Friday, July 24, 2009

Two Cases of Too Little, Too Late

I sat down to write a quick note about Amazon's apology for its misguided decision to delete certain books directly from the Kindles of some of its customers without first bothering to explain why it was happening - or at least warning them. And then a television news break came on and I am suddenly looking at President Obama (yet again) and listening to him apologize for saying last night that the Cambridge Police Department acted "stupidly" in arresting Professor Gates at his home a few days ago.

My reaction to both apologies is that they are both "too little, too late." The damage has been done. Amazon's image took a hit and the company probably lost more than a few potential Kindle customers this week, me included. I was already concerned about the limitations on my personal usage of e-books bought for the Kindle, so being reminded just how easily those books can be stolen back from me by their seller ended my fascination with the Kindle. The price of the reader and the restricted value of the books convinces me that the Kindle is not the way to go. Bad move, Mr. Bezos.

The President's image has also taken a hit. He played the "race card" last night on behalf of a personal friend of his. That was cheap and it is very disturbing. My personal respect for President Obama took a huge hit because of his eagerness to defame the Cambridge police on the behalf of a personal friend whose behavior helped spark a police incident about which the President apparently had heard only one side of the story. How stupid was it for him to allow a local Chicago issue to overwhelm the message he wanted to send about his healthcare legislation? Very stupid. The President acted more "stupidly" than he accused the police of acting. His apology, if that's what this statement was supposed to be, was very necessary but it only came after he made matters worse by trying to defend his original statement earlier this morning.

I should mention, too, that my respect for Professor Gates is gone. I've seen the man on Book TV a couple of times and was impressed with him. Now, reading the police report (none of which Gates has denied) and seeing how Gates taunted the policeman and escalated the whole incident with his mouth and attitude, it will be difficult for me to take the man seriously again. He is obviously a hypocrite.

At least Jeff Bezos admitted that he and Amazon were 100% wrong, as can be seen from this quote from his blog entry:
"Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles," Bezos wrote. "It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission."

He signed his missive with the comment, "With deep apology to our customers."
See this Computer World article for reaction to the Amazon apology.

How can so many supposedly brilliant people do such stupid things? Maybe someone should write a book called When Stupid Things Happen to Smart People.


  1. I am not so sure that Gates is not disputing the police report. I read this today:

    Gates said Wednesday he would listen to Crowley "if he would tell the truth about what he did, about the distortions that he fabricated in the police report. I would be prepared as a human being to forgive him."

    That last sentence just REEKS of arrogance. IMHO

  2. just to add more fuel to the fire!!!

  3. JoAnn, the man's story doesn't seem to jive with that of anyone else at this point. He's a Harvard professor, an elitist, and I think he was offended that the officer either did not recognize him or treat him the way he expected to be treated. After all, there was a previous break-in at the home in recent days - what was the policeman to do? If he had been fooled by a burglar this way, Gates would be screaming for his head.

  4. That's great fuel, JoAnn, but I don't think we can give much credibility to an interview in which the interviewer calls the subject "Daddy." :-)

  5. Bezos did write a lovely apology, but I'm with you. I was on the verge of considering a Kindle due to recent price drops. That incident blew any hope Amazon had of luring me into purchasing right out of the water, up onto shore and miles inland. I cannot bear the thought that someone could snatch back a book without my permission. After reading about the incident, I took the time to look at ebook prices and was appalled. Without the cost of printing, there's no excuse for the exhorbitant cost they're charging for downloads. Forget it. I've got enough books to keep me busy for another 10 years, anyway. Thanks for reminding me, Amazon.

  6. Amazon....President Obama....I think what you are all missing here is the fact there is a simply gorgeous puppy pic with this blog entry!!!! How cute is that?!?

  7. Sam, unfortunately, "Daddy's girl" has been on all the talk shows and her article is linked everywhere. She is getting a lot of press and stirring up a lot of anger.

  8. I'm with you, Bookfool. The Kindle will have to reach "perfect storm" status before I'll part with that kind of money for another electronic book reader. I was fooled once by Sony and that won't be happening again. I think that e-books are way overpriced considering what you actually get when you buy them, so if Amazon is going to further muddy the water by deleting them at will or banning certain irritating customers from further purchases, then I want no part of a Kindle.

    If prices come down on both the books and the reader - if the books are readable in multiple readers - if Amazon understands that when I purchase something it really is mine - then I might be interested again.

  9. I love the picture of that pup, Kelly, and wish I had one. The little guy looks as apologetic as the President pretended to be - but the dog means it.

  10. JoAnn, we live in dangerous times. People are still playing the race card to get unfair advantage over the rest of us. They have no shame whatsoever. If Gates really said things like "I'll meet your mama outside," and the like, what does that make him other than a trash-talking little wannabe thug?

    His daughter is getting media coverage because the media have an agenda and this falls right into line for them. It is all part of Obama's world apology tour, the same one that he has sent Clinton on in his place. I'm sick of it. If progress has slowed down in regards to racial issues it is because bigots like Gates and his daughter (among many other prominent people) still can benefit from pretending to be abused because of their race.

    I'm not buying it. In my world, African-Americans and Hispanics are treated the same as everyone else. I see it every day. Bigots are still out there - on both sides - but they are dwindling in number every year. All this race card playing just slows things down and causes a backlash. Gates is acting like a fool and his daughter plans to cash in on it all, I suspect.

  11. Sam, I agree wholeheartedly with your last comment. I find all of this very frightening, especially when a supposedly intelligent man like Gates stoops so low.

  12. More of the truth seems to be coming out today, JoAnn. I hope that the sergeant does not cave to pressure from superiors or politicians to let it all blow over and appear as if he were the one in the wrong. I think that's what the President wants to have happen...hence, the invite to the White House.

  13. Sam,

    I am in Fort Worth right now on vacation and I am a little behind on all my blogs. I haven't followed the news much but I love everything that you have written about this Gates issue. Kudos to you! I fully agree. (sorry to hear about The Art...I haven't read it yet but I have it at home)


  14. Melanie, I hope you enjoyed Ft. Worth - thanks for the nice words, much appreciated.

    I feel out-of-step on "The Art," but I'm getting over it. :-)