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back to article Amazon vanishes 1984 from citizen Kindles

In an irony-filled moment that underlines the flaws of our increasingly digital society, Amazon has removed George Orwell's 1984 from America's Kindle ebook readers. As noticed by one loyal Reg reader - and by the ebullient David Pogue of The New York Times - Amazon vanished the Kindle incarnations of both 1984 and Animal Farm …

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Anonymous Coward

Meh

There's already been a big discussion on the mobileread.com 'News and Discussion' forum about them deleting Ayn Rand content. To hell with any company that blithely remotely wipes files from your device (files that you bought in good faith) after they fcuked up. Refund or not, that's not acceptable to me.

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For maximum irony effect...

... this should have been deletion of Pilgrim's Progress, and/or Fahrenheit 451.

1984 is pretty good, though. Nice effort.

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Flame

On paper

Even on paper you should memorise them as quickly as you can.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farenheit_451

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Big Brother

We...

... control what you read!

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WTF?

Control of whats read?

I understand the intent of this article but, it raises a question. What if governments don't like what is available to be read. Will Amazon just do what it did in this situation? I would hate to see the demise of publications because a group doesnt agree with its content. Agree or disagree, eBooks are convenient except when they can vanish overnight. There still is much to say about print. Additionally, I am a Kindle owner.

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Anonymous Coward

Would this work both ways?

I'd like to see someone post their Kindle back to Amazon and reverse the credit card charge without warning or explanation.

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Big Brother

well the kindle owners can't say they weren't warned.

Oooh nasty cockup, and how appropriate that it happened to those titles especially BB. I was of the understanding that the t&cs of the Kindle did state that you were not buying but merely buying a non-transferable license that could be revoked - which is why I will avoid the kindle like the plague if it ever comes to the UK.

ebooks have their place - I have mobipocket and a modest library on my phone and pda in case of emergency but the amazon business model is sucky, and this incident serves to underline that.

Still this should get all the paranoids out there fulminating nicely. Let games commence.

George - who else !

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Stop

The future

I love reading books on my iPhone in the bath and in the car, and admit that this has got me into reading published works after a 20 year gap. I do worry for the future though when books will be all but gone and all human knowledge is in the Cloud 2.0 from where it can be all instantly magically disappeared by the illuminati and he with one eye who approves of their undertaking.

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Big Conceptual Limitation for the Kindle

"Amazon doesn't actually sell ebooks. It licenses them. And if it's licensing pirated books on a private network - with the ability to pull them back at any time - is it required to pull them back? To avoid the Orwellian removal of books from your book collection, we suggest purchasing Orwell on paper."

Of course it's ironic that this happened with 1984. I wonder if this happened to every Kindle owner who had purchased one of the two titles, or if some Kindle owners were more equal than others.

This hadn't occurred to me, but appears to be a major conceptual limitation of using the Kindle. So everything you "purchase" from Amazon is really "licensed," and Amazon has the right to yank it back every time some third party claims copyright infringement. Copyright law is a complete mess, of course, with no comprehensive regime in place to track rights transfers, so people are constantly coming out of the woodwork claiming to have some sort of right to something that is being distributed. So for all but the most mainstream titles, it would seem your hold to Amazon-purchased titles for your Kindle is somewhat tenuous.

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Anonymous Coward

Proprietary formats vs. right of control over your own computing devices.

Don't give it up folks, or this is the sort of shit that bigcorpco plc will always pull on you. Open formats and open source code are good ways to make sure you retain that control. We should not accept the notion that the manufacturer or supplier of something has any rights over it whatsoever after they've sold it to you, and we need to start insisting that we're buying a physical product and not licensing the right to listen to a tune or read to a book or whatever loophole they think they can claim to deny us our property rights.

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Pirate

hail our new digital overlords

"Well, they might have chosen Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451."

My pragmatic German grandfather put his Jewish-authored books less visibly behind other German authored books on his bookshelves during the Nazi regime (when those more prone to mass hysteria were burning the former) and he switched these books around after liberation during denazification.

Richard Stallman predicted this kind of thing in his "Right to Read" short story in 1997: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Copyright extremism and democracy don't combine.

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FAIL

I though Amazon were a bookSELLER

Obviously not.

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Big Brother

bigger brother to come?

As i understand it, 1984 is still in copyright in the US but out of copyright in other countries.

Are we to expect books to auto-magically disappear when a kindle is taken across a country boundary?

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Linux

excellent article

It is easy to vanish a book; this is like remotely controlled file deletion.

If I had any data registered on some file server, eg amazon.com; or any bank with financial information; it would be cool to delete the personal data, simply resetting my depts. The same way amazon deletes our data. Very few hackers are able to enter a storage system, delete some files and even delete the traces. But amazon has proven that it is possible. And possibly legal. sincerely yours, 0x81802954

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Alien

Meh.

A timely reminder of why renting books isn't the same as buying them... All your libraries are belong to us!

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settles it.

Well, this settles it for me. I will now never EVER purchase a Kindle (assuming it is ever made available where I live) or anything else that doesn't allow me to OWN the books I purchase without some twatdangle coming in behind my back and deleting them.

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Big Brother

I haven't used a Kindle

but I'm not likely to in a hurry going on this informatiom. This scenario makes the Kindle ebooks sound much more like loans or rentals than actual purchases, which is A Bad Thing. If the ebooks are actually rentals of an in(de)finite period, rather than purchases, they should be sold as such.

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FAIL

Just wrong

TRT2D would have been for Amazon to publicly acknowledge they hadn't vetted the seller properly, stop selling the ebook, and compensate the *copyright owner* for the unauthorized titles that Amazon had fenced --- then pursue legal remedies against the provider of the ebook.

Vandalizing customers' electronic homes by removing something the customer had acquired in good faith is just wrong. Huge black mark against Amazon. I've been toying with the thought of getting a Kindle of some flavour. No longer. Add this to the one-click patent nonsense and Amazon's out of my picture for good.

Thanks for helping me make my decision, Amazon!

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Big Brother

Thanks again for shopping with us

Dear Citizen

Thank you for downloading the recent speech by your glorious Leaderene, Chairperson Amazonia to your Kindle two-way telescreen. Recdep is aware of malreports in oldthinker journals (such as The Register) ref citizens downloading ungood literature. Bellyfeel that Thinkpol is monitoring citizens who misuse Kindle tech suchwise. Fullwise account follows:

One speech (one only) downloaded (since Kindle purchased) - Please confirm speedwise to avoid Thinkpol visit.

Thanks again for shopping with us.

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Scott

Double plus good Brothers, Orwell now unperson.

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Clouds

Welcome to the brave new world of cloud computing. When everything - even the books you read - relies on your Net connection, you own nothing and have no presumed rights, you only have those rights that you can afford to assert after the fact. No court is needed to sieze your property, no injunction can act quickly enough to prevent your business documents being deleted from the cloud, no police have juristiction over the foreign servers that leak your personal details to anyone with the money to pay for them.

Imagine what happens to kindle users who have a large library of out-of-copyright books when the US government decides to retroactively extend copyright again. Suddenly, all your books go up in electronic flames. And what about other legally owned books that someone decides are not legitimate reporting but slander and gets a court to order the withdrawl of that book - or sections of that book - from circulation? History and journalism are wiped out in the blink of an eye. If you happen to have the book open at the right page, will you actually be able to watch the words morph into the new reality in real-time?

As we move more of our lives online we give more and more power over our lives to the people who control the Net and the various websites we start to rely on, yet they have no responsibilities to us. This is not a good way to run a free society. It is, however, a great way to run a totalitarian one.

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FAIL

they have control over the device?

