After Hours

eReaders: They're reading us while we read them

Your Kindle, therefore Amazon, knows more about your reading habits than you do. Is that something you want? Michael Kassner looks at eReaders and privacy issues.

Once a month I meet with a group of post high-school educators; we're aspiring writers looking to create the next great novel. How are we doing? Time's running out. I'm the only one who's not naturally gray, and that's because I'm bald. A few weeks ago, I arrived to a lively discussion, or heated debate, depending on your point of view about a new teaching aid.

As the only non-teacher, I preferred chatting with the owner of the coffee shop, discussing the intricate nuances of the espresso she made for me. Mid-sentence, I swore I heard "Orwellian overkill." Nah, I'm the conspiracy nut -- then "Big Brother" drifted by.

Remembering my manners, I politely but quickly excused myself, wanting to enter the fray. My luck, the group decided to drop the subject and get down to earnest writing. As I alluded to earlier, we have a time crunch.

CourseSmart Analytics

I made a mental note to find out what could get my friends so stirred up. Afterwards, I found out the discussion was about a new teaching utility called CourseSmart Analytics:

A unique offering that effectively measures student engagement with digital course materials. Our CourseSmart Engagement Score Technology and easy to use analytics dashboards offer institutions and faculty powerful visualization tools for understanding how students are engaging with their course content.

A little Orwellian, but not enough for me, I continued my search. The next interesting link brought me to an Oxford University Press essay by Professor Dennis Baron -- "The e-reader over your shoulder". Now we're talking. The article touched on CourseSmart Analytics, and then quickly moved to discussing eReaders and the consequences of using them. After reading Professor Baron's essay, I saw the need to pass on his concerns about eReaders and privacy.

In tracking down Professor Baron, I got quite a surprise. I visited what I thought was Professor Baron's Twitter site (@DrGrammar), and came across the picture at the right. Was Dr. Grammar also Professor Dennis Baron? They're both located in Illinois.

This was getting interesting. I emailed Professor Baron/Dr. Grammar, and the current Dennis Baron responded with this explanation:

The picture is from 1979, on the Staten Island Ferry! The aviator glasses should date it pretty well, and oh yes, the hair.

Sure another gray-haired gentleman -- where are all the bald guys? Next, I asked the professor for his opinion on CourseSmart Analytics. I figured to really impress the group at our next meetup.

Kassner: In the essay, you asked if CourseSmart Analytics was an example of interactive digital education or snooping. Then you answered snooping. Why? Dr. Baron: Mostly because instructors monitoring their students' reading introduces a creep factor. And it presumes a correlation between reading the assignment, reading speed, and course success, and I'm not sure that correlation is valid, or valid enough to warrant that kind of intrusive monitoring. It seems to me there are more effective ways to assess students (homework, tests, papers) without looking over their shoulders while they work.

That explains why my friends were hotly debating the pros and cons of CourseSmart Analytics. Now I'd like to get to the meat of the professor's article -- eReaders.

eReaders and Privacy

Kassner: Professor Baron, the next quote is from your essay:

We expect our reading to be private. Librarians will risk jail rather than tell government snoops what their patrons are reading, because the right to read unobserved is a fundamental component of the right to privacy. But when a vendor like Apple or Amazon tracks our reading matter, we don't invoke Big Brother. Instead, we're more complacent, accepting this intrusion on our literary solitude because that's how capitalism is supposed to work.

What you talk about is something that's baffled me since I began writing about digital privacy: Why do you think that is? Could it be people just do not realize it's happening?

Dr. Baron: Most people don't know it's happening, along with not realizing they don't own the e-books they download to their Kindles and iPads, and those who do are willing to trade that bit of privacy for the convenience and economy of e-books. After all, search engines like Google monitor our online behavior in order to monetize it.

Most people don't seem to mind the targeted ads that appear during their web searches or on their Facebook pages, and they probably think of e-book monitoring as more of the same. I wonder, looking at the advertiser's point of view, just how many click-throughs result in a sale?

Kassner: I had to chuckle when you brought up how Amazon secretly removed copies of George Orwell's 1984 from reader's Kindles. I don't think a fiction writer could have written that juxtaposition any better. Could you please expand on what you mean when you say we do not own the books we download? Dr. Baron: Most ebooks are covered by a rental agreement or Digital Rights Management (DRM). And it's not the same as buying a book outright. Although the content of a book we buy still belongs to the copyright holder (typically the author or publisher), we can do what we like with the physical book: sell it, give it away, loan it to a friend, even use it as a doorstop.

