. As I’ve said many times on the blog before, I want people to be exposed to ideas which are the opposite of mine. I don’t want those ideas to slink around freely in the shadows: I want to shine the full light of day on them, and let people see them for what they are.

In the past, industry groups have imposed these sorts of rules on themselves. The old Comics Code Authority included a provision that “…Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”

In the USA, we’ve never applied a standard like that to books. Certainly, Huck Finn wouldn’t have passed a restriction like that, just to name one.

According to this article, this is being applied to non-fiction in addition to fiction.

People often ask on the Amazon Kindle forums how they can tell which books are “R rated”, or something like that.

The answer is simple: none of them.

The movie industry has its own rating system.

The music industry has its own rating system.

The videogame industry has its own rating system.

The book publishing industry does not…and I don’t think it is likely to establish one.

However, just because the publishers aren’t getting together to label books, that doesn’t mean that private groups aren’t doing it.

Those groups may also go after schools and libraries.

I’m not quite sure if the article is suggesting that this is an American flaw…that it is something which wouldn’t happen in the UK.

We have always had different standards. American movies have tended to be more lenient with violence and stricter with sexual content than European movies (and TV).

The Boris Karloff Frankenstein was given an “H certificate” in England…rating it too horrific for those under 16 years of age (this wasn’t universally ((no pun intended)) enforced).

I must say I found it an interesting perspective, and I think you may as well.

What do you think? Are Americans (not the government) more likely to try to block counter-culture material than Britons? The article really focuses on how the block can be against portraying poverty…do we only want our children to read through rose-colored glasses? Does a 10.1 inch tablet interest you…and will the NOOK brand still be around a year from now? Should Amazon bring out a tablet that large? What about an EBR (E-Book Reader) that size? What would you put on a list of “readers’ rights”? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Russia starts Word War

May 6, 2014

Russia starts Word War

That’s right…Word War. Why, what did you think I said? Oh, no, there’s no L in that first word. 😉

Actually, this is a serious and disturbing story, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit…by using words.

After all, that’s what this is about: the words artists use.

According to this

The Moscow Times article by Ivan Nechepurenko

and other sources, President Vladimir Putin just signed a bill banning the use of swearing in public performances…that means in movies and theatre. I’m not sure why TV isn’t being immediately listed, although they may feel that is already sufficiently controlled in Russia.

Regular readers know that I don’t use swear words in these posts (for example, I may refer to the title of Charles Fort’s book as “The Book of the D*mned”). I also don’t use them in my “real life”.

However, that does not mean that I oppose their use by others, including in art.

I do warn people when there is language in a book…but that’s so that they can make an informed decision on reading it or buying it for someone else.

I read books with obscenities in them. I know they are going to be there ahead of time…that doesn’t stop me.

In fact, I have a problem with all kinds of obscenity statutes. I think anything fictional should be allowed. I don’t want to ban ideas.

That is ideas…not actions. There are certainly illegal and harmful physical actions people can do, and profiting from the actual (as opposed to fictional) marketing of recordings (not simulations) of those is an entirely different issue.

Banning words, though? I can’t justify it.

It doesn’t matter to me what the words are. The Institute of Russian Language recently (in December) defined some words which would certainly be included in the ban. The article describes them:

“Two depict male and female reproductive organs, one describes the process of copulation and the last refers to a promiscuous woman.”

Presumably, those words will be in Russian (I actually took some Russian years ago), but the ban will likely also apply to foreign movies using equivalent words in English.

Now, when I say “ban”, it’s really a matter of being fined for using them in certain kinds of works of art. It’s not that big a fine…about $1,400 for a company (although the penalties get more severe with repeated infractions). Gee, I suppose if they show The Wolf of Wall Street in Russia, it might offset the impact of foreign sanctions on the economy. 😉

This isn’t retroactive, though. It’s all a bit convoluted. Books will be issued with warnings…it’s more about movies and theatre, from what I can see.

The bottom line is the statement of it. “We will control your language”.

Even if you agree with, for instance, banning books with the “F word” or “N word” in elementary schools, this is a dangerous precedent for Russia. Suppose they decide a term for a minority group is an obscenity? Or a minority idea? What if they said that “free market” was obscene? What if they said that if you say “Roma” or “Krymchak” you can be fined?

In many countries, it has been made illegal to speak specific languages. That’s a way to hold down minorities…and can lead to the endangerment of the existence of that language.

For me, it’s the concept that the government controls the words that are used that’s the problem. I have no issue with the market voting against the use of words by not buying a product. I personally prefer to have information (but not spoilers) about something before I buy it…but I don’t want the government to force that on us.

What do you think?

Please feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post…I know the poll doesn’t cover all of the options. Could it happen in the USA? How is this different from the movie rating system (which is industry self-regulation, not government mandated)? Is the Russian government just trying to protect its people? Is this much ado about nothing? I look forward to your comments (and yes, I might change obscenities you use…but I’ll make it clear if I do. I find that quite different from the government doing it. I think publishers and movie theatres can choose the content with which they are comfortable: again, that’s a market thing to me).

