4. Amazon.com Re-Kindles Orwell

(Originally published 7/24/09)

Somebody call the Thought Police! Amazon ( AMZN) stole my Kindle copy of 1984.

The online bookseller enraged customers last Friday when it remotely deleted electronic editions of certain books already purchased by readers for their Kindle devices. Ironically, and quite hilariously, one of those books wiped out by Amazon was the George Orwell dystopian classic set in a nightmarish world in which speech is repressed by a dark, omnipresent overlord called Jeff Bezos ... oops, we mean Big Brother. Our bad.

Amazon sends its digital books to Kindle owners over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices and remove books entirely.

In an email message to customers, Amazon tried to explain away the mix-up, saying the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not own the rights to them.

"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," said Drew Herdener, Amazon's Minister of Truth.

Darn! We meant the director of communications. Sorry again.

"We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances," said Herdener.

An authorized digital edition of 1984 from its American publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is still available on the Kindle. The U.S. copyright on 1984 does not expire until 2044, but it has already expired in other countries, including Canada, Australia and Russia where readers can download digital copies of the book without fear of committing a thoughtcrime.

Wait! Not a thoughtcrime, we mean breaking the law. ... Hey, what are you Amazon guys doing here? ... Get your hands off us! ... Where are you taking us? ... What do you mean re-education?...

Five Dumbest Final Thoughts -- All hail Jeff Bezos. All hail Jeff Bezos.

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