We are also free to copy parts of it (within the guidelines of fair use) for our own use, to quote in a review, to post on Facebook, and so on. DRMs limit our ability to use the physical text, and they may be revoked any time we violate the use agreement.

Revocation means the ebook can be taken back by the lessor. It also means your access to other services of the lessor may be blocked. In plain English, Amazon or Apple can block your access to your Kindle books or iBooks, and close your account. In contrast, all a library can do if you don't return your library book is fine you. It can't send the library police to break into your house and take the book off your nightstand.

Kassner: Professor, your point is really driven home by what we see every time we "buy" a Kindle book.

Versus what the DRM mentions:

Dr. Baron: Yes, Kindle's DRM says it all: "You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sub-license, or otherwise assign any rights to the Kindle Content or any portion of it to any third party." And even though Amazon invites you to "buy" a Kindle ebook, it's the language of the DRM, not the button we click, that governs the transaction: "Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider." Kassner: Finally, Professor, how do you view our privacy as related to digital reading material in the near future? If it's bleak, what would you like to see happen to change that? Dr. Baron: Frankly, for most people, and in most cases, it's not going to be an issue. Yet it troubles me that we are assenting to a system where it could become one.

For example, suppose the government is investigating you. They can subpoena your library records, but those records in most cases are protected, and librarians typically oppose such subpoenas. But digital-content providers typically comply with records requests. So we have a situation where DRM holders monitor our eBook use, advertisers monitor our eBook use, and the government has the potential to monitor our eBook use.

Hence, "the e-reader over your shoulder" really means we are ceding privacy. It's one thing to put a cover on your paperback so fellow-commuters don't see you're reading 50 Shades of Grey, The Bobbsey Twins, or How to Make a Dirty Bomb. But with eBooks, our reading habits become public property in ways we're really not aware of.

Final thoughts

As long as I have been writing about IT security, I've been fascinated by the mantra "Convenience versus Security." I realize the axiom has been around longer than the Internet, but it appears to have more significance today. After talking to Professor Baron, I'm wondering if the axiom needs updating: "Convenience versus Security and Privacy."

I'd like to thank Professor Baron for sharing his insight and making all of us more aware. I also wanted to point out if you are interested in the intersection between language and the digital age, check out the professor's blog The Web of Language.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

78 comments
C-3PO
C-3PO

I'm wondering if anyone has thought of the other side of all this... if the government can gain information on you by gleaning your reading habbits, purchase habbits, browsing records, etc, what they are trying to do is build a case about who you are, probably for the purposes of proving motive to enact some crime. I've never really worried about this much as I figure most of what I do is pretty benign from a social perspective, even boring. But what if someone wanted to point the police in my direction? They corrupt the data to show that I'm reading questionable material and viewing nasty websites. I purchase certain products over the last few months that when combined could produce just the stuff they suspect I used in a crime... sounds sophisticated, but it could be just enough to put law enforcement on the wrong track and redirect the suspicion from the real criminals who have wiped their own tracks successfully. Brings a whole new meaning to identity theft, and it might just be easier to do than actually get that valuable high risk information everybody guards so carefully.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Kindle Wi-Fi is turned off 99% of the time. I also only transfer via USB.

drnshaw
drnshaw

I must comment on “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.” This is, in fact, no different from a book or movie you purchase from a store. The "content" is licensed to you, not sold. What is sold is the medium but the content is restricted, i.e. copyrighted. It appears that you are trying to create concern where none really exists. If I buy a book from a "physical" store such as Barnes & Noble and I pay for it with my credit card, Barnes & Noble could keep track of which books I've bought (especially if I have a gift card) and then let me know of books that map to my previous purchases. That is no different than eBooks. The only real way to go "off the grid" is to pay with cash and, well, who carries that much cash around (considering the cost of books today and the number I generally BUY). When I was a child (back in the days of Ben Hur), my parents would purchase items from a store and inside was a warranty card and the warranty card asked questions about my parents, the family, income, interests, etc. that had nothing to do with the warranty (BTW, you don't have to fill those out to get the warranty - just keep your receipts). The data was collected and put into data warehouses for future mailings. Today, that has gone electronic and data collection spans nearly every aspect of our electronic experience. You can, of course, turn much of that off; however, many sites won't work unless, for example, cookies are activated. I'm OK with that. I surf using "private browsing" and delete all cookies when I close Firefox. And when I check various web sites that "claim" to know all about me - much of it is dated or just plain wrong. When sites track my IP address, they don't return where I live but where my ISP is. And public records have always been public. So, there are things to worry about in this world (like location-based services) and then there are things where getting upset or worried is just going to get you upset or worried. Making a big deal out of books is, IMHO, not a big deal. Dr. Nicholas Shaw

