Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Big Brother Zaps 1984 from Kindles Everywhere

This story is getting old. Amazon has zapped more paid-for books directly from the Kindles of owners who believed they actually own the e-books they purchase from Amazon. Now don't get me wrong - in this case, Amazon had a strong case for remotely deleting the illegal copies of Orwell's 1984 mistakenly sold by the company. But do you remember an earlier case of one Amazon customer who "returned" so many e-books that Amazon got irritated with him enough to delete all the books he had left on his Kindle and lock him out of the system - making his Kindle a useless hunk of plastic?

This whole thing makes me uneasy. If I buy an e-book from Amazon, am I only going to be allowed to keep it as long as Amazon wants me to have it? What about the censorship issue? If someone or some group with enough clout convinces Amazon that portions of a Kindle e-book should be altered, or even deleted, what is to stop them from sneaking the changes into already-sold copies of the book? Would the owner even notice?

I see this week that Barnes & Noble is downloading software that will allow B&N e-books to be read on the iPhone and Blackberry platforms - with many more phones to be enabled in the coming few weeks. I see this as excellent timing...competition for a company that can't seem to get e-books right despite its dominance of the current market.

I do have to laugh, though, at the irony of 1984 being the book involved in this controversy. If there is a heaven, Mr. Orwell must be laughing out loud right about now.

As for me, I'm sticking with real books because I doubt that Barnes & Noble will ever ring my doorbell to confiscate a book I bought there - and I've lost enough music purchased in the mp3 format to know that I'm just as likely to lose whole books that I forget to backup after purchase.

Amazon is failing Marketing 101, something I never thought I would see.


  1. I played with a Sony reader on vacation, but it all leaves me a bit cold.

    Changing the subject a bit, I can't wait to read what you think of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers. I listened to classic country satellite radio from Sedalia, MO all the way to Washington DC and back again, so I feel happy and sated.

  2. If someone or some group with enough clout convinces Amazon that portions of a Kindle e-book should be altered

    Ha. That makes me think of the Jason Fforde books where Tuesday Next has to go inside the books to get the bad guys who are changing the plots.

    My favorite scene is the Rocky-Horror-esque performance of Richard III.

  3. This story just adds to my list of reasons why I've still resisted getting myself a snazzy e-book reader (the Kindle being the snazzy e-book reader of choice for those around me right now). With print, as you've said, it's highly unlikely that someone will come into my house and try to take back what I've bought - even if a recall is issued, as far as I'm aware, you're not required to return the book if you don't want to.

  4. I love my paper books. No one can ever take them away from me- unless they visit my house with boxes, and that will never happen!

    What is Amazon trying to do? surely this will loose them more Kindle customers.

  5. I agree, Suzi - my Sony e-reader is used strictly for traveling and, since I don't do much of that anymore, it is seldom used at all.

  6. Avenir, it ticks me off to see this kind of thing...customer abuse, IMO.

  7. I haven't read that one, Ms. Factotum, but this whole incident is kinda creepy to me.

  8. I agree, Library Girl. How ridiculous this was of Amazon...they got tons of bad publicity over it and you have to wonder why it was handled this way.

  9. Jeane, I would think that someone at Amazon got his butt chewed out yesterday.