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Amazon pulls a 1984 on its Kindle clients

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“Amazon Kindle Leather Cover (fits 2nd Generation Kindle)” (Amazon.com)

Sounds like an April Fools joke, but it isn’t.

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

[Click to continue reading Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others – Pogue’s Posts Blog – NYTimes.com]

This is a really really compelling reason to avoid purchasing a Kindle, no?

In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

[Click to continue reading Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices – NYTimes.com]

I don’t see how this can be covered in PR pixie-dust. Amazon is going to be the butt of a lot of jokes for a long time. Sneaking in and deleting 1984 of all books? Seems like there could have been a less obnoxious way to handle this, perhaps a note to those Kindle owners who had downloaded 1984? a coupon? Something, not just zapped down the memory hole…

We almost bought a Kindle a few months ago, thinking it might be a way to subscribe to periodicals without all the paper waste, no longer would we consider it. Annotating articles is a work-product, and Amazon could just remove it without asking.

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.”

Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer’s home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.

Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading “1984” on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” he said.

Amazon hasn’t changed the wording of their terms of service, yet

Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

[Click to continue reading Amazon.com: Help > Digital Products Help > Amazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device > Amazon Kindle Terms, Warranties, & Notices > License Agreement and Terms of Use]

Written by Seth Anderson

July 17th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses to 'Amazon pulls a 1984 on its Kindle clients'

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  1. […] on the other hand, occasionally is bit Orwellian. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who upon hearing the news of the acquisition […]

  2. As an senior citizen, in my 70’s, and love reading, I find the Kindle 2 just a perfect item. Besides being well designed, it’s easy to navigate, I have no problem seeing the print, I did enlarge the print abit, for arthritic hands, no problem with being too heavy, it’s just right to turn pages for me. I did catch myself licking my finger and trying to turn a page the first few times of reading. Old habits are hard to break. I’ve not read so much since I was much younger, thanks to being able to get my reading material quickly without having to order books, or go to the library and search and carry home books. My older mind still wants to learn, I enjoy research, and history, and up to date books by our great new authors now. So far, I am happy with giving my Kindle 2 all five stars.

    Naeem Jazzy

    13 Dec 09 at 8:48 pm

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