EBooks are "attacking our freedom"

Free software guru calls for eBook readers that send anonymous payments to authors

Barry Collins
8 Jun 2011

Free software guru Richard Stallman has called on consumers to reject eBooks until they "respect our freedom".

In an article entitled The Dangers of eBooks (PDF), the founder of the Free Software Foundation warns that "technologies that could have empowered us are used to chain us instead".

He highlights the DRM embedded in eBooks sold by Amazon as an example of such restrictions, citing the infamous case of Amazon wiping copies of George Orwell's 1984 from users' Kindles without permission.

He points to other examples of how buyers' freedoms are eroded. "Amazon requires users to identify themselves to get an eBook," Stallman claims, pointing out that printed book buyers can walk into a bookstore and make a cash purchase anonymously.

He also claims the eBook format used by Amazon is "secret", and "only proprietary user-restricting software can read it at all".

Stallman claims that eBook retailers can still support authors and retain buyers' freedoms by distributing tax funds to authors based on their popularity, or by "designing players so users can send authors anonymous voluntary payments".

"EBooks need not attack our freedom, but they will if companies get to decide," Stallman concludes. "It's up to us to stop them."

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