Censorship and the future of e-readers – Catholic Culture

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 18, 2020

A Kindle, or any comparable e-reader, can be a great convenience. If youre packing for a vacation trip (which you probably arent doing this year, but thats another story), its nice to know that you can bring along all of Shakespeare, all of Trollope, a few dozen mysteries, and the Summa, without making your suitcase any heavier.

But theres a disadvantage to Kindle. And I dont mean only the pleasure of handling a physical book, or the ability to flip back and forth easily through the pages. I mean the fact that you can buy a Kindle book, but you still dont own that book. You cant lend the book to a neighbor, or pass it along to a child. You dont have physical possession. Amazon does.

That distinction becomes more important when you hear suggestions that the works of Flannery OConnor should be censored because of her politically incorrect attitudes. And Mark Twain. And T.S. Eliot. And Kingsley Amis. And David Mamet. And maybe even Ray Bradbury, since censors are not sensitive to irony. Suppose, at some future date, the panjandrums of public opinion decide that these books should no longer be available. With a few keystrokes, Amazon (or its competitors) can make that happen. The next time you log on, you notice that those books the books you paid for no longer exist.

If there is anything about the recent behavior of large tech companies that gives you confidence this could never happen, please let me know.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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