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Chicken Little: “Amazon is removing all erotica and self-published books”

October 15, 2013

Chicken Little: “Amazon is removing all erotica and self-published books”

I’ve had a story brewing for a couple of days about the removal of some titles from some e-book retailers (including Amazon) because of their content.

However, this has just started to explode, with multiple threads in the Amazon Kindle forums with some really hyperbolic statements.

There is some real SIF (Sky Is Falling) panic possibility here, so let’s take a look at what is actually happening…and the implications.

Let’s start out with this article from October 11th (and warning, the article itself is going to be offensive to some):

The Kernel article: “An Epidemic of Filth” by Jeremy Wilson

This is the one that caused a lot of response…which may have resulted in Amazon and Kobo removing some titles.

Here’s a brief quotation:

“Unlike the bookshelves in physical stores, online bookstores appear to be a Wild West of depraved content sure to horrify every parent and book-lover.”

Now, it’s worth taking a look at the other articles on that site. I’ll let you judge the tone of the website yourself. I’ll say…that they would probably agree with me that “dispassionate” would not be an appropriate adjective.

Shortly afterwards, there was this

BBC article: “Amazon removes abuse-themed e-books from store” by Matthew Wall and Dave Lee

Not just Amazon, but other online retailers, are apparently removing books, both cited in the Kernel article and not cited.

That’s what is raising the concern.

These are going to be independently published books, from what I’ve seen.

This has been expanded into Amazon removing all independently published books and all erotica.

Neither seems likely.

The concern here is whether Amazon is selling illegal books…and that’s not the case for all erotica or all independently published books.

It is important to note two things about Amazon’s role here.

Amazon has the right to carry or not carry whatever they want as long as it is legal. They are not censors when they choose not to carry something. That can be purely a business decision. If they decided that people didn’t like seeing books with purple font on the cover, they could just stop carrying those. They are under no obligation to carry anything.

Second, and this may be significant, Amazon can be seen as at the least a distribution platform for books coming through Kindle Direct Publishing, and is arguably a publisher. That may give them some more legal responsibility if the books are actually illegal.

That’s the next big question.

Are these books illegal?

This brouhaha is really happening in the UK, and I don’t know their laws about pornography well enough to make that assessment.

Let’s say, though, that the books depict illegal acts (using words, not pictures). That in and of itself does not make them illegal…if it did, huge categories of books, including all murder mysteries, would be illegal.

The books in question are fiction. It’s interesting to me that a society would make any fiction actually illegal. Suppose you take the very most vile kinds of sexual crime you can imagine, and depict them using just words. It’s somewhat different with images, since it is harder to fake some things there (but not a lot more difficult, any more).

With words, directly out of the author’s imagination, no one is actually harmed in the creation of the work.

There are those who argue that people are harmed by the consumption of the work, but that does get very complicated.

This is clearly illustrated by the lead article on Kernel today:

NEW AMAZON SHAME: HOLOCAUST DENIAL by Edna Crowley

Even if you think something like Holocaust denial is absolutely reprehensible, is it a “shame” for a bookstore to carry books that take that position?

I’m a great believer in free speech (which has to do with what the government does, not what corporations are individuals do). If somebody has ideas with which I intensely disagree, I want those ideas exposed for everybody to see. Put them on TV, let them march, publish the screeds. If people agree with me, great. If they don’t, fine…but I don’t want those sorts of ideas to flourish only underground, where the greater society doesn’t know about them.

Certainly, the books listed in the first article which seems to have prompted their removal seem not only repugnant to me, but in violation of Amazon’s own self-publishing terms. In the US, their publicly available

Content Guidelines

say

“Pornography
We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Content
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”

Those have always seemed very fuzzy to me, especially the use of the word “offensive”. What offends me is not necessarily what offends you.

“A sodomite got very excited looking at a zoology text. Does this make it pornography?”
–Stanislaw J. Lec writing in Unkempt Thoughts, translated by Jacek Galaska

Amazon says it doesn’t accept pornography or “offensive content”, and yet it carries fiction that many people might find offensive (including depictions of incest, which was a focus of the first Kernel article).

Did the books cited simply get past Amazon’s review, due to a lack of diligence? Or was it a deliberate disregarding of their own rules?

In either case, I don’t think we are going to see Amazon sweepingly remove all erotica or all independently published books from its store. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Might they over zealously remove some books which “shouldn’t” be removed? Sure, that might happen…just as YouTube removed an Amazon ad for the Kindle Paperwhite that some people apparently found offensive. They won’t be any under obligation to restore books that got caught in too wide a sweep, but they will likely do so…it makes economic sense to have books in the store that aren’t in violation of the guidelines, and could affect their relationship with authors to remove books unnecessarily.

Summing up:

  • An article on a website in the UK called out Amazon and others for carrying offensive books
  • Amazon and others removed some books, apparently in response
  • Those books appear to violate Amazon’s own guidelines
  • This does not mean that Amazon is widely removing all erotica or all independently published books

I do want to ask you a few questions:

What do you think? If the polls aren’t enough for you to express your opinion, feel free to do so by commenting on this post. Yes, I do moderate which comments get published, but I welcome a diversity of opinion.

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


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