Amazon Pulls a Disappearing Act

Imagine you pay for something and one fine day the vendor who sold it to you, just takes it away. Amazon recently did precisely that with one of the books sold to customers on the Kindle eBook reader. Ironically, the book that Amazon chose to erase from customer’s devices was 1984, the George Orwell classic which depicts a totalitarian era where this sort of a thing would’ve been commonplace.

Apparently, Amazon discovered that the copy on sale with them was a bootleg version. When the original copyright holder notified Amazon about this, Amazon decided not to just discontinue selling it but also to pull it out of customers’ Kindles. As compensation, Amazon refunded the customers. Still, as expected, the incident generated a lot of gripe online. It is generally agreed that Amazon handled a genuine problem, very badly indeed.

Customers buy eBooks for the Kindle device over a wireless network, but who knew the device had hidden functionality built in that could invoke a reversal remotely? Another title by the same author, Animal Farm, was also zapped in this sweep. And as it turns out this is not the first instance of Amazon pulling this stunt. Customers voicing their complaints on forums have pointed out earlier instances of Harry Potter books disappearing. Several users likened it to stealing property from their bedside table, while they were asleep. Kindle owners have first to contend with the fact that eBooks, however tangible, have certain limitations when compared to physical books. These include not being able to lend books, to resell or donate them once read, and also the inability to display them on a bookcase. Now they even have to live in fear of the books disappearing from their devices at the will of the seller. Another twist to this incident is that the books that were forcibly recalled are freely available for download on websites from countries where the copyright has expired, example Russia.

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