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The Great Library of Amazonia 140

theodp writes "Amazon had a dream. To bring the world a modern-day Library of Alexandria. Apparently they had a second dream. To own the patents on it. Interestingly, fears of lost cookbook and reference text sales voiced by the Author's Guild are echoed in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's patent application for the Suppression of features in digital images of content and CEO Udi Manber's follow up Access to electronic images of text based on user ownership of corresponding physical text, which discuss how one might block content from viewers who have no proof-of-purchase for a book on file with booksellers."
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The Great Library of Amazonia

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:21AM (#12035043)
    I never can fully understand these patent writeups but I want to know if this will only allow you to search through full-texts of books you have proven you own.

    Why can't you be shown a snippet of the text through fair-use? You should be able to retrieve that information freely w/o restriction IMHO but IANAL.

    What about libraries that own these books. Could they setup a link to this searchable database so their patrons could look through books that the library owns? That sounds like a good idea to me ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:23AM (#12035061)
    At the time it was published, it was easy to look on Richard Stallman's story, The Right To Read [], as dystopian hyperbole. It was easy to believe that he was writing about an exaggerated worst case that could never come to pass. Sadly, with each passing year it looks more and more like the only thing he was wrong about was how quickly it could happen.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:26AM (#12035089)
    I wonder how this will work if you give an Amazon-bought book to someone? As the registered buyer of the book, the gift giver would, presumably, have access to the electronic copy even as the give up the physical copy.

    That way you can give the book and read it too.

    I suppose the solution is a transferable ownership certificate (paper receipt with code or online transfer process -- yay, another claim for a patent), but I wonder how many people will actually bother to keep/give/input the certificate.
  • DRM for text (Score:2, Interesting)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:27AM (#12035091) Journal

    If Amazon can pull off a successful digital rights management for text, then I'm all for it. As long as it's the publics right being protected more than the copyright holder. I think that is the biggest glitch with DRM for entertainment media - no one can figure out how to do it so the public rights are not infringed upon. With music downloading, there is no real way to determine if you own a copy or not. I know some movie/music publishers have tried to include some sort of access code along with purchase, but it is all very cumbersome.

    The thing is, a company as large and with such a dominating internet presence as Amazon, has the both the $$$ and the desire to invest in good old fashioned R&D, which is something the MPAA/RIAA has been to stubborn to do. They would rather pay lawyers and elected officials to do their bidding.

    The bottom line is, if Amazon can pull this off, then they will have created a succesful model for others, which just doesn't exist right now.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:32AM (#12035138) Homepage
    Yeah, I agree. I don't get it either. It'd be like showing shirts only to those who already bought the shirt.

    I thought the point of having the images of text on Amazon was so that those who didn't have the book could check some of it out BEFORE buying.

    Then again, maybe I should have read the article before posting.
  • by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:48AM (#12035248) Homepage
    and rightly so -- the world he writes about is very alarming -- and we are flirting with such a world. By calling him "not an alarmist" you're degrading those people who rightfully raise red flags. People who were right about bad trends that happened to take a bit longer than they predicted. Stallman was smart, he made his predictions far far off into the future (yet, a bit less than the term of a copyright...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:53AM (#12035299)
    however the expression of that information might be copyrighted.

    I am buying fewer and fewer books. Most of what I want to know is available on the web. The information that isn't on the web isn't there because nobody took the time to put it there.

    I guess that what I'm saying is that restricting access to books mostly won't work. There is darn little information that doesn't make its way onto the web some way or another. For some things like law and medical libraries people have been able to cash in on information services of course but for most things that isn't the case.

    It's really a lot like music. For a few artists, the web results in the theft of their work and they lose lots of money. For most artists, the web is a really good way to market their work and make more money. So, for most books, restricting access won't make them more profitable just more obscure.
  • I beg to differ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @11:01AM (#12035391) Journal
    Kahle makes the following statement:

    "We live in an open society in which the concept of widespread knowledge is embraced as a goal of governance,"

    Maybe in the overall big picture that is true but in the current political environment that statement is most certainly not true.

    The current administration has done and continues to do everything in its power to suppress the flow of knowledge and information. Witness the recent suppression of an EPA-funded study conducted by Harvard which found that the recent changes to rules regarding mercury emissions from U.S. power plants would have health benefits 100 times as great [] as the EPA said it would .

    Why the difference? Because according to the EPA and the Bush administration, more stringent controls would cost too much to industry compared to the public health benefit. Thus the analysis was stripped from the final report even though the findings of the analysis were used in a briefing by the EPA to the Washington Post on February 2nd.

    Even outside the administration the flow of knowledge is under attack. Witness the current effort by the Florida legislature to pass legislation which would allow students to sue professors [] who the students claim were punishing the students for their beliefs. Included would be a situation when a professor challenges a student to explain their theories by using the Socratic method. In other words, simply state you have a belief but you don't have to provide any evidence or rationale to support this belief.

    Let us not forget the fiasco in my home state where Intelligent Design is being taught alongside Darwinian Evolution as a valid scientfic theory [].

    Along those same lines, this very site posted a story yesterday [] about some IMAX theaters not showing a film because it contained references to evolution [].

    While Kahles overall sentiment is correct the current political environment is not conducive to the flow of knowledge and won't be for a fairly substantial time.

  • by gninnor ( 792931 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @11:56AM (#12035972)
    First a comment, I thought that the copies were given to the people and that the originals were kept by the library.
    And a question, I thought that a PUBLIC library was a more modern idea and that the older libraries were more like modern private libraries. Did the library of Alexandria have any restrictions on who could use it?
  • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @12:41PM (#12036408) Homepage Journal
    supressing images and images of text to people who didn't own a proof-of-purchase

    Rather than saying that they block images from people who don't own a proof a purchase to saying that they allow you access to the electronic images of the text if you purchase from Amazon, then you get a completely different picture of the meaning of such a patent.

    Basically, Amazon would be able to give people who purchase through Amazon more than their competitors. When you purchase a book through Amazon, you get both an eBook and the book. While if you purchase through the quaint bookstore down the street, you get just the book.

    Giving both an ebook and a book when you purchase through, and using a patent to essentially block other dot coms from doing the same could really firm up Amazon's position in the book selling industry.

    This looks a little bit like the Beam It Up case that cost its hide. said that if you owned a copy of a CD, then that entitled you to add it to your playlist. The record industry quickly extracted the soul from MP3 for its beam it up technology. I doubt the author's guild has sufficient power to extract's soul. First, the pirating of music on Napster made it easy for the RIAA to paint the punk kids using as anarchists. Books are often purchased by staid and true baby boomers. There are even some Republicans who read books. is probably smart enough not to put their technology forward as something that will move the earth. seemed convinced they were transforming the enire culture.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.