Mea Culpa: Amazon’s Error

Amazon’s chief, Jeffrey P. Bezos, has apologized to customers for deleting their Orwell titles in July and offered restitution: a restoral of the digital copies, an Amazon gift certificate or a check for $30. Mr. Bezos was contrite: “This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of ‘1984’ and other novels on Kindle,” he said, characterizing the deletions as “stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles.”

The self-criticism, however, doesn’t resolve the basic issues — first, that when you “buy” an e-book, you acquire only the right to have it reside on your Kindle under conditions determined unilaterally by Amazon; and second, the Kindle may compromise your privacy. As long as Amazon has the power to delete and replace e-books on its customers’ Kindles at will, there is the likelihood that it will be turned against readers, whether by governments or private parties in litigation.

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