Kindle buyers beware: Cheaper prices mean less privacy

· Apr 13, 2011 Tweet

As the semester winds down, and I look forward to graduation and stepping out into the real world, I’ve started to focus my sights on something any sensible hardworking college senior should think about: What should I buy myself as a graduation present?

After I came to the realization that there was no way I could afford the clear option – a car, of course – I finally decided on something a little more sensible: a Kindle. Once upon a time, before I entered the word of college textbooks and scholarly articles on the future of journalism – seriously, J-school, we get it: Newspapers are dying. We don’t need to hear about it in EVERY one of my classes – I enjoyed reading for fun. And now that I’m going to dive head first into the real world sans required reading, a Kindle seemed like the easiest way to read for pleasure once again.

Lucky for me, Amazon announced this week that it would drop the price of the Kindle to just $114, from its current price of $134. When I went to the website to investigate my self-graduation present, I jumped for joy (Okay, actually I just shouted the good news to my roommate, who responded somewhat less enthusiastically, but you get the idea.). However, upon digging deeper into the Amazon website, I noticed that the company kept referring to the new device as “Kindle with Special Offers.”

At first I was intrigued – some of the “special offers” listed on the website seemed like things I would actually be interested in. For example, one of the deals is a Groupon type special where you buy a $50 Amazon gift card for $25, a major bonus for any electronic book reader. I didn’t even mind being the idea of being inundated with advertisements since the company made it sound like it would just be on the screen saver. However, after reading a few more reviews, it became clear that most of these would be sponsored by companies other than Amazon and would actually be on the very bottom of some pages of books.

Although Amazon executives have assured various major news outlets that they worked with advertisers to make sure the advertisements would not interfere with reading, I have my doubts. Especially considering that it’s well known that Amazon tracks reader information, like how much time an individual spends on a page as well as the most highlighted passages in books. (The company actually has an entire webpage dedicated to this information.) Combine these new special offers with a database full of my most highlighted passages, and I can just imagine personalized ads on the screen of my Kindle, screaming my name as I try to enjoy myself with a book after a long-day of being a “real world” adult. (And let’s be honest: Ads that involve your name are far more annoying and creepy than generalized advertisements.)

At the end of the day, I’m just not sure that a $20 drop in price is worth being bombarded with ads that could be personalized and targeting in many of the anti-privacy ways that have so many activists screaming foul play and college students with incriminating Facebook pictures concerned. So, for now, while I applaud Amazon for attempting to make e-readers more accessible to more people, I’m just not sure these “special offers” are worth the trade-off.

Rachel Vesco is a senior majoring in journalism, political science and Facebook stalking. For future column ideas, send her an email to [email protected] (or find her on Facebook).


This article was published Apr 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm and last updated Apr 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm


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