Amazon the online book seller has forcibly deleted copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from customers' Kindles.
The ebooks were pirated copies sold for 99 cents by a company that had no rights to the material.
Amazon was able to remove the titles because the Kindle is configured to automatically sync up with the user's Bookshelf via the electronic book reader's WhisperNet wireless service.
When the company removed the unauthorized books from customers' accounts, they also disappeared from the Kindle.
Amazon then delivered a cryptic e-mail about what happened:
We recently discovered a problem with a Kindle book that you have purchased. We have processed a refund to the payment method used to acquire this book. The next time the wireless is activated on your device, the problematic item will be removed. If
you are not in a wireless coverage area, please connect your device to a computer using your USB cable and delete the file from the documents folder.
Contrary to what the New York Times reported, the publisher did not change its mind, nor did Amazon cave to pressure. Rather, Amazon was notified that copyrighted material was being sold on the Amazon store without permission and it removed said
Instead of being honest about what happened -- that it sold unauthorized ebooks and has done so in the past -- Amazon only told customers that there was a problem. While removing such titles from a customer's Bookshelf and in turn deleting them
from the Kindle may be standard policy, a lack of communication about what actually happened has led to a media firestorm that will surely last through the weekend. Amazon also could have offered customers a legitimate replacement copy of 1984 or
Animal Farm and footed the difference, because in the end, this was Amazon's mistake.
Um sounds a nasty facility for censorship and control freakery has been built into Kindles. Surely it is only a matter of time before claims of libel or 'offence' will easily get Amazon reaching for their book burning button.
Update: Stupid Amazon
Amazon surely were stupid, they have lowered the perceived worth of their products now customers know that books aren't really theirs at all and can be taken away without notice.
25th July 2009. Based on article
In an apology posted on Amazon.com, company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos fell on his sword over his company's deletion of unauthorized e-books from the Kindles of consumers who had already purchased them. Borrowing a rather loaded word from President
Barack Obama, Bezos termed his company's preemptive actions stupid ”— as well as thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles. Amazon's actions last week kicked up a firestorm in the media about the nature of e-book ownership
and the specter of censorship by Amazon.
Bezos' announcement reads in full: This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. 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.