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Amazon Kindle: Digital Book Burning
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Amazon Kindle: Digital Book Burning


Ed comment: Amazon: the book jungle, from A - Z. Offer everything, corner the market and then when there are no competitors left. You can censor and "burn" (erase) all the books you wan’t - no one will ever know the titles ever existed. Kindle. I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. It’s all in the name/symbol.

Amazon’s Kindle is appropriately named, as to kindle means to "catch fire" or to "cause to start burning" (Wordnet 3.0, n.d.). The newest generation of Kindle products support the downloading of books without even having a computer connection, allowing the consumer to get a new book "anytime, anywhere" ( Kindle, 2009). At first glance, this type of technology seems to offer the consumer amazing freedom, flexibility, and opportunity. Coupled with this convenience, however, is the ability of Amazon to control what one reads, censor materials, violate a user’s privacy, and even attempt to circumvent their own Terms of Service and renege on the customer’s "non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use" (Amazon Kindle: License Agreement and Terms of Use, 2009).

In June and July of 2009, removed a few titles (including Rand’s The Fountainhead, and Orwell’s 1984) from their Kindle Store, citing a seemingly noble cause of attempting to protect the intellectual property of the publishers (Manjoo, 2009). Though this action may be a disappointment to consumers wishing to purchase the respective eBooks, the removal of these titles is not, in itself, unethical, illegal, or cause for any type of alarm. However, took their supposed pursuit of nobility a step further and wirelessly connected to their customers’ Kindle devices and removed their already-purchased copies of said titles. Not only did this action break their Terms of Service mentioned above, but it also brought digital censorship to a daunting new level.

This is an interesting conversation on the topic of software and hardware limitations, spy software and the crappy world of proprietary software

Before digital copies of books, physical copies could be sold without any method of recovery. To clarify, when one purchases a book from a store (assuming cash is used instead of a cheque or credit card), there is no method for the vendor to attain information about that individual’s identity, including his or her whereabouts. This means that if the book is recalled, banned by a government, or goes out of print the publishers, vendors, and law enforcement authorities have no hope in retrieving previously-sold copies of the book without the individual’s consent. Thus, the individual would have complete ownership of the copy, and could do with it what he or she wills. Further, this lack of circulation tracking means that it is very likely that a printed copy of a work will exist somewhere in the world, even after publication has ceased. With Amazon’s ability to track, modify, and even remove titles from Kindle devices, this ’complete removal from circulation’ security is no longer present. In theory, a book that is distributed solely in electronic form could be tracked and completely eradicated from existence! What seemed at first to be a lovely convenience can also be seen as a surveillance tactic and, worse yet, a totalitarian approach to censorship.


Kindle Users Sue Amazon Over Deleted Orwell Book
By Chloe Albanesius |

Two Kindle users – one of them a high school student – have filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon after the company remotely deleted copies of George Orwell’s "1984" from their e-readers.

Justin Gawronski, a teenager from Michigan, and Antoine Bruguier of California, sued the online retailer in Seattle District Court on Thursday for breach of contract, intentional interference with their belongings, as well as violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

In late July, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos apologized to Kindle users after the company deleted Orwell’s books from its Web site and users’ Kindles without notice. Amazon did not have the rights to distribute Orwell’s books, but it did not immediately reveal this fact to Kindle users who complained about the deletions.

"Our ’solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles," Bezos wrote to customers. "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."

That apology apparently did not sit well with Gawronski and Bruguier.
Gawronski, a Kindle 2 owner, purchased "1984" in June as part of his summer reading requirements for high school English. After reading about the deletions in the news, he powered up his Kindle on July 20 and watched "1984" vanish.

His lawyers contend that in addition to losing the book itself, Gawronski also lost valuable notes. Though Amazon maintained users’ notes on the book in a separate file that is still accessible, comments like "remember this paragraph for your thesis" are not helpful when you do not know what paragraph it is referencing, the suit said.

Bruguier, meanwhile, bought "1984" in April. On July 16, he received an e-mail confirming his refund for the book and, later the same day, an e-mail from Amazon that said the company had discovered a problem with the book and was issuing a refund. When Bruguier complained that he wanted to keep the book, Amazon said in a July 17 e-mail that it could not provide any insight on the deletion. Later that day, Amazon admitted in another e-mail that it pulled the book because of licensing issues.

The lawsuit contends that deleting content remotely from Kindles is a breach of contract and violation of Amazon’s terms of service, which says that Kindle users have a right to keep a permanent copy of the digital content they purchase, and view it as many times as they want.

The suit contends that the Kindle is protected as a computer because it is used for interstate commerce and communication. When they remotely deleted content, Amazon accessed customers’ Kindles without permission, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and a violation of privacy.
"Unless restrained and enjoined, Amazon will continue to commit such acts," the suit said.

The practice violates Washington state’s consumer protection statute, which bans unfair and deceptive acts and practices, the suit said.

Meanwhile, Amazon caused intentional interference – or trespass to chattels – to private property, according to the suit. "Amazon has no more right to delete e-books from consumers Kindles and iPhones than it does to retrieve from its customers’ homes paper books it sells and ships to consumers," the suit said.

Gawronski and Bruguier have suffered harm because they are now forced to find another copy of the book, which will likely cost more than the $0.99 and $3.20 they paid for "1984," respectively, according to their lawyers.



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