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A New Cultural Low on the Internet

Like many travelers I am happy that eBooks exist. Boxes of dead-tree books are heavy and space-consuming. And how many times per year can a traveler get to a decent bookstore?

Therefore I was in a good mood -- and a grateful mood -- when downloading an Amazon Kindle book today. But I noticed something new: in subtle, almost subliminal, markings, the eBook told you where other people had highlighted sentences in the book. For instance, it would say, "438 readers highlighted this."

Infuriating! Who the bleep cares what other people highlight? Am I not supposed to think for myself when reading a book? We don't need the equivalent of television's Nielsen ratings in a book! 

To think that reading a book is degenerating to the watching of television, or looking at "thumbs-up Likes" on social media! This would be a new low for modern culture.

I was so angry that it took me a long time to figure out how to eliminate "popular highlights" in a Kindle eBook. At the top of the screen for Kindle-for-PC, click on:

  • Tools. 
  • Options.
  • Annotations.
  • Then uncheck the box for "Popular Highlights."
Naturally the Kindle-for-PC downloads with the default set to display these obscene suggestions, since that is the networking business model of everything on the internet these days.

But in Amazon's defense, they at least allow you the option to wipe out popular highlights. And that's no small miracle. This was a close call: how do I know if I would have had the spine to boycott Amazon if the option didn't exist?


Ed said…
I have never downloaded an Amazon Kindle book so I don't know if what you are saying about the Kindle for PC applies to the Kindle Paperwhite or not. I never download directly to the Paperwhite either, always to my PC then copy to the Paperwhite but that probably would not make any difference if it were coming from Amazon.
That is quite a convoluted path to getting a Kindle book. I would be interested if direct downloading to a Paperwhite or Kindle gadget results in these odious "popular highlights."
Ed said…
My method is not so convoluted when downloading from Gutenberg or or some of the other sources that I use. Amazon would download direct but I don't know if or how the others would. I think My Sierra Vista library would also download 'direct' through Amazon but that process is convoluted from the very start.

I would say that a direct download would have the popular highlights.
This is what Amazon has to say:

View Popular Highlights & Public Notes
Amazon displays Popular Highlights and Public Notes by combining the highlights and notes of all Kindle customers and identifying the passages with the most highlights and notes.

To turn on Popular Highlights or Public Notes:

While reading, tap the top of the screen to show the reading toolbar.
Tap the Menu menu icon and then tap Settings.
Tap Reading Options and then tap Notes & About This Book.
Next to Popular Highlights or Public Notes, tap Off. The switch will move to the On position.
When you return to reading, highlights people have frequently selected will start appearing while you read.
Anonymous said…
Get used to it. There is no privacy anymore. Mind control is the new normal. Do you (all) realize how much Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter influence our lives and thinking (if we let them)? Project 5 years out and imagine how invasive the Big Four will be. It's rather frightening. "According to estimates, the number of worldwide social media users reached 1.96 billion and is expected to grow to some 2.5 billion by 2018." Better stay in the boonies, Boonie.

sooperedd said…
Downloading directly to my Paperwhite or Voyage does indeed include "popular highlights". I find them innocuous and mostly interesting; I might even learn something. Predictably, as I read through eBooks the highlights decrease to practically none. It is interesting because I read non-fiction almost exclusively and expect to see many, many more highlights than I come across.

I have just about changed my preference regarding eBooks and now would rather read on one of my Kindles. I do still read "dead-tree books" as I have too many; I am somewhat of a bibliophile.
Chris, perhaps it is high time for the anti-trust regulators to bust up the Big Four.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kindle-for-PC is nominally free, but of course its true cost is just folded into the price of every Kindle book.
When I was a child, I always enjoyed reading the notes people made in the books I checked out. This reminds me of that, only with a modern twist.

In the dark ages, the religions controled the minds of those who lacked critical thinking skills.

If one develops critical thinking and follow through, then one can read the propaganda with the intent of understanding the predator of our day.

Critical thinking is easy, you ask questions

To gather the data and understand the grammar one would ask and then seek answers to

to discover the logic one would ask
To follow through with action, one would ask and then share

It called the Trivium Method of Critical Thinking.