Monday, July 20, 2009

The Amazon Kindle & Big Brother

On Friday, some strange news broke: all copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm were being remotely deleted by Amazon from customer's Kindles. This seemed like a huge invasion of privacy - revoking already-completed sales just because they could due to the digital existence of eBooks. And it was made even more troubling by the choice of books being revoked - classic books about abuse of power and control of thought.

In the meantime, CNET has put up an explanation of the situation that is more balanced. Essentially, the books were being sold thru Amazon illegally. The publisher was claiming the books were in the public domain, when they were not. Thus, when the legitimate publisher found out, they objected and demanded all existing copies be repossessed.

While I agree with CNET that this puts Amazon in a slightly better light, it still leaves open the question, "Who is protecting the customer?" A more customer-sensitive decision would have been for Amazon to compensate the true publisher, punish the fraudsters, and allow customers to keep what they paid for.

Amazon has pledged to do better in the future. Here's hoping they do. Otherwise the Kindle may very well go from trailblazer to footnote.

No comments: