Jeff Bezos: Amazon’s 1984 Actions Were “Stupid”

By  |  Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Amazon KindleAmazon’s decision to remotely delete pirated copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindle e-readers and refund their money was stupid, thoughtless, and self-inflicted. That’s not an irate blogger talking–it’s founder Jeff Bezos, who indulged in some serious self-flagellation at the company’s forums, as reported by TechCrunch’s MG Siegler.

Bezos’s mea culpa is one of the most refreshingly humble statements I’ve ever seen from a tech company CEO. But it’s pretty much standard that examples of major tech companies making boneheaded DRM-related decisions are followed up by backpedaling and apologies. If other companies remembered that, they’d make fewer boneheaded decisions in the first place and spend less time apologizing. Sounds like a win for everybody involved.

Here’s Bezos’s post in its entirety:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

As far as I know, Amazon hasn’t said what it intends to do in future instances of publishers selling pirated books through Kindle–a situation that’ll surely happen again, and one which copyright holders have a right to be upset about. But maybe part of the solution lies in figuring out better measures to prevent the stolen goods from getting into Amazon’s virtual bookstore in the first place.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Disputatore Says:

    Wow!!! They can pluck things out of people’s kindles? Is that even legal? I never really liked the concept behind the Kindle, being tied to one book supplier, but now I know I’ll never embark in any offer of the kind. Not that we have anything similar in Europe. That I know off, that is.

  2. P Smith Says:

    It’s not a “kindle”. It’s the Amazon _Swindle_.

    Disputatore asked if files can be deleted without permission, and the answer is yes. Just as Microshaft screwed its customers with “windoze genuine disadvantage” if they had internet connections, so can Amazon screw people who are connected. The advice of some users is to back up your files onto your computer to prevent remote deletion of files.

    A better solution is not to use the Swindle. Buy PDFs that have no DRM, and refuse to deal with any company that does. I use a PDA and scan in my own books for portable reading or get them legally, paid or free. I’ve never had any problems because of it.

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. How Apple Can Win Me Back | Says:

    […] nothing but warm feelings about, despite some issues people have had with them. See how Jeff Bezos stepped up and took personal responsibility for a recent fiasco.  That’s how a CEO should behave.  A big company I respect.  I trust and respect Google.  […]

  2. 1984 All Over Again | Technologizer Says:

    […] customer’s Kindle e-readers after discovering they were pirated. CEO Jeff Bezos eventually apologized and called the action stupid. Now the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog is reporting that Amazon has e-mailed the Kindle […]