Monday, September 24, 2007

Something wicked this way comes...

I'm not sure what direction the internet is taking, but this weekend I saw some pretty worrisome things. And I'm not sure that I like it.

First up, Google books. Have you been there? Originally I saw a list of Autumnal book links, and went to check them out. Old, lovely books. In their entirety, and available for free download. Well, that's exciting, I thought, since they are obviously way out of print. Well then I went to update my sidebar book list, and went Googling around for a link to the wonderful book by Reg Down that we're reading, The Festival of Stones, and there it was. On Google books!

This book was published in 2005. And it's there. A huge, whopping portion of it. And why? Well, apparently the publisher has given Google the go-ahead to list it online. You can't download it, but there's a heck of a lot of it there. Really! Doesn't that just seem more than a teensy bit wrong to you? I wonder what Reg Down thinks about this. Or if he even knows?! And what's more, I wonder how many other books that are still in print are listed. And I wonder how this affects the authors of said books, because don't they get paid a portion of book sales? Surely it's a very small portion, but a portion nonetheless.

And are people thinking... Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?


Second up, Big Brother I was clicking through a host of blogs and on more than one occasion I clicked on someone's page and WAH! There was MY name in some little Amazon advertisement box. It said, "Hi Sara..." One of these blogs I had never even been to before. Ever. And it really freaked me out.

So I investigated it a little bit further, and it turns out that those little boxes are part of a program called the Amazon Honor System. People put them on their sites to solicit monetary donations, which are paid directly through your Amazon account. And who doesn't have an Amazon account? It knew my name because I have an account, and the little box recognized me just like Amazon recognizes me when I go to their site. I don't even have to log in... somehow it knows. Which is bad enough, right? But then I realized that Amazon can track me... and my movements on the web, or at least on any page that has an Amazon donations box. It's all a little too big brothery for me.

Amazon said it's not tracking people, at least not for now... there probably aren't enough little donation boxes out there yet to make it worthwhile. But give it a month or a year, and who knows? They may change their minds... Wired magazine had a very convincing article about this.

I don't want to be tracked. I don't want to see my name on websites across the globe. I don't want to see recent books splayed out online. That's what a library is for, am I right? I want to have to get out of my chair, walk a few blocks to the library, search through the shelves, and plop my little card down on the counter. And only then do I want to hear someone say my name... because they know me. As they should, since I come in every week.

I'm constantly amazed by the wonder and horror of the internet. My world is ever growing smaller, and in one sense that's great because I have found such community and friendship online. Inspiration and hope and empathy. It's the price of this double-edged connectedness that I wonder about. How much privacy and personal freedom can I wager? And do I really have a choice?


  1. Well here is someone without an Amazon account! LOL Yep, I dont have one. I may be the last person on earth that doesnt but there you have it.

    You mentioned how your world is growing smaller because of the internet. I think this happens to a lot of people. I carefully guard against that. I make it a habit to go out at least once a week with girlfriends and to call friends on the phone to keep in touch with their lives. To me thats important. I know many people though who actually like their online life better than the real one and for them it works. But now for me. I need real friends who come to my house and I go to theirs.

    Where to draw the line on privacy and on the internet? Its a hard one! I think every one has to answer it for themselves.

    Thanks for the big brother alert and for the timely thoughts.

  2. I've had friends dump me for online friends. I make it a Point to do as Mrs. D does and make sure I see people face to face on a regular basis. When I have a crisis, I force myself to reach outward. It's important to me, and I think it builds stronger relationships. On the internet, it's easy to get folks to love you when they only see what you want them to. If you (general you of course) can get folks to love you when they can see you and be around you warts and all, well then you can count on those friendships more I think.

  3. Anonymous9:53 PM

    eeuuww, super yucky. i don't like the feel of that either. ick.

  4. Anonymous11:54 PM

    I'm a little freaked out about it to. Plus, it's just annoying and so commercial. I've been working on getting any of the amazon links they may have been moved over to my new blog when I went from xanga to blogger to wordpress. I'm just done with it all.

    When we moved we simplified and one of the things I need to do is not buy books unless I need them. I think it's probably wise to ILL a book if you want it first. Then just purchase it from a small bookseller.

    I got sucked into Amazon because I could get free shipping and just order a few things here and there through out time.

    But, often enough those are things I could have waited on or I could have used a better "program". Ugh....yucky.

    I need to figure out if I can delete my account information with them now.

  5. You know this freaked me out as well. I went to someone's blog and there was your name - as someone logged in. I thought, wow, maybe Sara's sitting in her kitchen blogging away. I should call her. Then I got a weird feeling and quit for the night. Kinda creepy.

  6. If the website "personalization" happens when you're not logged in, it's due to "cookies" on your hard drive. Clearing these cookies is simple. In fact, it's a breeze if you use Firefox. :-)

    If you're using IE, go to Tools > Internet Options.

  7. Cookies, huh? Thanks for the tip!

    And ladies, I agree with you that it's important to have a life and friendships separate from the internet. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    This internet smallness,though... the trackability of another person through commercial entities, is a whole 'nother thing.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

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