The first book I’ve read in full on my Amazon Kindle is Daniel Solove‘s “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet.” It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read since it came out; it did not disappoint. I was glad to have the joint experience of reading a first full book on the Kindle and of enjoying Solove’s fine work in the process.
Before I picked up “The Future of Reputation,” Solove had already played an important part in my own thinking about online privacy. The term that he coined in a previous book, “digital dossiers,” is a key building-block for the chapter of the same topic in Born Digital, which Urs Gasser and I have just finished (coming out in August). Solove advanced the ball in a helpful way, building on and refining previous scholarship of his own and that of Jonathan Zittrain, Paul Schwartz, Simson Garfinkel and others.
This book has the great virtue of being accessible to a reader who is not a privacy expert as well as being informative to those who know a good bit about it to begin with. Solove repeats a lot of lines that one has heard many times before (for instance, at the outset of Chapter 5, Scott McNealy’s line: “You already have zero privacy. Get over it.”), but also introduces some new ideas to the mix. It’s good on the theory, but it also offers practical policy guidance. He also poses good questions that could help anyone who wants to think more seriously about how to manage their reputation in a digital age.
One other thing I appreciated in particular: Solove is clearly a voracious reader and does an excellent job of situating his own thoughts in within the works and thought of others (variously Henry James and Beecher; Burr and Hamilton; Warren and Brandeis; Brin, Johnson & Post, and Gates) and in historical context, which I much enjoyed.
As for the Kindle itself: it’s fine. I don’t love it, but I also have found myself bringing it on planes with me lately, loaded up with a bunch of books that I’ve been meaning to read. So far, the battery life has been poor (might be my poor re-charging practices), so that the technology of the Kindle is sometimes less good than the technology of the classic book (which cannot run out of batteries in the middle of a long-haul flight, as my Kindle always seems to). The eInk is soft on the eyes; no problem there. The next and previous page functionality is fine, and the bookmark works pretty well. And FWIW, I’ve now got Mark Bauerlein’s “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30)” on there, which is up next for a review — as its premise cuts against the grain of Born Digital. One advantage of the Kindle is cost, once you have device: the Solove and Bauerlein books cost a mere $9.99 each.