A media furor erupted late this summer when online retailer Amazon.com suddenly deleted digital copies of the George Orwell classics “Nineteen Eighty-four” and “Animal Farm” from its e-reader the Kindle. Now the company is offering customers affected by the decision a $30 refund. Former owners can choose to have the book replaced or take the gift certificate. Amazon sent an e-mail to affected users, alerting them to the offering.
“As you were one of the customers impacted by the removal of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” from your Kindle device in July of this year, we would like to offer you the option to have us re-deliver this book to your Kindle along with any annotations you made,” the letter read. “You will not be charged for the book. If you do not wish to have us re-deliver the book to your Kindle, you can instead choose to receive an Amazon.com electronic gift certificate or check for $30.”
In early August, two owners of the Kindle sued the company for breach of contract, intentional interference with their belongings and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Antoine Bruguier of California and teenage Michigan resident Justin Gawronski filed the suit in Seattle District Court over deleted copies of the dystopian classic “Nineteen Eighty-four”. “Amazon has no more right to delete e-books from consumers’ Kindles and iPhones than it does to retrieve from its customers’ homes paper books it sells and ships to consumers,” Bruguier’s lawyers argued in the suit, which is alleging breach of contract and a violation of Amazon’s terms of service. “Unless restrained and enjoined, Amazon will continue to commit such acts.”
Amazon 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, told The New York Times at the time. With the furor failing to subside, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos publicly apologized for Amazon’s actions.
“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’s Kindle site. “Our ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles. 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 our mission.”