Via David Pogue’s NYTimes blog, this morning Amazon Kindle users discovered that some books by George Orwell had been removed from their devices because the publisher no longer wanted to offer them in e-book format. The outrage over this issue is just bubbling, and I suspect there’s going to be a lot of chatter about this on blogs and social networks over the weekend. It is a pretty heinous move — removing the book from the Kindle store makes sense if the publisher wishes not to sell a book that way anymore, but to go into people’s Kindles and take the book away? Yes, readers got a refund, but that doesn’t absolve Amazon.
As Devin at CrunchGear rightfully pointed out, it’s the virtual equivalent of a bookseller coming into your house and taking books off the shelves that publishers don’t want out there anymore. Obviously this is not correct behavior, and just because the “space” is virtual it doesn’t make it any less wrong.
I agree with Devin that I don’t want any device that allows some third party to control it from outside. I certainly don’t want to feel as though I don’t have complete control over the media I buy — Amazon is already on my list for their DRM which only allows you to download a book you’ve bought a certain number of times. Lose your Kindle? Lose your iPhone? If you’ve already grabbed it more than twice you may not be able to download it again. It’s like the MP3 battle all over again but with a fun bonus.
It’s apropos that the books removed were Orwell’s. Big Brother is indeed watching.