Doubleplusungood: That Copy Of 1984 On Your Kindle Is Now Gone

from the you-never-had-that-book... dept

For quite some time we’ve been pointing out the simple fact that, unlike with a physical book, you don’t really own the ebooks that you buy on your Amazon Kindle. Even worse, Amazon can simply delete them at will. In fact, that’s exactly what’s happened to (of all books!) George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Talk about irony. People who legitimately purchased those books discovered that they’re now gone, as the publisher has decided that ebook versions were doubleplusungood and should never have existed in the first place. So, like the war with Eurasia, the book is now just a figment of your imagination. You never had it. At least Amazon refunded the money, but what kind of book do you buy that gets automatically disappeared? eBooks are an interesting concept, but how can anyone buy into something where their books might suddenly disappear? Update: The NY Times is now reporting that Amazon says it will change its system so that, in the future, books won’t be deleted. However, that’s not making many customers happy. They seem pretty pissed off — with some noting that Amazon’s own terms of service claim that you have a permanent right to the content once you’ve bought it. On top of that, the Times quotes a student who had taken a bunch of notes, which Amazon destroyed as well.

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Comments on “Doubleplusungood: That Copy Of 1984 On Your Kindle Is Now Gone”

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mjb5406 (profile) says:

Amazon is at fault on fronts

First, Amazon should never have deleted purchased content; I can see privacy issues being raised even now by the ACLU, since it’s no different than, say, Microsoft going onto your PC and deleting your copy of Word because you’re still running Word 2003 and they insist you can onl;y run Word 2007 now.

But… Amazon should NEVER have signed any distribution agreements with any publisher that insisted on the “kill switch”. MobuleReference should have been told to go to hell.

Unfortunately, like with the Authors’ Guild being able to bully Amazon into allowing the text-to-speech ability to be disabled at the whim of an author, Amazon and its legal team have shown themselves to be absolutely, totally spineless. Consumer be damned… our partners are more important.

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Another lawsuit Amazon may want to lose.

Well we have to figure someone will be annoyed enough to sue Amazon over the disappearing Orwell. Given that perhaps Amazon wants a court telling them they can’t do that anymore giving them the right to tell any publisher who wants to shove off.

I still am waiting for a blind organization to sue over the disabled text to speech feature.

Anonymous Coward says:

Federal Offense?

If the terms the Kindle owners agreed to didn’t give Amazon permission to do this, then didn’t Amazon exceed their authorization in regards to federal computer crime laws? Isn’t that a felony? Once again, I expect the Justice Department turn a blind eye to corporate crime. Let’s see if I’m right.

Anonymous Coward says:


If Amazon sold the product to consumers with the guarantee of permanent ownership, it does not have the right to unilaterally delete those products–even if it refunds the money, in the same way that if I sell you a television I cannot later sneak into your house and take the TV, even if I leave the money you originally paid for it behind.

The affected customers should sue, and should press for criminal charges.

Claiborne White (user link) says:

Re: BTW, NYT completely lifted the comment from Engadget

I love examples of the blogsphere scooping MSM but your example doesn’t seem to hold water. Time stamps show publication of the NYT post by David Pogue more than 3 hours prior to the Engadget article by Laura June, even accounting for time zone differentials.

Doubter says:

Re: Re: BTW, NYT completely lifted the comment from Engadget

Time stamps show publication of the NYT post by David Pogue more than 3 hours prior to the Engadget article by Laura June,

Engadget wrote that Drew Herdener contacted them directly with the quote that also appeared in the NYT. So are you saying that Engadget is lying? I think you need to post this supposed proof of yours.

Fungo Knubb says:


What a great example supporting my decision to not purchase any eBooks whatsoever. I was indeed seriously thinking of doing so, but this just smacks of criminal activity on Amazon’s part. So much for the eBook concept – now you see it, now you don’t. To hell with Amazon … book stores here I come!

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s weird how this is affecting the eBook concept (in comments everywhere where this is reported). It’s not the eBook that’s wrong, it’s the DRM that they put on them (and these proprietary format devices, also). The same could happen with games, proprietary format music, movies, etc. Also, isn’t the source for the kindle open? The kill switch must be there somewhere.

Sarah Black says:

Whats this you say? A netbook can be purchased for less than the newest Kindle?