gbravin
gbravin

George Orwell published his book "1984" in the year 1948. Assuming that he employed some time to write it, we can say that Mr. Orwell had predicted, in advance of more than 50 years of warnings what it is succeeding nowadays. Or better, since the end of last century....

dogknees
dogknees

My main reason for not getting one. A friend an I have the same taste in fiction so we kind of take it in turns to buy novels, then swap them. Can't do that if "they" can control my content.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

I'm not too worried about amazon knowing my reading habits, they track everything i look up on their website anyway and there is a [u]lot[/u] more of that. That said the first thing i do when i have bought an azw is download it into my kindleforpc and crossload it into calibre stripping the drm from it. That way i [b]know[/b] that whatever happens i have that book available to me in an unencrypted format which i can convert to whichever format i may want or need no matter how the technology changes.

MikeMJ
MikeMJ

Michael, I buy lots of E-books, from a wide variety of vendors. I have bought two or three from Amazon, but I was very disappointed by the results. You see, I [b]own[/b] my E-books. Yes, I do! That's because I insist on buying [i]only[/i] from vendors who offer E-books [i]without[/i] DRM, and who sell just the books, [i]not[/i] the entire "reading experience." While it isn't as convenient as being able to open up the "store" on a reader, select a book, and begin reading it immediately, the separation between the mechanics of the [i]sale[/i] of the book and the mechanics of the [i]reading[/i] of the book is what preserves my privacy. I'm just not willing to put myself in the position of giving anybody a monopoly on my reading. Because I buy my E-books from many different vendors, no one vendor has that collection of information about what I am reading. Because I read my E-books using software that was developed by, and is distributed by, an organization that doesn't sell E-books, I am reasonably confident that the reader isn't collecting information. For a while, I was willing to use the Kindle software that Amazon made available to run on general-purpose devices (such as desktop computers and smart phones). However, when Amazon "upgraded" the version of the Kindle Reader for the Android platform so that it would read [i]only[/i] books purchased from Amazon (this may have been a bug introduced by the developers, but Amazon made no move to correct the issue), I removed all Kindle software from my devices. I now use third-party software that enables me to search for E-books on-line, download the purchased (and free) E-books into a library, catalog the library, and maintain the collections of books on my various devices. That's sufficiently convenient for me, and it ensures that I am not the captive customer of any company.

RealInIT
RealInIT

Which is why I buy my eBooks from Baen EBooks. No DRM, no security issues. Besides, if you want to not have your reading monitored, then buy a hard copy. I mean it's the same idea with web surfing, visit the brick and mortar store and pick up the item. If the government really wants to know what you are reading, all they have to do is accuse you of some illegal act and then raid your home and carry everything away.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Most everyone feels it's not good. How would you fix it?

1DaveN
1DaveN

I don't mind Amazon knowing everything I read on my Kindle. They use this information to suggest other books I might like, based on those I've already chosen. This benefits me by exposing me to new content I might otherwise have missed. Most importantly, the data is kept between Amazon and me, and it would be contrary to Amazon's best interests as a merchant to sell or expose the data to others. While Amazon is a merchant, Google is an advertiser. It's in Google's interest to disseminate my personal information to anyone willing to pay for it. In my opinion, there's a huge difference between those business models, and it directly impacts on my privacy. Amazon wants to monetize my personal preferences, but in doing so they're motivated to keep my secrets. Google wants to monetize my data because selling data (and analytics) is what they do - it's how they make money. So Amazon's business model is served by using my data but keeping it private, while Google's is to sell my data to any and all who will pay for it.

