Amazon Deletes a user’s Kindle Books Without Consent

If you ever needed another reason not to purchase hardware, software or media with DRM then this latest story may convince you that DRM is utterly bad for consumers in general.

Amazon Kindle owners who purchased books by George Orwell just realized yesterday that the books were no longer on their device. Amazon apparently deleted the books from user devices remotely because the publisher of the book decided to no longer offer electronic versions of the books for the device.

Customers who have bought the books did receive a refund but were left puzzled and confused. Anyone who thought that ebooks with DRM were just like book purchases may have realized that they are not at all as Amazon and the publishers seem to have the power to remove books at any time from user devices. Amazon responded to user questions with the following paragraph:

The Kindle edition books Animal Farm by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) & Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase. When this occurred, your purchases were automatically refunded. You can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although a rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store.

Amazon stateamazons that is is unlikely to happen again. What users do need to realize is that it can happen at anytime. That's a huge difference to books or other media that you purchase as a hard copy in stores. Once you have made the purchase it it is yours and no publisher or company in the world will come to your house to get the book back and give you a refund.

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Customers thinking about purchasing a Kindle or any other electronic device that is making use of DRM may want to consider selecting DRM-free alternatives instead as they provide them with more control over the contents on the device. It's better for them, their children and our future.

Amazon, basically, has a kill switch that it can use to remove contents purchased on the site in digital form. That's quite the scary option the company has at its disposal, but it is far from the only company that has these powers.



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Responses to Amazon Deletes a user’s Kindle Books Without Consent

  1. Georg July 18, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    Reminds me of the book "Fahrenheit 451" where Fireman walk from door to door burning books. Their work would be a lot easier using the delete feature that amazon offers :-)

  2. Wurzelmann July 18, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    This has written "censorship" all over...

  3. Rarst July 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    News seem to focus on 1984 irony but this was not censorship act as far as I understand, merely copyright screwup.

    As for situation overall - I only wonder how many more it will take to teach people at last to not touch anything with DRM on it. Ever.

  4. Tumblemoose July 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Actually, several news services are reporting that the reason the books were pulled was because the books loaded on the self pub platform lacked the proper copyright from the self publisher.

    OK boys. You can stand down the black helicopters.

  5. Mike Licht July 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    Six months ago bloggers (notably Stephanie at UrbZen) warned about this kind of thing.

    See:

    http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/kindle-see-we-told-you-so/

  6. Holmes Wilson August 5, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Re: In response to Amazon's remote deletion of 1984 and Animal Farm

    Hi there,

    Saw you'd written about the Amazon / 1984 flap, and I thought you might be
    interested in the petition we launched yesterday:

    http://defectivebydesign.org/amazon1984

    We have over 1400 signatures already, and signers include Lawrence Lessig,
    Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow and other notable authors, librarians, and
    scholars.

    The petition opens:

    "We believe in a way of life based on the free exchange of ideas, in which
    books have and will continue to play a central role. Devices like Amazon's
    are trying to determine how people will interact with books, but Amazon's
    use of DRM to control and monitor users and their books constitutes a clear
    threat to the free exchange of ideas."

    Please have a look, and if you support the cause or think it would be
    interesting to your readers, a blog post would be great!

    Thanks,

    -Holmes Wilson
    Free Software Foundation

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