However, there was no warning to customers, and the company's emailed explanation said only that there was a problem with the books. This was experienced, understandably, as invasive after the purchases had been long completed. Others point out that while physical stolen goods are taken away without payment made to buyers, Amazon is not a police dept. enforcing retrieval under a court of law.
Mobile Reference, it turns out, didn't have rights to upload and sell these copies, but since they specialize in specially formatted versions of public domain books (usually with a high level of care and on a volunteer basis) and the books are not in copyright in Australia currently, the inclusion of those books was surely inadvertent, as it's probably not widely known that the books are still under copyright in the U.S. until 2044, according to several articles online.
The most balanced and detailed story last night on the fiasco was by Nate Mook and Tim Conneally of betanews. Give that a read if wondering what on earth happened.
The NY Times's Brad Stone posted an update quoting statements by Amazon:
' An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “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,” he said.It has to be asked, under what circumstances might it still be done?
Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said. '
UPDATE - 7/18/09 Originally posted 7/18/09, 4:45 AM
Stone also quotes Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old who "was reading '1984' on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. 'They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,' he said."
Those notes should still be in his "My Clippings" file, which holds separate copies of highlighting and notes you make for a book. I wonder if anyone's let Justin know he should look there.
UPDATE #2 - 7/18/09 Original posting 7/18/09, 4:45 AM
Justin Gawronski has been found via Ken Kennedy's Kenzoid's Autonomous Zone article in which he described Justin's plight as told by Brad Stone's NY Times piece and made a guide for backing up your Kindle's "My Clipping" file so that you can retain, edit, print your My Clippings file. Also remember to check out TheProfessor's Word macro that will sort your My Clippings file by book.
Justin found Ken's story via a friend and now they're connecting to make sure his no-longer-lost notes are useable once a reasonably-priced copy of '1984' is found.
The Net is amazing.
Justin verified he found his notes in the My Clippings file. I don't know if Justin can stand reading a book online, but at least it's free to do that, as I just found out, at the George Orwell site. I sent Justin a quick note.
An Amazon customer discussion forum thread has some good pros and cons by members with some information on past deletions for copyright (Ayn Rand, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series) and the current situation with these two books in other parts of the world.
I've barely touched on the details, so do read the articles above if curious about the uproar.
It's not all nefarious deeds and high drama though. There's a lighthearted send-up of the situation by Amazon customers in one entertaining forum thread. Don't miss it.
UPDATE 7/18/09 - James Adcock makes one of his usual good points in the Amazon thread normally focused on the many ways to get books for your Kindle. He uses the analogy of someone selling you a bike or camera but not realizing it was stolen. I replied to his with another thought on that.
My own personal take on this, posted to the Amazon forums on 7/18/09 also, in connection with the above.
And here's another very good summary of the situation, by Ars Technica's Ken Fisher on "Why Amazon went Big Brother on some Kindle e-books." Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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