Brian.Buydens
Brian.Buydens

Were I live, the library system signed a deal with Adobe to provide the software to ensure DRM on eBooks "borrowed" from the library. To copy a book on to my Kobo I need an Adobe account, and they maintain a "library" of books I read. So, if I take a physical book form the library, the librarians will defend my right to privacy, but they have already signed away my digital right to privacy. It is one of the main reasons I don't use my Kobo very much.

pgit
pgit

15-20 years ago when I was trying to sell my science fiction stories to the pulps I had this whole scenario (and just about every other privacy concern) nailed. Editors loved my ideas, but no skilled writer be I. :( And folks that knew me were worried that I was paranoid. A few who listened understood all you had to do was take current technology, push it out a decade or so and add as mix of the old human nature and voila! Everything governments and corporations do has an undercurrent of despotic command and control. I also wrote about how toxic wastes that are expensive to dispose of properly were instead being sold at a profit to the would-be polluters as food ingredients, those additives with such concise names like "stabilizers," "artificial flavoring" and of course "red dye #2"... that story also turned out to be the sad truth. (wrote that one in 1984) I keep crying from the wilderness over here... the first and foremost intended use of ANY technology is always evil. Has been since the days of pouring boiling oil off the parapets.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

attempt to locate and identify people involved in enemy intelligence and action networks like Al Quida etc. Another part is trying to identify individuals gathering data to attack places such as the Oklahoma bomber. One way is to see if they access certain types of information. I do all sorts of odd research to make sure I get the settings and facts about certain places and organisations right before I mention them in stories I write. I know that a few years ago when I did a LOT of research on certain US gov't agencies and federal government buildings I triggered an alert within the US intelligence community (it helps to have contacts in your own intelligence community when that happens) and they did some research on me to see if I was a REAL threat to them or not. I know the locals told them I wasn't, but I may still have ended up on a US immigration watch list, don't know, don't care as I have no money or plans to travel to the US in the foreseeable future. However, it's this gathering of odd data that helps them work out if they should look harder or not.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

A scary thing to consider. I know bad guys do something similar already. They hijack a person's computer and make is a repository/FTP server for illegal information. So guess who get's blamed?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

DO you have a Kindle app on the computer or how do you initially get your eBooks?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I agree with everything you say except that eBooks are the same as a movie you purchase. I've read the policies and there is no place that I know of where they say they will demand the return of the movie. All eBook dealers (Amazon for example) who abide by DRM have the ability to remove books from their eReader. I linked one example in the article.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and how the DRM managed e-books are sold. Yes, the content is only ever licensed, but in printed books you buy the medium and can deal with that as you wish, even reselling your licence to another - thing used book ships. However, with the DRM managed e-books you can NOT resell your licence to another, which shows even the medium is only licensed and not sold to you. Add in they can arbitrarily take the book back off your system and cancel your ability to read it, and you can see what the real issues are.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The choice of 1984 was between Orwell and his editor. Orwell had a terrible title and the editor told him to make it short and in the future to diffuse the satire. Both Animal Farm and 1984 were Orwell's attempt to alert the world about Stalin. What he really wanted to write about Stalin, no one would publish. It is interesting that what he seen happening then is still in play.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Interesting. I have not heard of that service. What format do you usually opt to use?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

If it's by plastic then you are telling the Bank what you are buying, from who, when and how much. They sell that data to whoever asks. Col

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I had not been aware of Baen EBooks. I am checking into it. Have you tried converting any books to the Kindle format for use on a smartphone?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have never heard of that before. I have a source that would be interested in that, she is a librarian and up to her eyeballs in the privacy debate. Could it be that particular library is not up to speed on digital privacy?

spdragoo
spdragoo

That's arguably the first technology, and that was used to cook food before any pseudo-military applications came about. Not to mention that the use of plowshares, spears & bows as weapons of war predate the use of "specialized" designs like swords & pikes...but before they were used against fellow humans they were first tools of the hunter used to gather food. But that's fine. If technology is so evil, then go "into the wildernes", and "live off the land", using nothing but your hands & fingernails. No fire, no Stone Age tools, let alone anything modern, & let us know how enjoyable it is to live without "evil technology".

eclypse
eclypse

Really??? So how was the Walkman intended to be evil? How was the iPod intended to be evil? How was the automobile intended to be evil? How was the internal combustion engine intended to be evil? How was the wheel intended to be evil? I'm sorry, but that is just dumb. I might agree that people can find a way to use nearly anything for "evil," but that's what people choose to do. That's like blaming the gun for someone getting shot. Or, as is popular in the media nowadays, blaming the SUV for whatever happens when someone is driving one.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

