Feeds

Amazon Kindle doomed to repeat Big Brother moment

How it's broke and why it can't be fixed

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Yes, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has apologized for the Orwellian removal of Orwell from digital book readers tucked inside the pockets of American citizens. And yes, the new-age retailer has promised not to repeat its Big Brother moment. But that's not a promise it can promise to keep.

Last week, Bezos and company vanished all copies of both 1984 and Animal Farm from citizen Kindles after the rights holder complained those books had been sold without its permission. A third-party publisher had uploaded the digital texts to Amazon's online Kindle store, claiming - perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps not - that the titles were in the public domain.

It's no surprise that Amazon is obligated to remove pirated titles from its online store. But in rescinding the texts from the readers themselves - texts already paid for and downloaded - the web giant ventured into new territory, undermining the reasonable expectations of all those Orwell-reading Kindle owners. Amazon's terms of service say its ebooks are licensed - not sold. But its marketing boilerplate describes the Kindle as a device for "your library" and "your books." The company didn't break its user contract. But it messed with some peace of mind.

"Amazon is morally obligated to make the possibility of revocation clear to buyers," one Kindle buyer tells The Reg. "I don't know of any other product anywhere where I can take physical possession after paying in full and still have it repossessed without warning or recourse.

"Customers are accustomed to the concept of 'buying' as being permanent. And if it's not permanent, why can't I force them to refund it if I don't like the book? How come the ability to revoke the sale is unilateral, one-sided, asymmetric?"

This uneasy feeling was only exacerbated by the fact that Amazon removed the books out from under Orwell lovers without explicitly telling them it was doing so. There were refund notices sent via email, but nothing more. Many Kindlers were left to wonder why their books had disappeared - while others wondered why there was a refund.

To his credit, Jeff Bezos acknowledged that Amazon's Big Brother moment was ill-conceived. "Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles," read his online apology. "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."

But that doesn't mean this is the last time Amazon will remove books from citizen Kindles.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer quits Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.