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>Euwwww, used e-books

>Amazon’s practice of keeping track of what you underline is not only creepy, it’s disgusting. There I was, happily beginning Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War on my iPod Touch’s Kindle reader (all in all a nifty piece of software) when I came upon this:

To hear Rhoda Henry’s daily chatter, her life passed in combat with an incompetent world and a malignant climate. It was only female talk, and not in the least uncommon. But talk, not sex, constitutes most of the intercourse between a man and his wife. Henry detested idle whining. More and more, silence was the response he had come to use. It dampened the noise.

I clicked the underlined portion in horror, and up popped a balloon which read

3 other people highlighted this portion of the book

Popular Highlights can be turned off and on by going to the Info menu in the bottom right corner of the Home screen.

While I’m GRATEFUL, of course, that this feature can be turned off, I still feel like a haberdashery offered me a choice in shorts, dirty or clean. Really, who needs to know that three bozos felt the need to complain about their wives via sticking a digital “how true!” in their Herman Wouk?  As the immortal Mrs. Harry Welsch magnificently snapped, “I don’t even know who you are.” And what do they mean, “other people?” I’m not touching that line or any other.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Now we know why all those passages Amazon claims are "popular highlights" got highlighted. They've all been highlighted by people like you who saw the passage, wondered why it was underlined, and clicked out of curiosity.

  2. >Unsettling!

    But you are reminding me that it might be time for me to read THE CAINE MUTINY again.

  3. >Kindle, thy name is Big Brother.

  4. Melinda says:

    >I thought the highlighted portion was going to be some spam that wanted to "increase your manhood" or some damn thing.

    Word verification: coitsins. Not going there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Besides being able to turn off the option of seeing other reader's underlines, can you also opt out of having your own highlighted phrases being sent back to The Man?

  6. >At this point, would you believe that they weren't collecting that info., even if they claimed to offer the option?

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >I poked around in Amazon FAQs and in the Kindle forums (now there's a scary place) to see if you can keep your highlights to yourself, and it looks like you can't, so long as you are backing up your reading to the Amazon servers. While I know that the provision of my highlights to other Kindle users is done without linking my name to them, it still feels intrusive and icky. Amazon (along with various social media) seems to view reading as a group activity, while I like to be left alone.

  8. >I think this feature might be useful for textbooks or other non-fiction, but for fiction it would certainly interrupt the experience (not to mention the creepiness). If the author wanted a certain phrase underlined, they would have done so themselves.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >If you can't opt out of your own highlights being shared, it could sort of make you want to highlight ridiculous things on purpose.

    Anyhow, maybe authors would find it interesting to see what people highlighted… then again it might just give them the willies too.

    The whole thing is just forced oversharing.

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