On Friday morning, owners of the Amazon Kindle e-book reader (only available in the US at the moment) woke up to discover Amazon had effectively walked into their living rooms, picked up their copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from the coffee table and left a cheque to the value of the books in their place.
It would appear an unauthorised entity made the books available to sell via the Amazon Kindle e-book store when they didn't have the rights to do so. Naturally the rights holders kicked and screamed and Amazon had no choice but to remotely delete the books and refund the money, though I think they should probably have just stopped selling the books like any other book shop would - I don't believe you can transfer the books between Kindles anyway.
The irony of this whole shenanigans is they couldn't have picked two better books to delete...
- 1984, the book which coined the phrase "big brother" in the sense that we know it today, got "big brothered"
- Animal Farm, in which Squealer reduced all the commandments into one law, the now famous quote: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", got "Animal Farmed" - both books are now in the public domain (ie their copyright has expired) in some countries (eg Canada, Russia, and Australia), but not in others (the US and the EU).
I quite like the idea of e-book readers, however I'm not keen on the idea that someone like Amazon can come along and unilaterally "unsell" me a book. Amazon has promised they'll never do this again, but sadly they've set a precedent and so I wouldn't hold my breath. If I do ever get an ebook reader, I'm certainly not going to get something quite so closely tied to a single reseller.