Friday, July 17, 2009


As the clocks were striking thirteen, the Ministry of Truth -- I mean -- was deleting some e-books from their customers' Kindles. Ironically, one of the books was Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

I won't get carried away with hysteria over a repressive, totalitarian regime. This is not the government erasing books from our shelves and our memories. This is about an electronic commerce company remotely deleting unauthorized editions and refunding their customer's money.

However, I've been a big fan of the Kindle e-book reader for about a year now. I've purchased quite a few books and downloaded many free public domain works too. Like all customers, I know I have rights, and I believe I justifiably own whatever I have already purchased. If my books were to vanish over night in a wireless search and seizure, I would be furious. Let's just say my Kindle would become kindling. is making the same mistake the recording industry made over MP3's: punish and anger your loyal customers. That's a very bad idea. And it's even worse in's case because the whole e-book thing is a rather narrow market still in an awkward early adopter phase. If the current Kindle customer is willing to shell out $300 just to read books, I'll assume they're part of that elitist educated demographic who take any perceived censorship very seriously.

And what about the future customers? Those who were cautiously considering a Kindle? just turned them off for good.

So what would have happened if a book publisher had printed unauthorized editions of a physical book? Certainly the book seller would not be invading homes and confiscating the books! No, the publisher would be responsible for their own mistake and pay whatever fines and penalties the law prescribes. That's the way the e-book situation should have been handled too.

I hope this isn't another case where we need a new law to address an old problem. But with more people purchasing MP3's, e-books, software and the like online, we may one day need a law to protect the digital assets of consumers.

Meanwhile, is at least admitting to their mistake:
Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.
I still love my Kindle, but I trust a whole lot less. Glad they don't have the power to strap a cage of rats on my face.

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