... after you have bought it? sounds like Apple to me.

any way, I still don't understand why it is treated as an acceptable behavior for companies to maintain control over the hardware _after_ you have paid for it.

the license agreement (which no one reads anyway) is no longer there to protect the company, it is now in place to state that the company still have control over what you paid for and how you can use. The license agreement should _NOT_ be able to tell you what you can and can not do with a device, it should just cover the liability in case the device fails.... the same with every other device (like a the TV, Car or PC).

P.S. what about the bank charges... who will pay those? oh silly me... the customer will.

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WTF?

I Was...

thinking about getting one (if/when available in the UK), but if Amazon can remotely delete a book from a reader without asking the owner first, they can stuff it; I'll continue using my old lappy!

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Megaphone

Stop whining

At least they gave you a refund, thery could of kept your money and considered it a preroder

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PR Disaster

And it could have been largely averted if Amazon has contacted customers to offer some degree of notice and an explanation of why it would be necessary to remove the eBooks from their Kindles and providing some sort of gift voucher for a different title for free or something, for the inconvenience in addition to a refund.

I don't see any major issue over Amazon removing material from user's kindles, that they previously sold to them, provided it's upfront and honest, and made more explicit that you're licensing books rather than purchasing them outright, when you purchase a Kindle/eBook. Getting your kickers in a twist over that part alone seems like a huge overreaction given the raririty of such incidents and the massively beneficial trade off of the Kindle versus paper books.

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Big Brother

Buy something else...

This is exactly why I don't want a Kindle or any other wireless reading device. There are plenty of other decent e-readers around - without this wireless nonsense that's only there to control or keep track of what you're reading.

On the positive side, maybe this silly move from Amazon will make Orwell's book even more popular now - there are still too many people who haven't read it, or who don't have a clue what it's actually about.

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Happy

Aussies to the rescue. Doubleplusgood.

The wonderful non-Google project Gutenberg has a copy in Australia:

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt

Of course the legality of having this copy depends on your country's copyright law.

"Ignorance is Strength"

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Bungee Books

G.HAM - So some goons from Amazon came into your house while you were gone, and took back some of the paper books they sold you. But it's ok because they sent you a letter saying they might do that, and it's a "rarity".

No thanks. I think the post by Robert Long says it all, and this incident has been a bit of an eye-opener to me. I intend to own the content I buy - music, books, video, whatever. It's my intellectual landscaping, and I don't think of my back yard garden as a rental, which might be bulldozed during the night.

So what Amazon sells now is "Bungee Books". They have long elastic strings attached, and might be yanked back at any time.

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WTF?

Both published pre 1959 - out of copyright?

Corrrect me if I am wrong but copyright on books is 50 years pretty much most places apart from the US - which would put both books out of copyright. I wonder if the original seller is from the EU or from the US?

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Stop

Another point

Umm I have just checked and even under US law these should be out of copyright since they were first created/published before 1978 and should therefore only be covered for 28 years meaning copyright ran out in 1973 and 1977 for Animal Farm and 1984 respectively. It is possible that in 1976 the rights holders of 1984 might have renewed copyright but I don't think that would be applicable for Animal Farm as it was out of copyright prior to 1976 when the new regulations came into play...

1984 could have theoretically just managed it but even that is unlikely I think.

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Dead Vulture

Irony

I think I'm right in saying this isn't irony. It's perfectly appropriate, as you say yourself in the bootnote.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2003/jun/28/weekend7.weekend2

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@g-ham 2000

as you say, it's not the removal of the book that was really the issue, you have hit the nail on the head with saying it was all around amazon's communication, or lack of. If they had simply pushed out a message saying

we are sorry, but they ownership of this book, provided by a third party, has come into question, so we have been compelled to withdraw it until the ownership has been established. In compensation we have refunded to your account what you have paid for the book, and when the ownership is established and the current situation resolved we will be happy to add the book back into your account for free.

i can guarantee a message like that would have made this a non-issue, and if they had also added a credit to your account amounting to the average price of a book, to sweeten it, they would have been praised on the way they handled a difficult situation.

