Widespread Kindle Use Prompts FAA Investigation of Safety Regulations

While there is essentially no evidence that use of a Kindle during takeoff will have any effect on the performance of an aircraft no matter what technology it employs, FAA regulations prohibit their use at this time.  It isn’t a matter of ignorance or discrimination on the part of the agency; there are just too many different types of electronic devices and airplanes in use at any given time to be able to safely assume a lack of interaction.  A blanket ban aside from certain white-listed categories makes sense when looked at like that.  As usage of devices like the Kindle increases though, the FAA has felt the pressure to start making some accommodation.

It won’t be a quick transition.  There is a complex system in place for approving a class of devices for use, and in most cases the responsibility for proving safety has rested with the airlines themselves.  Given the expense of such testing, it isn’t really a surprise that the FAA has decided to take matters into its own hands.  Still, we now know that a serious reevaluation of personal electronics like the Kindle is going on.  It is good news, since there has been no evidence of such devices producing any sort of interference and as such we can likely assume that test passing is inevitable.

The only real complication might be the presence of Kindle 3G models that are not easily distinguished from the WiFi models without close inspection.  At this time, the FAA is not considering cell phones of any sort for exclusion from restricted use guidelines.  There is, or at least may be, some potential for the presence of optional cellular connectivity in these eReaders to cause problems.

Pilots are already able to use their iPads during takeoff much of the time in order to view charts and manuals, but each such device is subject to airline scrutiny and must be individually certified, maintained, and generally found to be harmless.  Presumably there is some fear that a broken tablet would have at least some chance of transmitting more interference, based on how handling of this situation has been implemented, which might be an interesting factor that complicates the testing as it moves forward.

While I think we can all agree that it is in the best interest of every passenger to make sure that each flight is as safe as possible, it will definitely improve travel for Kindle owners to have these restrictions lifted.  Chances are good that a fairly large number of passengers sneak in their use during these periods anyway already, and there has not been one confirmed report of interference from any sort of electronic device used by passengers in quite some time.  Modern aircraft are generally well enough made that this simply isn’t the issue it once was.

We have no time frame to work with at the moment, so there is no way of saying how long this testing will take.  It’s been years since the last big round of certification though, dating back to before things like the Kindle even existed.  It seems likely that the FAA will now finally catch up to things and allow people to read in peace during these periods.

How Amazon Can Handle Their Kindle Spam Problem

As the Kindle Store is bombarded with countless titles of little or no value to potential purchasers, Amazon has to be wondering what can be done to keep this situation from casting a bad light on the whole Kindle brand.  It’s still a great device with an impressive attached store, but who wants to have to look out for scams and malware links when they’re just trying to grab a book?  The problem is that there’s a fairly subtle difference between honestly bad books and the pretty much useless content that users of systems like Autopilot Kindle Cash that attempt to exploit the system.  How do you tell when an author is putting out something they genuinely expect people to want to have paid money for?  I have a couple ideas.

First, I think that it is not unreasonable to restrict the number of book postings that an individual author can make in a day, except by special request.  Currently, as far as I can tell, there is little regulation on the process unless you are trying to fit into the Kindle Singles category.  Do we really believe that many authors have a genuine need to even consider publishing 10 books in a day, or 100 books in a week?  I understand that throwing up the back catalog of an author can involve a lengthy list sometimes and I think that should be possible if they clear it with Amazon Customer Service first, but as a general situation there’s no real need.  Why not say that you can only post one book per day, or three per week, and take the easiest means of profiting from these exploitative tactics away?

Perhaps a better way would be to have a way for verified purchasers of Kindle books be able to flag a purchase as spam.  Make it work off of a percentage system, wherein any Kindle Edition eBook that is flagged by 30% or more of purchasers (with a minimum of five or so to prevent the most blatant forms of abuse) is either taken down for review or publicly labeled as potentially harmful until it can be reviewed.  This would allow Amazon to get away with letting their customers police the system in a manner similar to the existing ratings system and point the finger at bad uploads for removal at the company’s convenience.

I realize that both systems come with their own problems, of course, but something needs to be done.  Millions of Kindle owners and readers simply deserve better than what’s being thrown at them.  Maybe adopt something like these fairly simple ideas, but have a method whereby authors can apply for exemption as needed?  It is a complex issue.  There are enough obstacles to deal with in the transition away from paper books that we don’t need this to be an ongoing problem, though.  It is time for Amazon to make use of the control inherent in having their own platform to change things for the better.