Another day, another PR mess for Amazon.com. Just as they seem to have settled the row over cracked Kindles (although the lawsuit continues
!), users awoke Friday morning to find e-books remotely deleted from their Kindles, and the PR storm started up all over again.
The Big Brother-ishness of the deletions was only heightened by the fact that the books in question were by George Orwell: "Animal Farm" and yes, "1984."
Amazon.com did refund people's money, but it brought the wrath of not just end users, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation upon Amazon.com. The EFF said
If people want books that won't evaporate on the orders of faceless bureaucrats, if they want their libraries to last, or the right to read privately, or if they want the same ability to share or loan books that they enjoy with printed books, they should avoid buying any book that can't be copied or any e-book reader with "remote deletion" features. Project Gutenberg has e-books that won't disappear at midnight, like a pumpkin coach. Cory Doctorow sells e-books that will live as long as your hard drive and your backups keep them around. They're in unrestricted formats — like plain text, HTML, or PDF — and you can read them on devices without an Amazon Big Brother on board.
Oof, not just a slap in the face, free advertising for rivals as well.
Amazon.com has now vowed to not do a remote deletion again. They also explained what happened, in this email from Amazon.com spokesman Drew Herdener:
"These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. 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.
"We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances."
The EFF noted that Amazon.com's Kindle terms-of-service does not mention any right of the company to perform a "remote deletion." Of course, that can be changed, right?