Lately I’ve had this hunted feeling, that digital forces increasingly want things from us that we are unwilling to give. I used to be blithe about it and gave myself up to pestering technology, but now I’m suspicious.
I have an HP printer and for a decade bought the most precious and overpriced material on the planet, printer ink, worth more than lithium, coltan and cobalt. At one point, HP mysteriously began to thank me for buying its ink and rewarded me with free video games I did not play.
It was worried because customers had a new option: buy cut-price no-name ink for HP printers that were sold cheaply in order to make a fortune on HP ink. You thought your printer was a first date; you had married an extortionist.
Take journalist Charlie Warzel who bought an HP printer and had inattentively subscribed to Instant Ink, its auto-refill program. When his credit card expires, he writes, it stops paying for the mandated ink, so HP shuts down his printer remotely. He says his debt to Instant Ink grew.
In other words, HP still owns the printer he bought. He was effectively becoming an indentured servant of HP. My printer is old; when it breaks and I buy a new one, must I enter servitude as well? If I use homemade ink, will it refuse to print?
As Warzel pointed out, Tesla does this too with updates altering the car you bought. Is Tesla owner Elon Musk a benevolent? Are hyenas reasonable? Are vultures picky eaters? Musk can stop that car cold, as he wishes.
Jeff Bezos was born on Amazon by selling books, not because they were worthy but because they were easily stocked, packaged and shipped. Actual bookstores disappeared.
Sadly, Bezos discovered pleasure late in life. He has just built a $681-million yacht (it has sails!) to carry Lauren Sanchez and the weight of her engagement ring, while a smaller yacht (it has engines!) trails behind with toys like helicopters, ATVs, and even smaller boats. He’s a happy man.
Andy Jassy now runs Amazon. Not a detail man like Bezos, I note. He has stopped selling most books and has just closed the Book Depository with its massive warehouses of older stock.
Amazon changed its deal. Books were my heroin; I’m getting dopesick. We buy digital books, but the truth is we never truly own them. They