Tuesday, July 28, 2009


When news hit last week that Amazon surreptitiously removed downloaded copies of George Orwell's 1984 from Kindle devices, I didn't write anything about it. For one thing, I'm lazy. For another, plenty of other blogs were all over the story, and there really wasn't much more to add. Also, rash rushes to judgment often turn out to bite people in the ass. Plus, I'm lazy. The whole thing seemed a little fishy, too. Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos isn't an evil guy. Like Google, Amazon seems to be a megacompany with a heart and a brain. And Bezos is even a financier of the pro-reality Reason Foundation. Sure, he hocked a few Kindles on Oprah, but it's a small concession to make in the march toward putting an electronic book reader in everyone's home. (A side note: I own a Kindle myself and adore it. Aside from nailing the technical side of creating a device that, like a traditional book, disappears in your hand while reading, it's also an important stepping stone toward a more knowledgeable and informed future. Books are good things not because of the materials with which they're made or how they smell but because of the information in the text. Making that information instantly accessible from a massive database the size of a small notebook can only help us as a species. You pretentious asses complaining about the loss of tactile sensation can go fuck yourselves. I read more on my Kindle than I ever did before, because I don't have to worry about the tactile "pleasures" of folding over pages and lugging around pounds and pounds of paper. The Kindle is the best thing to happen to books since the printing press.) So I'm not at all surprised that Bezos has issued a written apology for the way the 1984 situation was handled. Far from being some kind of shadowy government conspiracy to extinguish the truth of an anti-establishment book you can easily pick up for a couple of quarters at a high school library rummage sale, this was a simple legal issue. Somehow, Amazon sold Kindle copies of 1984 from publishers who didn't have the right to print the book. It was stupid (I feel like Barack Obama here...) of them to simply go into people's Kindles through the wireless modem and delete the things, but they did give everyone's money back. And you can still buy an authorized copy if you want. In other words, this is a non-issue. Though I suppose nothing can convince Kindle Truthers that this wasn't an inside job. More details here.