Can Amazon Take Away Your Kindle e-Books?

They certainly can! David Pogue, commenting at Amazon’s Kindle Community:

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

I’ll add this to the list of reasons why my books are going to stay on my shelves.

[HT: Alan Jacobs]

9 thoughts on “Can Amazon Take Away Your Kindle e-Books?”

  1. man…I have a Kindle 2 and love it, but this is troubling. I assume that this wouldn’t be a problem with publishers like Crossway, IVP, etc., but they need to fix that. If a publisher agrees to make it available, they shouldn’t be able to take that back.

  2. Honestly, people are making a much bigger deal out of this than necessary, and the entire truth is not being presented.

    The reason the books were pulled, to my understanding, was due to a copyright infringement. I believe Amazon had to pull them legally.

    The same thing happened a few months ago when someone illegally put out some of Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books. They weren’t supposed to be there, and when Amazon realized it, they pulled the books.

    So, in my opinion, Amazon did the right thing, unless of course one would rather they left illegal copies available to all.

  3. I’m not sure a publisher shouldn’t be allowed to change its mind, and remove the ability for future e-book purposes. But it is obviously ludicrous for them to be allowed to take back from paying customers already purchased e-books.

    Glad I never bought a Kindle – here’s another reason I never will.

  4. Amazon accepted the book for sale, and later found that the publisher did not have the right to sell it (from the Orwell estate). This is how they “fixed” it, as the original sale itself was illegal. Still disturbing – use your Kindle only for documents you can do without at someone elses whim!

  5. Suppose these had been print books. I went down to Borders and bought a copy of Animal Farm and a copy of 1984. The physical copies now reside on my shelf. Then let’s suppose the copyright violation had been discovered and the sale was judged to be illegal. What, now, happens to the copies sitting on my shelf?

  6. Too hilarious for words… the IRONY of it all, books by Orwell suddenly vapourising!! Couldn’t be a more fitting scenario. The very author who wrote of Big Brother determining what we may and mayn’t read, or possess, has HIS works mysteriously poofed. Had a technology similar to Kindle been dreamt up by Mr. Orwell himself, I doubt not he’d have worked precisely this scenario into his works. Perfect!! Someone on a Big Brohter committee doesn’t like a certain work, it suddenly disappears. No opposition, no secreting it away, no resistance, no warning, no government operatives at risk, how perfect can it be?

    OK, so this was due to a copyright issue, and perhaps was done rightly. (I do hope Amazon have some serious words with the firm offering these works…) But what it DOES show up is the power of control over such a technology. I would far rather have to store, transport, protect, and keep my BOOKS, even secret them away should Big Brother become a reality, than to depend upon others, easily controlled, for the security of MY property. Again, too funny to believe. This truth is stranger than the fiction it did away with!!

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