Amazon Apologizes For Kindle Swindle

Amazon made news last week when it began deleting e-books—specifically 1984 and Animal Farm off the Kindle's of buyers who had previously purchased the titles. A few days later, the reason behind the deletions became clear. The books had been published erroneously and should never have been made for sale. The incident impacted only a small number of Kindle owners, but raise questions of personal privacy and the meaning of ownership that apply to all Kindle customers and even the e-book industry as a whole.

Today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos apologized to the community at large for the company's actions. Bezos characterizes the company's response as "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted...we deserve the criticism we've received." In the future, Bezos promises that Amazon will learn from these mistakes, make better decisions, and eat all of its vegetables. Trotting Bezos out to put a warm, friendly face on the event might be a smart PR move, but the CEO's apology, however heartfelt, avoids answering all of the tough questions.

Bezos offers no insight into why Amazon has given itself the power to delete content from the Kindle as it sees fit, why the store's inventory system was programmed to do this automatically in certain instances, and most of all, how Amazon can justify deleting content when its own terms of use states: "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..." The ToS offers no information regarding Amazon's right to delete content as it sees fit, nor allow for a customer appeal in the event that content might have been improperly erased by the system.

Bezos can apologize a dozen times, but it would mean more if the company pledged to cease and desist from watching all Kindles with an Orwellian eye.