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Orwellian behavior by Amazon

Posted by Richard on July 17, 2009

Although I’m reasonably geeky and tech-savvy, I’m still an old fuddy-duddy in some ways. To wit, I prefer to buy and own content, rather than subscribe to it, and I like having it in my possession in physical form — books, CDs, DVDs, etc. — rather than just having access to electrons under someone else’s control. Stories like this just reinforce my anachronistic attitude:

If you’re into keeping tabs on irony, check this out. Amazon apparently sent out its robotic droogs last night, deleting copies of the George Orwell novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four from Kindles without explanation, then refunding the purchase price. As you can imagine, a lot of people caught in the thick of Winston and Julia’s love story aren’t very happy — and rightfully so — the idea that we “own” the things we buy is pretty fundamental to… ownership.

It seems that the publisher changed its mind about selling the books!

I have both books in my library. They’re printed on paper pages bound together between covers. If the publisher changed its mind about selling them to me and sent someone to come into my house and remove them — well, let me point out that I’m a strong supporter of gun ownership and the right to defend one’s person and property. I suspect that, should this person survive, the local authorities would gladly charge him with burglary. I don’t think saying “But I’m refunding the purchase price!” would make it all right.

So, no, I won’t be buying a Kindle any time soon. If I’m going to buy a book, I want the physical book, not an all-too-revocable “license” to read it — until the seller changes its mind, or the technology fails, or the government determines it’s contrary to the public interest, or …

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