Kindle, Amazon, Technology, Trust

As the Kindle Deletion Disaster continues, I'm seeing a lot of analyses of what this means.  Yes, there's what it does to Amazon, there's the political repercussions (what's to stop a government from manipulating omni-delete features), and there's more to come.  I'd like to add one thing the Kindle Deletion Disaster does to writing: it affects trust.

Trust is a very important thing in the world of media, as we geeks and fans know.  A company can loose trust with a lousy game, by cracking down on fansites, etc.  But the Kindle and similar technologies give companies – and creators – a chance to completely destroy trust in their work by doing boneheaded things.

As we move towards more and more electronic media, the ability to compromise it increases as well simply as the tools are there – electronic tags, registered IDs, automatic updates, software installs, etc.  There's talk about how a Kindle is like a book, or a downloaded movie is like watching a DVD you own but in many cases they're not – companies and individuals have the technology to maintain control over such things.

Amazon's Kindle means you cannot be guaranteed the book you have today is there tomorrow.  Those with power over these technologies can basically change their minds and delete things – or they can be hacked and create all sorts of access disasters unless safeguards are in place.

Also, there's no reason to assume alteration can't take place -if the power to delete is there, the power to overwrite is there also.  Can books be altered to remove inconvenient information?  Can someone decide to update a downloaded video with more "appropriate" dubbing?

Unless things are guaranteed and there's transparency, a lot of this technology doesn't just give us access to more media – and the ability to distribute it – boneheaded maneuvers give companies the ability to destroy trust in them and their product at the press of a key.  This is what Amazon has walked into, and what we will doubtlessly see more on as people are more aware.

I've harped on how trust and reliability are big factors in building relationships, especially in fiction.  Companies and individuals have to accept distribution must be distribution or else everything becomes unreliable.  Less trust, less customers.

This could be bad for amazon, but even worse for starting authors using these technologies if widespread mistrusts foments.  If you're going the e-reader/e-book/kindle route you need to make sure something like this won't (or hasn't) lowered potential trust in what you distribute.  If anything, I'm thinking a straight out RTF seems the safest bet.

Watch what happens.  If further bad moves wreck trust in e-distribution, it's going to affect how a lot of us play and some of us work.

– Steven Savage