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The Kindle Spindle: Digital Rights in the Age of E-books and Amazon's Apology

By Neetal Parekh on July 28, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's not every day that the country's largest retail website site submits a candid apology to users for an action that is self-described as "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with [its] principles."  CEO of Amazon, Jeffrey Bezos, did just that when he apologized on the company's behalf for removing the George Orwell's classics, Animal Farm and 1984, from customers' Kindle accounts last week.

When Amazon realized it was selling unauthorized e-copies of the works to customers to download on their Kindle accounts, it acted swiftly and in line with provisions of its Digital Rights Management (DRM) agreement with customers, to remove the content from subscribing accounts, and refund customers for their purchase.  And while Amazon's actions may seem reasonable in a broad sense of correcting a mistake, the poetic irony of the situation certainly has not escaped the media and Amazon customers---and has sparked the re-ignition of public debate over digital rights.

As one Amazon customer commented online, "I liken it to a Barnes & Noble clerk coming to my house when I'm not home, taking a book I bought from them from my bookshelf and leaving cash in its place...It's a violation of my property and this is a perfect example of why people (rightly) hate DRM"   This sentiment of unsettlement has been shared by the general public and tech bloggers alike, and the mutterings of discontent follow release of's second-quarter earnings showing a 10% decline

But is an e-book a purchaser's property?

Amazon's DRM is heavy with restrictions and limitations---namely, unlike buying physical books, there is no first right of sale with Kindle e-books.  Customers then, purchase a limited license to read the book, and do not actually own a copy of it. 

The heavy restrictions associated with the DRM have been an ire with customers since the introduction of Kindle in 2007.  In light of the recent Big Brother-esque actions, the spotlight is on Amazon to make the connection between customers and their Kindle e-books more palatable.  


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