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FAIL

Sony reader

I am so glad to have a Sony Ereader. It isn't directly connected to the store, so no such stuff can happen - plus I can install any public domain ebooks I wish.

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My problem with this is...

The customer is the one who really loses out.

They bought (or licensed) the title from Amazon in good faith. Presumably Amazon were given the rights to those titles by the publisher. So it looks like the publisher goofed. In the olden days the publisher might have been expected to eat their loss. But not here.

A mature solution might have been for the publisher to stop further sales as soon as they noticed the error. They've lost nothing so far. After all, they got their royalties from each Kindle user. The books are DRMed up to the eyeballs so can't be copied (ahem) - so there's no risk of them spreading further (cough). The problem would have been contained, there'd have been no unhappy customers and Amazon wouldn't look bad.

Certainly Amazon should have behaved in a more consumer-friendly manner towards customers who've invested a hell of a lot of money in the company's eBook strategy - those are A-list customers guaranteed to come back time and time again, now they're pissed off. And they're letting the world know.

And like a lot of people here, it's really cooled me towards buying a Kindle.

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@ jim 45

No obviously not, as that's a ludicrous example and unrelated to what I said. If Amazon make it explicitly clear in their licensing agreements that eBooks downloaded via Whispernet are on a license basis, and not owned outright, and Amazon reserve the right to remove files for reasons such as this, then yes that's perfectly acceptable, and if you aren't comfortable, simply don't get a Kindle - most people however are probably quite happy with that trade off in exchange for the convenenience over other eReaders and physical books.

If there were a license agreement when purchasing a physical book that Amazon could come to your house and remove it, then you most likely would purchase the book elsewhere, wouldn't you? And if not, then you can't complain if and when that actually occurs.

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FAIL

@ Alexander Hanff 1

According to the New York times 1984's US copyright expires in 2044!!!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html

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G-HAM

"If there were a license agreement when purchasing a physical book that Amazon could come to your house and remove it, then you most likely would purchase the book elsewhere, wouldn't you? And if not, then you can't complain if and when that actually occurs."

I think you're missing the bigger issue here, which is what happens when the local law is changed and they come knocking on your door/kindle for works that you were perfectly entitled to when you paid for them, as well as a variety of other situations.

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FAIL

Backups?

From Google:

The files are in a standard format (mobipocket with the extension changed to azw). They do have Amazon DRM on them, but you can still back them up over the USB connection.

You can of course also break the DRM; the program to do that is here: REMOVED

Mantra to my customers, 'backup, backup, backup!'

But yea, thanks to this story, I'm no longer waiting for the Kindle to arrive in the UK.

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FAIL

That'll be why...

...I own somewhere in the region of 1,000 books with no trace of an electronic variant in sight. The written word in it's best form doesn't need batteries or access rights from big brother. I bought it, it's mine to read where and when I choose.

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Pirate

calm down crazies

I've bought some books in the past but never the content within them. When you go down to the bookstore and buy a novel you are buying the printed paper but you are licensing the content. That's why you can't photocopy it or change the name of the author to your own because you don't own the content.

All that's happened is that the world has changed and the mediums have changed but everything else has stayed the same; the freetards and the crazies don't seem to realize this.

So Amazon did the equivalent of photocopying a book and selling it on. They then found out they didn't have the rights to do so and had effectively sold some people some stolen goods. Their response was that they did the equivalent of popping round your house and stealing the stolen goods back while leaving you a refund.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

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FAIL

Not crazies, and possible solution

@The Vociferous, these guys aren't crazies. Say what you want about "licensing" the content and all that, but with a book, you can resell it, and it's not going to just go up in flames if the publisher goes belly up or gets in a catfight. DRM-restricted systems have problems with this.

That said, it was made clear right from the start that Kindle's DRM was heavy, including revoking files, disable functionality of the device on certain files (text-to-speech for instance) and so on. The cost didn't help but this really cut my interest out for it.

