Every now and then, these news items cross your path that simply don’t need any words or imagery in order to make an impact. This is definitely one of those. You all know Amazon’s Kindle, right? It’s Amazon’s successful e-book reader which allows you to buy a subset of Amazon’s book catalogue in electronic form. Well, the term “buy” doesn’t really apply here. Update: In a rare case of company mea culpa, Amazon has explained that deleting the books was a bad idea, and they assured us it won’t happen again. The issue here was that the publisher behind the two Orwell books in the Kindle Store did not have the rights to sell these books, and after Amazon was informed by the rightsholder, they removed the books. Still, according to the NYT, more books were deleted from Kindles, even though Amazon doesn’t have the right to do so according to its own TOS.
So, you’re happy with your Kindle. It’s an interesting device, and I must admit that I’m personally waiting for its European launch. You can buy books and newspaper subscriptions straight from your Kindle, making it the one tool for book lovers to carry around.
The problem is that if you have the rights to sell a certain dead tree book in your store, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re allowed to sell the ones-and-zeros version of said book as well. Amazon needs the permission from publishers to actually do so. As it turns out, that permission can be withdrawn at any time as well.
Several Kindle owners were reporting that books by a certain author mysteriously disappeared from their Kindle devices, with the money being refunded to their accounts. Amazon explained that this happened because the publisher of said books decided to withdraw these books from the Kindle Store – consequently, Amazon deleted them from all Kindle owners who had “bought” these books.
This means that all the reassuring talks by Amazon that e-books are just like books, but better is a load of absolute nonsense. You’re not allowed to resell them, you’re not allowed to give them away, and apparently, you don’t even own them, as Amazon can delete them from your Kindle at any given moment.
We’re living in a very crazy world. You buy a phone, but you’re not allowed to install whatever application you want on it. You buy an operating system, but you’re not allowed to install it on computers without a certain fruity label. You buy an e-book, but you actually don’t really buy them. You loan them.
The author in question? George Orwell. “1984” and “Animal Farm” were deleted from Kindles. I think the world just ran out of its entire supply of irony.