Publishing News, Reflections

The Right to Read Anonymously is Under Threat

The ebook revolution has brought many benefits to both authors and readers. Authors who could not get their books published by the New York mob can now reach readers directly. And readers get cheap ebooks anywhere there’s an internet connection.

There is a dark side to this advance, however, and it is dark indeed. All digital activity is prone to surveillance, and ebooks are no exception. If Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, your local library know what books you read–and even what page you are on–then so do hackers from the NSA, China, Russia, and anyone else who with sufficient hacking power.

What, you thought Amazon’s servers are somehow immune to computer hacking? I’m sure their security team is very good, but there is no computer in existence that cannot be hacked.

So. This means we have national governments that know what everyone reads, when they read, how fast they read it, what passages they highlighted, etc.

Does anyone see how this could be a problem?

And I’m not talking about some distant, hypothetical future, either. The Snowden revelations have made quite clear that the NSA is all about looking for thought criminals. Maybe there’s some book they consider thought crime. You bought it? You read it? Let’s put you under surveillance. Let’s put your life under a microscope. And if we really don’t like you, let’s ruin your life.

At this point someone will argue, “But I only read paperbacks! I don’t like them newfangled ereaders! And I don’t have an iPad, either!”

Um. Do you buy your books online? The goverment still knows what you read. Do you buy your books from a bookstore with an electronic catalog system they connect to What, you think it’s hard to cross-reference that kind of information? There’s a limited number of bookstores in the world, and the NSA has $10 billion of your taxpayer money to play with. What do you think they do with their time? Look for terrorists?


The chains of bondage already wrap us in their cold embrace. A single click of the lock and the “turnkey tyranny” in which we live will be final. Ways to purchase and distribute ebooks anonymously must be developed, and fast, or our doom will be unavoidable.

Written by: J.M. Porup

Novelist J.M. Porup is An American Dissident in Exile. Read More


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