This is important: "However, it's this gathering of odd data that helps them work out if they should look harder or not."

drnshaw
drnshaw

Morning, Michael, In reading about DRM (Digital Rights Management), I see nothing about an ability to remove e-Books from a users e-Reader. What I did find, however, are articles on removing DRM and this link about publishers beginning to remove DRM: http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/04/25/publishers-begin-removing-drm-from-ebooks/ on their own. I cannot see anyone ever removing an e-Book you paid for. Kindle, for example, allows you to install your books on any number of devices as long as you register them (I've done this with three devices). DRM is encryption used for copy protection. I certainly don't want to get into the age-old argument of copy protection, we can leave that for another day. :-) I've read several articles about how an e-Book can be removed (all from various interpretations; however, I've never heard of this happening. Best Regards.

drnshaw
drnshaw

Good morning, Deadly, I certainly agree that there are major differences between the two; however, you cannot necessarily do what you wish with printed books. For example, you cannot copy all of the pages of the book - that's illegal under copyright laws. You are correct, however, in that you can sell your printed works while you cannot sell e-Books. I just responded to another post with a link to an article where publishers are, themselves, looking at removing DRM. As to arbitrarily taking your e-book off your system, I wouldn't put too much into that "alleged" ability. I know of no instance where this has ever happened. Best Regards.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

http://calibre-ebook.com/ rather than control my library of books on my kindle, which is probably difficult i use calibre on my pc to organize my ebooks. Then all i need to do is plug my kindle into my pc and calibre sees it and can send and delete ebooks on the kindle. It is really useful if you want to get ebooks from other places onto your kindle, although only usually if they are drm free like the baen ones are. One of it's biggest features is that it has the ability to convert ebooks from one format to another e.g. epub to mobi or lit to epub or even rtf/html to mobi; so long as there is no drm on them. I've taken some epub fanfic and converted it to mobi to read on my kindle. Someone has made some third-party plugins for drm removal but i have only used the amazon one (google calibre drm removal). I still remember using the command line program clit on a lit book.

MikeMJ
MikeMJ

Actually, the credit card company doesn't get [i]nearly[/i] as much information as you think. As @regnart already pointed out, all the payment processor knows is the same information you see on your statement: [i]where[/i] you made a purchase, and how much you paid. They [i]don't[/i] know what you're buying (of course, if you're buying from an on-line bookseller, like Baen Books, it's pretty obvious that you're buying a book, but not which one). The [i]seller[/i] has a lot more information. If you use a "loyalty card" at the grocery store, the grocery chain collects information on the individual items you buy, as well as the time of day, location, etc. Just as I buy my books from many different vendors (so that no one vendor has a complete picture of my reading), I buy my groceries from several different chains. But, at least today, the detailed information about specific items you purchase never makes it to any central repository.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the numerous stories on the CD are on it in multiple formats. They include HTML, EPUB (lists for Nook/Stanza/iPad), MOBIPOCKET (lists for Kindle/Palm/Blackberry), Sony Reader, Microsoft Reader, EBOOKWIZE and RTF. I assume you have all those choices on the website when you go to buy. Yes, I have a couple of the BAEN DVDs that came with books. They include a lot of stories by other authors to get you interested in them.

dogknees
dogknees

It wasn't long after the first use of fire that someone decided to use it to burn another person/family/tribe or their possessions.

pgit
pgit

people are see my comment above btw ever see 2001 A Space odyssey? Plausible opening sequence there...

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

to their walkman to watch where they're going?

pgit
pgit

not product. A universal difference. Look where the drive toward the "silicon fire" under our fingertips came from. It wasn't Japanese manufacturers of transistor radios and cheap toys. And what proportion of all humanity that has ever been caught their first glimpse of a wheel attached to the chariots rampaging their village? The best glaring example against my statement (nothing is ever absolute) is gunpowder. The Chinese used it for centuries and hadn't purposed it to violence until western Europeans showed up. Hyperbole is a civilized substitute for profanity. Guilty as charged. :)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

clients' systems - they had an unauthorised copy of the book 1984 for sale and when they found out it was unauthorised they just sent out a command and removed it from everyone's systems. That ability is there in the hardware and software of the proprietary systems and it's also in the End User Agreements.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

book as obtained and not going into the copyright side of duplicating it etc. Copyright violation is a breach of the license agreed to with the purchase, and I left that out of the discussion as I was comparing what you can do with the two different media. As to the removal of books, there has been a major case already, back in 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Kindle#Remote_content_removal it was major news headlines and much discussion at the time. Another aspect to look into is the special program Apple have created to help people write and create e-books. One of the terms of use for that is that once the book is created the book and content in that format belongs to Apple. not a nice way to do things.

