39 Comments

Summary:

Amazon has launched a new feature for the Kindle that shows the most highlighted passages in its e-books, using data collected from individual users of the device. While some readers seem to like the feature, others see it as a little too Big Brother-ish and creepy.

Amazon, in a potentially controversial move, has started collecting information on what readers highlight in the e-books they’re reading on the company’s Kindle reader, and sharing it with others. The service doesn’t say which sections of which specific books a reader has highlighted, but it aggregates that information and displays it — including the most popular passage of all time, a selection from one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. Judging by the initial reaction from Kindle users, some feel that Amazon may have crossed a line, although others seem to like the idea.

Screenshot from Flickr user Michael Sippey

The new feature is one of several enhancements added to the latest version of the Kindle software, along with the ability to share content via Twitter and Facebook. According to a description on the Amazon site:

We combine the highlights of all Kindle customers and identify the passages with the most highlights. The resulting Popular Highlights help readers to focus on passages that are meaningful to the greatest number of people. We show only passages where the highlights of at least three distinct customers overlap, and we do not show which customers made those highlights.

Some users have raised Big Brother-themed concerns, including wondering whether Amazon is keeping personal data without permission and whether it might share such information with the government. Several users have expressed surprise at the move, calling it “scary,” as well as “nasty” and “spooky.” Not everyone sees the new feature as a bad thing, however. Some describe it as “awesome;” others say they love it. Some writers and e-book fans say they think the privacy issues are overblown, and others have even asked for this feature in the past.

Sharing features seem like a natural addition to the Kindle, not to mention a necessary move to help the e-reader remain competitive with Apple’s iPad. It remains to be seen whether the majority of Kindle fans will see them as a positive thing, however, or whether their addition will become a privacy issue, the way sharing personal data has for Google and Facebook. If you use a Kindle, post a comment and let us know what you think of these new features.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user a.drian

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  1. Stephen Frost Monday, May 3, 2010

    Personally I reckon this is a great idea! We live in an age of information where sharing of information is wat drives us forward, the ability to communicate and share ideas has propelled the internet to a completely different level, so to be able to share thoughts and expressions via things like the Kindle has to be good. Through taking passages within a book and highlighting them for others we can draw attention to source information, this really can create deeper understanding of issues with an ability to potentially transform lives. People read through spiritual texts and have sought information on practices such as meditation and yoga within books for years, often without assistance and from that missing key points. To bring relevant points to mind for everyone yields opportunity for us to accelerate the conscious transformation of the human race to a planet altering level. Something that with the messes we create we are very much in need of. I say bring it on Kindle, iPad and whatever else is coming! :)

    1. I agree that the information on what people highlight is interesting, Stephen — I guess some people just don’t want to be part of that kind of feature, for whatever reason. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Amazon Starts Sharing What You’ve Highlighted on Your … – Gigaom.com | Bargain Ebook Readers Monday, May 3, 2010

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  3. “e-reader remain competitive with Apple’s iPad.”

    You mean iBooks don’t you? The kindle reader on the iPad has the same functionality.

  4. Rob glaser Monday, May 3, 2010

    This feature should be opt-in only. Reading a physical book is personal and private by default. Digital should be the same.

    1. It seems that many other Kindle owners agree with you, Rob.

  5. I love that companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, etc. are trying to be innovative with the information assets they have in order to provide value added services to their users.

    However, I feel it is violation of privacy if I am not notified of these changes in advance and given the option to participate or to opt out.

    And the option to participate should be a straight forward decision, without any hardball tactics like Facebook is using to coerce their members to participate or else.

  6. I love that companies like Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are innovating with the information assets they have to provide value added services to their users.

    However, I do feel it is a violation of privacy if I am not notified of these changes in advance and given the option to participate or to opt out.

    When these changes are made without my decision to participate it is a violation of trust and it makes me question whether I will continue to leverage the service for fear of what else might be coming that I won’t be told about down the road.

    Amazon has been one of the most trusted Internet brands on the planet. Don’t start going all Facebook on us.

    Please give us the option and we will participate if it makes sense and truly adds value to our experience.

  7. Sanjay Maharaj Monday, May 3, 2010

    This is an enhnaced levle of service and I don’t see anything wrong sharign this information with others. I don’t think this sacrifices privacy online???

  8. Pemo Theodore Monday, May 3, 2010

    I guess the question is, whether there is an opt out & whether this ‘sharing’ is default, like facebook’s recent shenanigans? Anyone know?

  9. count me in the “this is a great idea” category.

    amazon says “we do not show which customers made those highlights.” i don’t understand where there is a violation of privacy. is the census an invasion of privacy, too? voting?

  10. Linkwertig: Totenreich, DST, Kindle, iPad » netzwertig.com Monday, May 3, 2010

    [...] » Kindle Software Update Adds Twitter, PDF Zoom, Sharper Fonts » Amazon Starts Sharing What You’ve Highlighted on Your Kindle [...]

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