Another Reminder That You Don't Own Your eBooks: Amazon Removing More eBooks You 'Bought' From Archives

from the not-this-again dept

Last year, you may recall, Amazon got into some trouble for deleting a supposedly "infringing" copy of George Orwell's 1984 from peoples' Kindles. After this got a ton of attention, the company announced that it would change its system so books won't get deleted from Kindles any more. Of course, they never said they wouldn't delete them from your archive, however. Separately, you may recall that a few weeks back, Amazon got into a bit of a kerfuffle over a book concerning pedophilia. The company initially defended allowing this book for sale, by stating:
"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable."
However, hours later, Amazon changed its mind and suddenly became one with its inner censor. Apparently, with its newfound willingness to go that route, it's begun unleashing those powers widely, taking down a whole bunch of "erotica" books without explanation. Apparently, many of the books in question include fictional accounts of incest. Of course, as some have pointed out, the Bible also contains accounts of incest -- and a book seen in a recent Amazon ad includes a fictional account of incest.

While the Slashdot account of this story says that the books are being removed from the Kindle that's not exactly true. They're being removed from your Kindle archive. This means that if you delete the book from your Kindle, you can't redownload it. In other words, it's like the bookshelf in your basement where you store books you might want to go back to some day, but probably won't touch for a while. However, for a company trying so hard to pretend that its ebooks are just like real books, it really ought to stop deleting things after you've supposedly "bought" them.

Update: Amazon emails me to say they've put out a statement saying this was a mistake that has now been fixed, stating:
Due to a technical issue, for a short window of time three books were temporarily unavailable for re-download by customers who had previously purchased them. When this was brought to our attention, we fixed the problem and those books were once again made available for re-download. We apologize for the inconvenience.
It still appears that the books themselves are no longer for sale. That's Amazon's prerogative, of course, but the lack of explanation still seems pretty weak -- especially after supposedly defending not being about censorship. Also, there is no explanation of just what kind of technical "glitch" this was. Considering the trouble the company got into for deleting books in the past, you would think this would have been more carefully reviewed. Finally, the fact that it took nearly a week and numerous high profile media mentions to get Amazon to respond to questions from the authors is pretty weak customer service.

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  1. identicon
    TheStupidOne, 15 Dec 2010 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Personal Morals?

    I'd say that it is perfectly acceptable for any business to refuse to work on or provide service to anything it finds morally objectionable.

    Now a large enough company can't get away with it because of the bad press such behavior would generate.

    A utility couldn't get away with it because it is so heavily regulated by the government and has a government granted monopoly.

    My personal opinion is that a business should not impose it's morals on it's customers or potential customers unless there are multiple viable alternatives. Amazon is only one of a great many bookstores and most bookstores sell a version of ebooks that are compatible with the Kindle, so I say Amazon can do whatever they want to. Should Amazon tighten it's grip on the Kindle enough that you could only put books on there from Amazon, then I'd say they either need to sell anything that has been published or refund their customers' money.

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