Boing Boing 

Penguin fights Amazon by cutting off libraries' access to the books they've paid for (Updated)


The American Library Association has weighed in on Penguin's dispute with Amazon's Kindle library lending program, calling on the publisher to restore access to its books to library patrons. Penguin and Amazon are in dispute over the terms of sale and lending for Penguin titles, but Penguin's response has been to order Amazon to lock down the ebooks that libraries acquired -- using their precious and dwindling collections budgets -- so that patrons can no longer check them out (Update: Amazon says Penguin and Overdrive, the e-book lending service, took the action without Amazon's involvement. See below).

The fact that Amazon is capable of doing (or allowing) this -- the fact that books can be revoked after they're sold -- is a vivid demonstration of the inevitably disastrous consequences of building censorship tools into devices.

“Penguin Group’s recent action to limit access to new e-book titles to libraries has serious ramifications. The issue for library patrons is loss of access to books, period. Once again, readers are the losers.

“If Penguin has an issue with Amazon, we ask that they deal with Amazon directly and not hold libraries hostage to a conflict of business models.

“This situation is one more log thrown onto the fire of libraries’ abilities to provide access to books – in this case titles they’ve already purchased. Penguin should restore access for library patrons now.”

ALA calls for Penguin Group to restore e-book access to library patrons

(Image: modified version of The eBay haul..., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from chumpolo's photostream)

Update: Amazon's Andrew Herdener writes in to say the revocation was not the result of a dispute between Penguin and Amazon, as reported by the ALA. Instead, he says, the action was taken by Penguin and Overdrive, the service that provides library e-book loans for the Kindle platform, without Amazon's involvement. — Rob, 6:10 p.m.

"This has nothing to do with terms between Amazon and Penguin. This decision was not ours, and we did not make any changes in our service (the change, a surprise to us, came from Penguin and Overdrive)"

"Amazon made no changes to its backend -- none. The arrangement for public library lending is between Overdrive and the publishers. Overdrive acquires the rights from publishers like Penguin to loan books to library patrons. Overdrive chose to stop the service that lends the Penguin books to Kindle owners."

Tor project asks supporters to set up virtual Tor bridges in Amazon's cloud

The Tor project, whose network tool helps people avoid online censorship, works by bouncing traffic around several different computers before it reaches its destination. The more computers there are in the Tor network, the better it works. Now, Tor's developers want its supporters to set up Tor "bridges" on Amazon's cloud computing platform, EC2. EC2 has a free introductory offer and there's an easy Tor image that is configured and ready to go -- but if you don't qualify for the free offer, you can donate a powerful Tor bridge for as little as $30 a month, and help people all over the world who want to be more anonymous and more private.

Setting up a Tor bridge on Amazon EC2 is simple and will only take you a couple of minutes. The images have been configured with automatic package updates and port forwarding, so you do not have to worry about Tor not working or the server not getting security updates.

You should not have to do anything once the instance is up and running. Tor will start up as a bridge, confirm that it is reachable from the outside, and then tell the bridge authority that it exists. After that, the address for your bridge will be given out to users.

Run Tor as a bridge in the Amazon Cloud

EFF: "We are generally satisfied with the privacy design of Silk"

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been investigating Silk, the web browser built into Amazon's new Android-derived Kindle Fire. Silk is billed as being a very fast browser, thanks to acceleration achieved by funneling all requests through Amazon's cloud servers. This may speed up network sessions, but it creates many privacy questions, since it means Amazon gets a view into your network sessions that it wouldn't otherwise have -- a copy of all the web-pages you receive.

But as Dan Auerbach reports, Amazon made some very good privacy choices in the design of Silk. First, the "acceleration" is user-configurable, and you can just turn it off if you're worried. Further, SSL connections are never intercepted, and Amazon only lightly logs your network sessions, and expires those logs after 30 days. The service isn't perfect, but it's got a lot to recommend it.

It is good that Amazon does not receive your encrypted traffic, and does not record any identifying information about your device. And there are other benefits to user privacy that can result from cloud acceleration mode. For one, the persistent SPDY connection between the user’s tablet and Amazon’s servers is always encrypted. Accordingly, if you are using your tablet on an open Wifi network, other users on that network will not be able to spy on your browsing behavior.

Amazon does not act like an anonymizing proxy, because it does not shield your IP address from the websites you visit or strip unnecessary information out of the outgoing request. Indeed, because the XFF header is set for HTTP requests, your IP is still passed through to the websites you visit. Other headers, such as the HTTP referer header, are set as normal. Thus, the website you are visiting using Silk has access to the exact same information that it would if you were using a normal browser.