Saturday, July 18, 2009

Orwell Titles Erased from Kindle Book Collections

When Amazon discovered that it was selling unlawful copies of George Orwell's electronic books, the company decided to remove the titles from its Kindle electronic readers even though users purchased what they thought were legitimate copies ("Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle," New York Times, July 17, 2009). Kindle users voiced their astonishment and anger at the removal of Orwell's 1984 (ironically a book about government control of information) and Animal Farm but noted that Amazon erased other purchased books in its Kindle collection before this occurrence. The article also states that Amazon doesn't seem to mention that they reserve the right to remove purchased titles from individual devices in its "terms of service agreement."

Discussion Questions:
  1. The article notes that 1984 is out of copyright in countries such as Canada and Australia and electronic copies of the book are free. Does the global electronic marketplace make it difficult for authors and publishers to control access to their works? Since many people still like to read hard copy books, do you think freely available electronic book copies prevent an author from earning a great deal of money for their works?
  2. Amazon did credit user accounts for the Orwell purchases, but the article mentions that other retailers cannot seize purchased items from consumers. How would you feel about a company seizing electronic materials from your home computer if there was a legal challenge to your right to own it? What long-term effects will this Orwell episode have on sales of Kindle readers?