Nancy Davis Kho eReaders and Privacy Concerns
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By Nancy Davis Kho


I recently posted about end of year sales projections for the eBook market being 'poised to spiral', as Forrester Research put it ( eReader fans and vendors talk about how the devices mimic or improve on the reading experience, and the pace of growth certainly reflects a willingness to transition from paper books to electronic versions. But there's one aspect of physical book reading that remains elusive for (or maybe even undesirable to) vendors of devices and eBooks: privacy. As National Public Radio ( pointed out in a recent broadcast, if a device has an antennae that's letting you download books, it's also possible for it to transmit information on your reading back to the manufacturer( For businesses considering moving to eReaders in order to put business content in their employee's hands, this is not a small consideration. How valuable might it be to someone to know which trade journals, for instance, are being downloaded and read -- and for how long -- by members of a particular buy side firm, even if the data are anonymised and summarised? None of the vendors, it must be said, seem to be using the metadata on reading habits in this way, but they are most certainly collecting it. As pointed out, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has put together a helpful side-by-side comparison of the privacy policies of device manufacturers and eBook distributors ( It covers policies regarding searches, purchases, tracking of what you've read and annotated, and sharing of information externally, for Google Books, Amazon Kindle, the iPad, the Sony Reader, B&N Nook, and Adobe Content server. It makes for an interesting read and should prompt some reflection on how well prepared your organisation is to yield the benefits of the eBook spiral without sacrificing privacy and confidentiality.

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