And a netbook can read full PDF novels without the worry of a company deleting them from your drive… oh, and a netbook can be used for so much more than just reading books?


Personally, I still prefer physical books. I can take them to the beach or in my backyard and read them without the worry of stupid things like sand or sun instantly ruining my purches.

Anonymous Coward says:


“We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,”

Now let me get this straight: Amazon says it is changing its system to keep itself from doing again what it chose to do in the first place again in the future? Yeah, right. Talk about doublespeak. No wonder they deleted 1984.

Michael Long (profile) says:

Could be worse...

There’s another troubling side to this, one that’s double-plus-ironic considering the whole 1984 aspect.

If they can download a book, and if they can delete a book, then they certainly have the capability to REPLACE a book. Imagine that some night thousands of Kindle ebooks disappear and then reappear… altered.

We are at war with Eurasia. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia…

Anonymous Coward says:

I was referring to the comment by Justin Garownsky. You can get all of the information in the NYT from his profile page in Engadget, and the comment in the NYT is copied verbatim, commas and everything. That part of the article, they lifted directly. At least it shows that they can read comments, even if they think they’re ridiculous and won’t let you comment on their site.

BTW, I’ve been checking out the cool copyright thingie they have. It never ceases to amaze me. First, a “blog” and an “internet site” are different things. And then, you can have regional internets, apparently! Also, the price to publish the note in your intranet is U$S 1000. Cool, huh?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury will “never” release digital copies? Then what is a CDROM? I thought that was considered “digital.”

I also note that “Fahrenheit 451” is available as an audio CD, which I also believed was a “digital” format. My ignorance knows no bounds.

Chet K. (profile) says:

This is truly an effective marketing strategy...

…for selling actual books. I’m convinced that the entire Kindle existence is a beautifully effective marketing strategy to show people how DRM and copyright issues will always make real books printed on actual paper far more valuable.

And selling books was the original goal at Amazon, right? They’ve certainly convinced me to purchase only ink and paper.

Sammich says:

Is it really Amazon?

Once again Amazon gets blamed for something publishers do. I’m a sometime Amazon customer, not necessarily a fan (Bezos isn’t always right). There’s some blame here, but I don’t think it’s going to the right entity. To wit:

1997: Publishers cut deals with distributors, who cut huge deals to megabookstores–independent bookstores lose. Amazon steps in to fill the gap, gets blamed for nuking small bookstores.

2009: Publisher decides an ebook was a mistake and tells Amazon to pull it. Amazon may or may not think that’s a hot idea, but they have to comply if they want to keep their deals with the publisher. Ebook is pulled, Amazon gets blamed.

Therefore the Kindle is an invalid format, a bad idea, a blot on the Constitution? Sorry guys, I don’t get your logic. DRM has to go, but given that Amazon is a retailer, they’d be happy with whatever increases their margin. Right now publishers insist on DRM. If Amazon doesn’t cave, they lose their ebook product as well as distribution deals on paper books.

braindead (profile) says:

Re: Is it really Amazon?

2009: Publisher decides an ebook was a mistake and tells Amazon to pull it. Amazon may or may not think that’s a hot idea, but they have to comply if they want to keep their deals with the publisher. Ebook is pulled, Amazon gets blamed.

of course they will, if they want to keep there customers they should protect them. If you have books but no customers your not going far, but if you have customers then publishers will have no choice but to deal with you, I am sure you are familiar with the saying “if you build it they will come”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is it really Amazon?

If Amazon doesn’t cave, they lose their ebook product as well as distribution deals on paper books.

Judge: So what do you have to say for yourself?

Crook: You see, ya Honor, I didn’t wanna shoot that guy, but I gots to make a livin’, see? I mean, the gut what hired me said he wussint gonna pay me no more ‘lessen I did it, so I didn’t have no choice. You can’t expect me to miss out on my profits, can ya? I’m a bizness man and I gots other people dependin’ on me too. So ya see, it wuzzint my fault, I *had* to do it!

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Kindle Spam Problem.

According to the report on Ars Technica, the publisher, Mobile Reference, was apparently some fly-by-night operation which was automatically vacuuming up free content on The Gutenberg Project, automatically reformatting it to the special Kindle format, and turning around and selling it on Kindle for about fifty cents a book. They probably wrote a script to copy over the Gutenberg Project’s directories and instantly set themselves up as a publisher of thousands of titles, without ever even looking at the titles. However, it seems that, intentionally or otherwise, they pulled in content from the Australian Gutenberg Project, which conforms to the more liberal Australian copyright law.

