Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos issued a public apology for the deletion of two George Orwell novels, "1984" and "Animal Farm," from the Kindle e-reader device. Although the novels were pulled over a copyright dispute, the specter of Big Brother-style interference was such that Bezos decided an apology was needed. Amazon is seeking to dominate the e-reader space with its Kindle, although it faces the prospect of competition from Plastic Logic and other companies.
CEO Jeff Bezos tendered an apology on his
site for last week's deletion of two George Orwell e-books from users' Kindle
Around July 16, Kindle users realized that copies of "Animal Farm"
and "1984" had disappeared from their e-readers' archived items
library. Around the same time, an e-mail from Amazon.com refunding the purchase
price for the books appeared in users' in-boxes.
As chatter online erupted, with many commenting on the irony of the online
retailer pulling a book that dealt with themes of totalitarian control and Big
Brother, Amazon.com issued a statement on July 17 stating that the works by
Orwell had been pulled because the Kindle publisher did not own the rights.
"When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the
illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded
customers," Drew Herdener, a spokesperson with Amazon.com, told The New
However, customers still seemed disturbed that Amazon.com would reach into
their libraries and remove a book, necessitating Bezos to step forward and
offer something of a heartfelt mea culpa.
"This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold
copies of '1984' and other novels on Kindle," Bezos wrote in a July 23
community-forum posting on Amazon.com's Kindle site. "Our 'solution' to
the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our
"It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've
received," the note concluded. "We will use the scar tissue from this
painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match
Further postings on the board seemed to suggest that the apology had, by a
large percentage of readers, been accepted.
"Thanks. It wasn't that big a deal anyway," wrote one.
"I just got my Kindle today," another reported. "I can tell
you the issue possibly of deleting copies without permission was considered
heavily. Thank-you for respecting what shred of autonomy I have left."
Amazon.com has been scrambling for a dominant position in the potentially
lucrative e-reader market, which could earn the retailer billions of dollars in
coming years. Doug Anmuth of Barclays Capital recently estimated that the
device could earn Amazon.com $1.2 billion in sales in 2010 and $3.7 billion in
However, Amazon.com also faces increased competition, including an e-reader
Plastic Logic that will be released in early 2010 and utilize AT&T's 3G
network to download documents and books wirelessly
. Plastic Logic, however,
is angling itself more to capitalize on the mobile business professionals
segment, emphasizing the device's ability to download and display Microsoft
Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents.