Skip to main content

E-books: Privacy and E-books

Privacy and the Emory Libraries

Please be aware that when you use most of the electronic book packages offered by the Emory Libraries that you are using material published and distributed by other organizations with different privacy policies.

E-book Privacy Issues

There are many ways in which electronic books are different from their paper counterparts. One of the most striking differences is the issues of privacy surrounding e-books. Of course, if you check a paper book out from the library and take it back to your room, there is no way for anyone else to know if you're reading it or if it sits on your desk unused. Electronic book readers and tablet apps, on the other hand, may be able to transmit information about your reading habits to others.

In July 2012, Alexandra Alter wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled "Your E-Book is Reading You." In her article, Alter describes the types of information that Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's NOOK readers send back to their respective companies, including how quickly people read through books, the types of titles they download next, and the material that readers highlight. Although this information can be used for legitimate marketing purposes, for some people this may a violation of their personal privacy.

California enacted a Reader Privacy Act in 2011, which essentially requires third parties (including law enforcement officials) to acquire a court order before they gain access to readers' records, although a person may voluntarily disclose what he or she is reading.

EFF Privacy Chart

Every year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation publishes a chart detailing the privacy policies set by the manufacturers of e-book readers and tablet apps. The 2012 chart gives the organization's most-recent evaluation; if you have any privacy concerns about e-books, you will want to review the EFF's latest guide.

© Emory University Libraries - 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, Georgia 30322