by Giles Turnbull
(Here’s a piece I wrote about the Amazon/Kindle/Orwell debacle a few weeks ago, for my PA column. The column has to be written very simply, avoiding jargon and technical mumbo-jumbo, which is sometimes quite a challenge for a technology article that’s only 250 words long. Anyway, I quite liked how this one turned out, so here it is.)
Amazon (amazon.com) is the biggest online retailer in the world. It’s also leading the pack with ebook technology. Its Kindle device – not yet on sale in the UK – has impressed many people with its high quality screen and long battery life.
But some of them were less than impressed when they woke up last Friday and found that certain ebooks had vanished from their Kindles overnight.
Amazon had reached out across the internet and instructed all Kindles with copies of George Orwell’s “1984″ and “Animal Farm” to remove those texts. Customers were refunded the cost of each title deleted.
But it’s not the money that people are upset about, it’s the principle. Affected Kindle owners were horrified.
It all turned out to be a ghastly mistake. The Orwell titles should never have been sold as ebooks in the first place; a third party had added them to the wrong list in error.
At the heart of this is the nature of ebooks. Customers think they’re just like paper books, but electronic; that they are “owned”. But some folk in the publishing industry consider them more like a library loan; something “rented”.
The Kindle is a clever bit of kit for sure, but ebooks still have a long way to go. And in the meantime, everyone’s going to have to reach some agreement about what, exactly, is being paid for.