RealInIT
RealInIT

I just downloaded Calibre and I still have a a few ebooks that would not convert because of DRM. Where is the best site to find plug-ins? Thanks for the info!!! Good to know.

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

I found one that enables me to load Library books downloaded by the Adobe library software and in epub format into Calibre so that I can convert them to mobi format for my wife's Kindle. As a side effect they also remove DRM and the expiry date. So, as mentioned, all of our books from any source are in our Calibre Library, including some Techrepublic white papers.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I appreciate the information. I won't break Amazon's policy, but I will see if I can work with other eBook formats.

MikeMJ
MikeMJ

Col, I haven't worked in a bank, but I did work in a market research firm that was gathering a [i]lot[/i] of data about retail sales. In addition, I have worked in small businesses that processed payments from customers via credit cards. In the U.S., the payment processors (whether banks or credit card companies) don't even [i]receive[/i] information about the items sold; all they get is the amount to be charged to the customer's account. The typical retail store simply doesn't [i]have[/i] the item information available in the same system that performs the credit authorization and reporting. In our market research company, we were receiving data from a variety of retailers, including large grocery chains (with hundreds of store locations), and on-line merchants. The [i]retailers[/i] could report details of the items sold to a customer; as a "data aggregator", we could (with some difficulty) associate each retailer's customer IDs to the households, and build up a picture of each household's buying habits. But this information flowed [i]from the retailers[/i], [b]not[/b] from the payment processors. I don't, at this time, have any concerns about my credit card company knowing too much about my buying habits. I [i]do[/i] have some concerns about the retailers. That's why I refuse to be locked into a technological solution where both the reading hardware and the reading matter come from the same vendor. Instead, I buy my books from [i]many[/i] vendors, and read them on a platform provided by developers who have no direct relationships to any of the retailers.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

That I do High End Security Work for a Bank and I know exactly what they get here with every sale. The Bank gets this passed to them by the Credit Card Company and I've lost count of the number of times that a customer has complained to the bank about a sale we have to go through it and list the contents to them. Then the complaint simply goes away most times as they had forgotten that they had spent so much at the time. ;) Col

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That was a lot of good information. I will try a few things this weekend. I and an Android phone. The only thing I see that might be an issue is that Samsung has disallowed USB connections. I have to use their Kies app (Wi-Fi) to transfer files.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

The question is what reader are you using. Taking the amazon kindle software android/iphone for example, it is capable of reading the mobipocket (.mobi) format provided on the later dvds or all new free/paid versions. If it is one of the older cd disks at thefifthimperium then the pdb/prc format may not work. In which case it is i) probably available on the the baen ebooks website in .mobi format or ii) send it to your kindle email account and they will convert it to the kindle .azw format and deliver it to your devices. Bare in mind the mobipocket format predates the kindle. I used to read them on a little palm pilot with a 160x160 matrix screen with no problems, you just need to change the display font if necessary.

spdragoo
spdragoo

With a smartphone/iPod-type device, the HTML formats will show up as a smaller text. As long as their font sizes aren't hardcoded into the pages, you either make sure your browser settings allow for dynamic resizing, or you edit the HTML files so that they look larger. Not sure about the other formats. It might depend on the app you're using to read them. I use the OverDrive Console app to read eBooks from my local library for free, & it allows for a few different text sizes (not to mention a nice "white text on black background" option for readability).

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Do any of those formats work well on smartphone-sized screens? My problem is that most do not and I read almost exclusively using my smartphone.

pgit
pgit

it has no bearing on anything I have said. Your comprehension while reading my words appears to have been preloaded with a bias you have, whatever that bias may be is not obvious. (except perhaps hatred for me, driven by a need to vent spleen?) To say I base ANYTHING on an offhand comment about a scene that I mentioned just because I suggested it was metaphorically possible is childish. My mention at all was to show I am not alone in holding that thought. And nothing I said could possibly be construed as indicating I BELIEVE that scene to be real, either metaphorically or, as you imply, in fact. But please, do continue with Michael's question, what you wrote is interesting (though totally inapplicable to anything I have stated) and MK has a good follow up Q. I'll keep reading the thread....

