Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Amazon repents for Orwellian episode
Amazon.com is offering free books or $30 to Kindle customers whose copies of the George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm were remotely deleted from their Kindles by Amazon in July.
When Amazon erased the books from Kindles, citing a problem with the rights to the books, the company issued refunds to the buyers. The episode outraged many customers who didn't know that Amazon had the power to erase content that had already been purchased and downloaded.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said deleting the books from Kindles to address the rights question was "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles."
In an e-mail sent to Kindle owners whose books were erased, Amazon offered to redeliver the titles for free, along with any annotations users had made. Or the customers can get a $30 Amazon.com gift certificate or a $30 check -- which could be worth much more than two Kindle books, because many of them cost $10 or less.
Kindle owners who bought both books will be eligible for $60 if they don't opt to have their books replaced.
When Amazon deleted the books, it said they had been added to its catalog by an outside party that did not have rights to the books. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said Friday that Amazon has the proper rights to distribute the Orwell books.
The July deletion prompted a high school student to sue Amazon. Justin Gawronski said the removal of 1984 from his Kindle made the notes he had taken on the e-reader useless. He was reading the book for an advanced placement course in which he had to turn in "reflections" on each 100 pages of text. The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, calls for unspecified damages and a ban on future deletions.
Jay Edelson, a Chicago-based lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of Gawronski and an adult reader in Milpitas, Calif., said Friday he was pushing ahead with the suit despite Amazon's olive branch, which he called a public-relations move by the company. (info from The Associated Press)