I knew as soon as I saw this story that I would have to blog about it. Not only did several people send some version of it to me, but the subject is near and dear to my heart. Reason? I've been warning about the dangers of ebooks for some time. And this story more or less concretizes and to some extent confirms my concerns. Suppose one day you logged into your ebook cloud (or whatever it is), and discovered a notice that your ebook was gone. Not just "temporarily unavailble, please check back in a few minutes," but gone.
If that sounds far-fetched, it has already happened to users of Microsoft's ebooks (thanks to J.T. and F.S. for first bringing this to my attention, and to all the rest of you who also shared the story):
Now, let's give (begruding) credit where credit is due: Microsoft at least had the integrity to refund its ebook customers for snatching away their ebooks.
But my concerns over the years has boiled down to a fundamental truth, expressed in the opening paragraph of the Wired article by Brian Barrett:
Your iTunes movies, your Kindle books—they’re not really yours. You don’t own them. You’ve just bought a license that allows you to access them, one that can be revoked at any time. And while a handful of incidents have brought that reality into sharp relief over the years, none has quite the punch of Microsoft disappearing every single ebook from every one of its customers.
EBooks are a platform, and subject to all the problems of censorship we've seen attached to other" platforms", Facebook, YouTube, and so on: censorship. I've been maintaining for some time that the digitization of books and other information (think music and music scores and librettos and lyrics, folks) is kind of like the old Soviet Encyclopedia, on steroids: now you see a picture of Yagoda, or Yezhov, or whomever, and later, you don't, because the picture, along with the
monster man has been purged. Ebooks make it all too easy for a corporate world run amok to censor anything they wish; don't like the content? Just go in and change the text. Or just get rid of it altogether. Sure, Microsoft has not claimed its actions are the result of censorship, but the good old "bottom line." But its actions highlight the dangers inherent in the digital platform, which is why I've been maintaining that the only canonical form of any of my works is the hard copy book, which readers own.
One may thus easily imagine other ebook "platforms" eventually stating that "this service may be terminated at any time by the owner for any reason, without refund." We're not quite there yet, for such a move would basically signal an almost complete corporate takeover of the information field, which is why it's important to prevent that by buying books, scores, and music CDs. And perish the thought that your books, scores, poems, lyrics, librettos or what-have-you do not show enough "diveristy" or inclusion. Don't believe me? The move is already afoot to "level the playing field" there too according to this article shared by P.S.J.:
One friend who had seen this article told me that this was merely another attempt to keep everyone divided. So far as that goes, I suppose that is true. But for me it's another bit of evidence that the cultural Gramscians really do mean a complete makeover of the culture, to the point of destroying its past and cutting people off from its traditions. One can imagine a day, under their malign "leadership" and nihilist agenda, when the mere performance of Bach's cantatas will be viewed as a subversive or anti-semitic act, simply because of the Christian nature of the lyrics, or when a performance of Beethoven's Ninth symphony will be viewed as a pandering to patriarchy with its ringing chords on the word Bruder (Brothers!). They won't stop there: they will go on to attack all the other signs and symbols of "privilege": the Beatles, Abba, REO, ELO, Elvis, and others from the "classical era" of rock, so on. They will attack Duke Ellington as an "Uncle Tom" for liking Bach, or Fanny Mendelssohn for composing music too much like her more famous family member who was male, Haendel will be attacked for his setting of the Dixit Dominus or Haydn for his Die Schoepfung (The Creation) or Dave Brubeck as "cultural appropriation", and on and on it will go.
Which returns us to the matter at hand: there is no digital platform that is secure, especially in the hands of already morally compromised technocrats. There is no replacement for the hard copy, be it the score, the book, the lyrics, libretto, or CD. They are, and will remain, the only canonical form of artistic creations.
See you on the flip side...