Kindle customers who saw George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four disappear from their screens have received an apology from Amazon's CEO, along with a copy of the book or $30 of restitution.
Amazon sent out the apology, signed by CEO Jeff Bezos, saying the way they handled the situation was "stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles". Customers are offered the option of having the book reinstated, or an Amazon voucher to the value of $30, by way of apology.
Amazon sold the copies of the book illegally, after a third-party publisher mistakenly believed it to be out of copyright. But rather than apologise, the company simply yanked the offending text from customer's machines in a manner that would make the fictional Ministry of Truth blush.
Customers discovered their accounts credited and the book just not there any more, as though they had never bought it in the first place.
Amazon's actions even prompted legal action, with a student claiming his annotations were rendered useless by the book's removal. Annotations made by Kindle users are automatically synchronised with their online account over the Kindle's Whispernet, making them available for web viewing, so the poor chap should be able to get his notes back together.
But the episode has thrown unwelcome light on Amazon's ability to reach out and touch, and it will be interesting to see if Sony's Daily Edition (which features similar wireless connectivity) offers Sony the kind of abilities that The Party would have killed for. ®