Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Amazon Monitoring My Reading Speed?

I had a weird passing thought of paranoia (very mild, since it doesn't really matter) while reading my Kindle.

The weird thought was that everything you do with the Kindle might be reported back to Amazon, who, with no evil intention that I can think of, would be carefully filing away and examining the data.

I eventually would've had this thought no matter what, except when I first got it I became aware that they compile everyone's highlights, so they're able to show you the most popular highlights as you read along. Which I really didn't want to see, so I turned the feature off.

Really, why would I want to see everyone else's highlights? When I buy a book I'm not looking for the most marked up one I can find. I want a clean book! And anyway, everyone else's preferences aren't my own ... If you're sitting drinking a glass of pop you don't want the flavors everyone else is savoring to keep appearing in your mouth. One at a time, let my experience be my experience; my private thoughts don't have to have that social media accompaniment.

But this thought this morning is a little more than the highlights although of the same genus. They could be monitoring everything, like the angle I tilt the thing most often, whether I'm reading in the sunlight or a room, of course what words I look up in the dictionary (charting out everyone's vocabulary skills), and anything else you can think of having to do with reading comprehension, speed, apparent interest (if my speed picks up or slows down, one having to do with breathlessness, the other with savoring), etc., etc.

If the Kindle's tipped up at a certain angle, of course you're reading in bed. Wouldn't it be great to quantify how much reading people do in bed, so they could tie it in with marketing, something to do with mattresses? Or selling nightlights? I don't know what devices there might be in this device, all with their own evil or benign devices. The thing could be tracking my every move. I spilled a tiny bit of seasoned salt on it yesterday and I thought I heard it groan. I'll try pepper today and see if it sneezes.

It probably doesn't matter. The big companies want to know everything about us. And we're complicit if we hold their spies in our hot little hands. We may as well lay back and enjoy it, and just hope it's all going into a big aggregate number and that it's not so specifically individualized.

I might run a magnet over it and see if it cries. I have a big magnet on my refrigerator. I think I got it out of a car motor one time. No, probably not a car motor. Wherever I got it, it's the most powerful magnet I've ever seen. We'll see how the Kindle stands up to this big lug. I'm afraid to put it against appliances -- the refrigerator doesn't seem to mind -- since I don't want them acting up.

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