Wednesday, May 10, 2023
#130 / Amazon Does 1984
The New York Times ran an article, on April 8, 2023, that surprised me. In its hard copy version, the article is titled as follows: "Digital Books You Bought, Altered Before Your Very Eyes." Online, the title is different, and online, the article is accompanied by a picture that changes as you contemplate it, providing a vivid example of the kind of changes that online booksellers are apparently making in the text of various "e-books" we may have thought we bought. I have caught The Times' image in mid-change, above, so you can get the idea of how The Times is trying to help us visualize how those digital books are "altered before [our] very eyes."
In George Orwell's 1984, as you may remember, "Big Brother," the name given to the centralized government that spies on everyone, has a "Ministry of Truth." This governmental agency is assigned to rewrite history, so that the "truth" of historical events is made to conform, on a constantly updated basis, to what the government wants that history to appear to have been. Apparently, the very same thing is being done by Amazon, and probably by other online booksellers, too. In short, online booksellers are continually "rewriting" the books that we have "bought" online, and that we access online.
Because our online book purchases do not result in the delivery of any physical thing, but only the right to access the online file of the book we bought, it is an easy matter for the publishers of the books they sell online to revise them, as they may choose. The book you accessed yesterday, when you go back to read it again today, may now be different. The very thing that you remembered reading, and that you may have returned to, online, to read again, could have been altered by the time you get back to "your" book. This practice is, in fact, consistent with the "Terms and Conditions" you accepted when you bought that "e-book" in the first place. You didn't really buy it. You only purchased the right to access the file, online, with the publisher retaining the right to make whatever alterations in the file that the publisher may want to make.
As I say, I was surprised to learn this. If you buy "e-books," online, you should be advised about what you really bought.
I am happy to say that I don't, actually, purchase and read my books online. The news I am conveying here is not of great consequence for me, personally. Luckily, I am able to be my very own "Ministry of Truth," for every book I own. I don't have to go online, either, to get those books (and possibly find them modified). I have them - "real" books - quite close at hand: