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Amazon Starts Sharing What You've Highlighted on Your Kindle

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Amazon (s amzn), 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 (s aapl) 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):

Why New Net Companies Must Shoulder More Responsibility

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user a.drian

39 Responses to “Amazon Starts Sharing What You've Highlighted on Your Kindle”

  1. Privacy issues aside, I found it totally annoying and irritating to all of a sudden be reading a book that includes others’ highlights. Why do I care what other people have highlighted? Reading is a personal experience. I want to opt out of this. Luckily I searched and searched and found the option in SETTINGS. Count me out.

  2. Ava Tari

    This isn’t just a privacy issue, it’s theft. Not the saving and sharing highlights part, but saving my notes. Those are my intellectual property.

    Is Mead going to start coming into my house and taking my notebooks because they made the paper? Does Bic think they own what I write with their pens?

  3. It’s somewhat ironic that Amazon is defending the privacy of their customers with respect to North Carolina, quoting the first amendment, and then doing this.

    If there’s an opt-in mechanism so people know their highlights are being sent off, then maybe it’s ok.

    But really, who cares what’s most highlighted? Read the book for yourself.

  4. mp lee

    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?

  5. Stephanie

    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.

  6. Stephanie

    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.

  7. Rob glaser

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

  8. yoshi

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

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

  9. 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! :)

    • 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.