The Cloud Atlas

Two articles recently posted on the web on related topics have questioned the future of e-books, e-reading and even the internet more broadly. Tech industry executive and academic Don Norman asks if the trend towards cloud computing is in the best interests of consumers. An excellent essay at Overland also questions cloud computing insofar as it relates to e-books.

Readings recently launched an e-publishing venture where all of its e-books are stored remotely in a centralised location, rather than on consumers' hardware. This is intended to bypass the growing problem of the proliferation of reading platforms for e-books (iPads, Kindles, Nooks and so on) but it presents alternative problems. Cloud computing-based e-reading defines ownership as access to a file rather than possession of a file.

This possibly raises privacy and censorship issues: in the time of the cash economy, what we read was our business. With the advent of Amazon and credit cards, we began leaving digital footprints of our book purchases. Henceforth, every e-book we purchase will be traceable. Previously, repressive regimes banned - and occasionally burned - books. Now readers will potentially be individually profiled and, in the worst cases, deprived of access to the files they ‘own’ - files that only exist in the giant book-cloud in the sky.

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