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

At a recent meeting of the writing group mentioned in the article, we were discussing the fictionality of fiction -- interesting topic to be sure. Could you further define what you see as the differences between fiction and non-fiction -- particularly related to evidenciary requirements.

spdragoo
spdragoo

is a scene from a science-fiction movie -- emphasis on the "fiction" part -- based on a fictional novel? I suppose, then, that we can make the same claims about the real world: -- "sugar-coated" vampires are living in the Pacific Northwest (aka "Twlight") -- fairy-tale monsters are actually human-looking species living among us, who can only be seen for their true selves if they decide to reveal it to us, or unless you happen to be descended from a group of knights from the 4th Crusade (aka "Grimm")...or were actually deposited in the Northeast USA through a catastrophic magic curse that removed nearly all of their memories (aka "Once Upon a Time") -- the 'gods' worshipped by the ancient Greek, Roman & Egyptian cultures are not only alive & well, but are both interacting with & tied into the social, political, & cultural events of our modern world (see "Percy Jackson & The Olympians", "Heroes of Olympus", and "The Kane Chronicles") -- the Seelie & Unseelie courts of the Sidhe/Faerie are also interacting with our modern-day culture, thanks to a treaty they signed with President Thomas Jefferson almost 200 years ago (see "Meredith Gentry" series) No matter how it's researched, no matter how "logical" it may sound (or even how much it may match up with our personal worldviews, let alone meeting our "wish fulfillment" needs), fiction is just that: fiction. It's not factual (at least not 100%), which means it doesn't meet evidenciary requirements for supporting a scientific "theory" or "law". So while the scene of pseudo-apelike humanoids interacting with a giant, black rectangular solid was a nifty visual (whether seen in the movie or in our imagination from reading the novel), it doesn't mean it actually happened without providing documentable proof (i.e. archaelogical evidence). Especially since, as we well know, films & novels can be modified (as in the infamous "Han shot first" debate)...

eclypse
eclypse

In my more long-winded reply to your original comment. =) And yes, I have seen "2001: A Space Odyssey". Also, in reference to your comment above, where you mention people seeing wheels for the first time on chariots rampaging through their villages - that's still not the fault of the wheel. Kinda like the expression, "you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your relatives...(and you probably shouldn't pick your friend's nose)" =)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

O didn't hear the sound of the approaching ambulance until the car was four vehicles away. Luckily I saw the ambulance in my rearview mirror and started moving over and slowing down. We were almost at the hospital entrance so I had a damn good idea where the ambulance was going. Sadly, the van was headed in the same gateway and turned across the clear oncoming traffic lane to make his turn as the ambulance was making the same turn from the other side of the road while passing me and the other stopped traffic. The van was a mess, and I bet he'll claim he didn't hear or see the ambulance. Plenty of witnesses, so the van driver is in more trouble than just being in the hospital bed. Due to the location there was no delay getting people into the ER. Just a fifty foot run with the gurney for each person.

pgit
pgit

Kid staring at his phone, stepped right into the street without looking. He was bruised up but ok. Poor woman that hit him was a wreck, a cop asked me to talk to her (I was the best witness) so I kept assuring her she was in no way at fault. I've dodged a few clueless texters, haven't collided with any yet. I saw some pol in Jersey suggesting wearing headphones in public should be a misdemeanor. I think the law ended up being 'within X feet of a roadway.' People ripped on him for being a "nanny state" control freak. My take is let the Darwin awards ensue. I think you have to be pretty stupid to wear headphones when riding a bicycle or jogging/walking around traffic. Just don't ruin my day by darting in front of me like the above (long hair, btw) teen.

eclypse
eclypse

or at least oblivious, but not evil. =)

spdragoo
spdragoo

The Chinese invented the "fire arrow" (hollow arrow filled with gunpowder) by AD 989, not long after gunpowder was first created... and around the same time as the "peaceful" fireworks first came about. They also created a lot of other explosives, including mortars & grenades, which they used well before they could have possibly been "corrupted" by "evil Western influences". Not to mention they created gunpowder rifles before "the West" did.