Thursday, 17 December 2015

Samizdat Network.

It is no longer sufficient to protest censorship. We must hide forbidden books.

How do we hide books in the modern age? We hide them on our Kindles.

A photo posted by Richard Ford ( on

The establishment have their own literary salons and festivals to which the unwashed are not invited. We must have the same.

In the dog days of the Soviet empire there were people who would copy forbidden books by hand. This was known as Samizdat (self publishing).

The books had to be copied by hand because it was illegal to own a photocopier and every photocopier in the land was locked when not in use- with a KGB designated key holder to make sure it remained that way.

If these people could keep forbidden books in circulation then there is little excuse for us not to do so.

There is one problem that we have that they did not. Their oppression was overt and came from he top. The creeping censorship of our times comes from the people themselves. Being permanently offended is a source of strength to some people as the government panders to them by banning speech.

Many of us are not particularly worried by what is forbidden to us. They are things that would upset us and we would rather be ignorant than upset.

I have a partial solution to this problem. I call it the Samizdat Network. Imagine a blogger is threatened with deletion. There is little he can do about this except to beg and plead and he may even go to prison if he is deemed a troll.

One solution would be to archive his blog and render it to PDF format. This document could then be sent by email to everyone on the Samizdat Network where the books would appear in the Samizdat collection on the members kindles.

Once the books are hidden on kindles they become far harder to track down. A website may be closed but the documents remain.

Amazon retain the right to delete books from a privately owned Kindle because all the books purchased from them have embedded DRM software. I am not sure if Amazon have the right to delete documents not issued by themselves but let us assume the worst.

What then? How may we counter this?

It is quite easy. If we suspect Amazon may be being bullied by the authorities we may simply place our kindle in 'airline mode'. This prevents the Kindle using WiFi and therefore prevents Amazon from removing documents from it.

We may check to see what has been removed by viewing our books online or on a Kindle phone app. If our samizdat books vanish then this is a signal for us not to enable the Kindle WiFi.

In any case there are political and economic reasons this is unlikely to happen. There would be protests and the Amazon brand would be greatly damaged. We can therefore expect Amazon to fight deletions vigorously.

The kindle may be lent out much the same as any other book. There is no need to extract the file or send it anywhere. The book may be read directly from the kindle. The good news is that forbidden books are exciting and we will have no shortage of people who wish to read them.

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