The curious thing about the Kindle is that it is set up in such a way that customers expect to pay even for free content. These people apparently exploited it by writing a fully automatic program to generate kindle copies of just about everything they could get for free. Amazon apparently has some kind of indexing problem which causes people to pay for public-domain books even when they are available for free. Operations like Mobile Reference seem to be the Kindle’s equivalent of comment spam.

For Amazon, the Kindle is a blunder. They need to stop dreaming about selling E-content, and concentrate on the business of selling small physical objects, which may be used books or may be sets of wrenches.

Pwdrskir (profile) says:


We have seen how corporations deal with people, we are a means to an end (profit), expendable and disposable. Corporations are trying to tyrannize our books, music, news, television, healthcare, Internet; they will stop at nothing to enslave us all.

“By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be.”
-George Orwell, (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nick (user link) says:

Publisher didn't have the rights (from Ars Technica)

According to Ars, the book was pulled because the publisher didn’t have the rights to distribute the affected eBooks in the first place.

That doesn’t excuse Amazon’s woeful mishandling of the situation, but it did do a wonderful job of highlighting both the stupidity of ridiculously long copyright periods (Orwell died in 1950, but the books are still under copyright 49 years later – yep, I’m sure he’s working on that next best seller right now!) as well as the risks of letting someone else control your media library (not so easy for a company to come into your house and take back a book they sold you that they didn’t actually have the rights to).

Anonymous Coward says:

I am thinking about getting an e-book reader. I even considered the Kindle versus Sony’s because of some good reviews. However, this issue is a deal-breaker for me. Sorry, Amazon pals, your duty was to save face with your customers and deal with your partners as you can; just remember where does the cash come from.

Actually, the fact that _that_ kind of code actually existed and was hidden from the public breaks the trust between dealer and customer. That is not a good way to make business.

Gypsy Outlaw says:

Interesting that it’s Bradbury’s book(s) at issue. Can you say “Fahrenheit 451?” What Amazon did (deleting books w/o the “owner’s” permission) is no different than what many over-controlling, dictatorial governments and religions have done; at least they had the balls to actually go to your house or local library and take the books to burn, not just silently delete them in the night. This is not the obvious villains we’ve come to watch out for in the past, it’s corporate control of what we can, and can not, own that is now the danger. Hell, they can even track your cell phone when it’s turned off if it’s the right make/model. Anyone remember “Max Headroom?” If I could be a ‘blank,’ I’d be one, no matter how “convenient” the corps want their property thought of in your life.

Rabbit80 says:

Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to forward the money from the sales to the publisher rather than deleting the book from the users and refunding them? I doubt that there could have been any recourse from the publisher if Amazon had done that and apologised – as well as which the whole shebang could have been kept under wraps and not made Amazon, the Kindle or the publisher look bad!

Ryan says:

DRM Crap

Just a couple sections out of there disclosure for the kindle.

‘Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the 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. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.’

‘Kindle books are intended to be read only on Kindle devices or with a Kindle mobile reading application. Your Kindle ebooks will be accessible for as long as you own a Kindle and have an active Amazon account. Access to your Kindle ebooks may be discontinued should your Amazon account be terminated. Kindle ebooks may not be read on any competing digital reading device.’

and if you email them asking if they have any way of telling what books contain drm and which dont.

‘Thanks for sending us your question about Digital Rights Management for Amazon Kindle content. Publishers choose whether or not they apply DRM to their content, and when they do, we respect and protect that DRM.

At this time we do not post information as to which books have DRM, and which do not. I’ll pass your request along to the Kindle team as a suggestion though.’

I agree that a book is still great, but not always practical. I like my sony ebook. It does pdf format and I can just download anywhere and convert it. It does have drm, but easily turned off.

tomas verde says:

kindle, kindling


M P says:

Unlike Kindle. Sony Reader cannot be accessed by BB

That’s why I prefer Sony Reader. You upload books to it from your computer, not some network watched by Big Brother. You can upload your own notes, or books your bought anywhere (not just 1 vendor), or free stuff. Kindle with its direct connection to Amazon is more limited and hackable by BB.

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