My general idea for a DRM replacement is a watermarking. 1) Put watermarks on files and make it clear it's watermarked. 2) Find watermarked files on P2P, and hastle the owner of the file.

*Any* DRM or watermarking system can be defeated. BUT: 1) This is customer-friendly, it will not restrict backing the file up, moving it from one machine to another, etc. 2) Defeating DRM is a noble cause, it restores fair use rights and usage like in point 1, and playback of files on the hardware, OS, and player of my choice. It's obvious when the DRM is broken, the file works. This attracts talented people to breaking any and all new forms of DRM "they" come up with. 3) Defeating watermarking would ONLY be useful for piracy. This makes removing watermarks ideologically less attractive than DRM cracking. The only way to *know* if the watermarking has been obscured or removed is to put a file online and see if you get your ass sued. This makes watermark removal an unsafe pursuit, making it even less attractive. 4) I figure this would then make electronic files very unattractive to put on P2P, while restoring customer rights DRM-restricted files take away.

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FAIL

stole property?

"they did the equivalent of popping round your house and stealing the stolen goods back while leaving you a refund. What could possibly be wrong with that?"

Assuming you're serious - quite a few things.

When I buy a printed copy of a novel, you're correct that I don't own the content. Howerver, I do own the printed copy, and even if it turns out that the publisher cheated the author, the printed copy isn't "stolen property"

I seriously doubt that this is the first time a publisher has inadvertently sold copies of a work for which they didn't have the rights. And I seriously doubt that anyone has been forced to return their printed copy as a result. If the bookseller tried to protect himself from legal action - from the author - by surreptitiously taking back my printed copy, then it would indeed become stolen property, even if he left a $20 bill in its place.

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Black Helicopters

Back to the ministry of information...

for a few "improvements".

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Black Helicopters

How often has Amazon conspired with China?

To remove books on Chinese citizen's Kindles of books on the Dali Lama or Tiananmen Square?

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Big Brother

It wasn't written in newspeak

so it went to room 101

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Grenade

This is why people don't trust electronic media

The solution is generally: download -> print

Amazon would probably have been better off settling with the rights-holder and just stopping further sales.

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Big Brother

@ Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate

"The wonderful non-Google project Gutenberg has a copy in Australia:

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt"

Thanks!! Copy on my hard drive. They'll have to rootkit my computer to get it off :)

And this is why I'd buy a file or a dead tree edition but no way would I touch anything that lets The Man decide to 'discontinue' what I've just paid for. (I've actually got a dead tree copy already so I guess I've paid my dues anyway, but the digital version's handy for quote mining :)

Won't touch DRM stuff either, unless there's a way to make a backup. I'm not looking to pirate it but no way am I going to be held hostage to one supplier's hardware.

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

PROPERTY IS THEFT

... pick the odd one out

(Egads, you've even got the right icon!)

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Just a hint

This sounds to be an Amazon USA story and yet there is no mention of a class action lawsuit to claim a share of the interest that Amazon potentially made on having all that money in their coffers before it was refunded not to mention compensation for the long term psychological effects and distress on the purchasers due to the loss of that interest.

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Big Brother

Perhaps a more appropriate title to remove would be...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Thief-Markus-Zusak/dp/0552773891

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Black Helicopters

This doesn't sit right with me

I mean it too perfectly illustrates the shortcomings of Amazons Kindle and their licensing agreements, It's [s]hard[/s] impossible to imagine that either Amazon or the publisher requesting the books removal were ignorant of the sort of sensational media coverage this would guarantee.

I suspect Amazon was gamed here by a competitor that saw a stinking great whole in their business model and exploited it to maximum effect.

Still facts are facts, so I guess we should thank whoever is behind this for bringing it to our attention, astonishingly incompetent of Amazon to think this issue wouldn't be a problem for Kindle sales.

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