Amazon Kindle

In July, you may remember, Amazon took much flak for “recalling” the George Orwell book “1984” from hundreds of Kindle e-readers. Eventually, after they were caught, Amazon and Jeff Bezos apologized calling the act “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” While Amazon also issued a credit back to their customers, this didn’t satisfy many users who thought this was a tremendous invasion of their privacy.

The good news is that Amazon has decided to return the deleted books to anyone who was affected by the intrusion, alternatively customers may choose a $30 gift certificate if they so choose.

One student was so annoyed by this by what Amazon did that he has actually filed a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming that “Amazon ate my homework”. In this case not only did Amazon take his book, but also all the notes that he had included as he read it. Seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but I guess you can sue anyone these days. Reportedly the offer of the refund of the book has nothing to do with the lawsuit. Uh huh, sure.

The e-mail from Amazon to their customers who were affected read thusly:

“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,”

I will say this, Amazon and Bezos are not perfect, but they usually respond well to situations like this. I’m sure this was the fault of some middle-manager somewhere who just didn’t think about the repercussions of snatching a book back from their users’ Kindles, and I do believe Amazon will not allow stunts like this to happen again. However, it does open a whole discussion about who owns digital materials like this. It is a very unsettled area of the law and society is still adjusting to copyrights and licensing agreements in this brave new world.

Photo Source: Shakataganai