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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 22, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    Amazon’s Orwellian move

    Ciara O'Brien

    It’s no secret that the publishing industry has lagged behind others – music, movies – when it comes to embracing the digital revolution. And  stories like this don’t exactly do it any favours.

    In a single move that’s likely to be used time and time again as a reason why not to buy ebooks, Amazon removed two George Orwell titles from its Kindle customers’ archives. Removing it from the archive also takes it from a customer’s Kindle too, because the Kindle is wirelessly synched with a user’s archive over 3G.

    That in itself was bad enough. But Amazon failed to inform customers what they were doing, and the first many knew of the move was when they tried to get access to the now-removed digital book, or when the refund notice landed.

    Irony of ironies, one of the books was 1984.

    The problem apparently lay with a copyright issue. The seller who uploaded the book was (allegedly) not authorised to do, leaving Amazon in a quandry.

    The subsequent decision to simply remove the book and take it back from customers lends weight to the argument that digital purchases mean less than physical ones.

    The important difference though is that Amazon licences the books to Kindle owners, rather than sells them. It’s all in the fine print. Rather than buying the book, you merely rent i, in a fashion, from Amazon.

    Which brings you to another limitation of the service – you are unable to share them with friends.

    While I’m a fan of ebooks, this business of preventing them from being shared is a bit of dud. Writing this I can see out of the corner of my eye a pile of books stacked in the corner of the room, about half of which were given to me by family members when they were finished with them. So why should it be any different with digital books?