July 20, 2009, 7:32 AM — So now that the dust has settled around the Orwellian Kindle kerfuffle, has your opinion of Amazon and the Kindle changed?
Quick recap for those of you who missed the news. Last week, Amazon remotely deleted certain editions of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from user-owned Kindles. Imagine reading a chapter before bed, going to sleep to dream about Big Brother, then waking up in the morning to find the book you were reading had been deleted. The irony couldn't be more delicious if it had been planned in advance. In all fairness, Amazon credited the owners' accounts to cover the price that was paid for the books, and it wasn't an arbitrary judgement. According to the NY Times:
the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he [Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener] said.
Now this reason was good enough to soothe the outrage that some internet denizens were feeling, but I'm not so sure. First, were Kindle owners aware that Amazon had the capability of remotely deleting content from their devices? If they can delete content, can they also see what you're reading? What page you're on? What time of day you read? What other access do they have to your Kindle? Granted they already know what you're buying from the Amazon store, but I wonder if they can see what other content you've loaded on the device?
Amazon has said, "Our bad, we won't do this again." (I paraphrase) and that's about the extent of any kind of clarification or apology that I've seen. So do you trust them not to mess with your content again, Kindle owners?
What Amazon should have done (in my opinion) is contact the people who had purchased these unauthorized editions, and offered them the choice of a refund and deletion, or an even swap for another, legitimate, edition of the books. At least then the customer feels like he has some control and is being treated with a modicum of respect. Silently deleting content that you've purchased in good faith just crosses all kinds of trust lines (again, in my opinion).
I've had a bad case of geek-lust for a Kindle since they were first released, but now I'm not so sure I want to get into bed with Amazon.