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Archive for July 17th, 2009

Amazon Puts The Firemen From Fahrenheit 451 Out Of Work

Posted by scott on July 17th, 2009

Via Wil Wheaton’s Twitter feed (twitter.com/wilw), we get this news about the latest developments in digital book burning:

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

Yes, well, if ever a publisher needed to actually read his author’s books…

I don’t quite believe that in a battle between retailer and publisher, Amazon is the party which lacks leverage.  Still, I guess it was inevitable; just as they’ve made book buying ruinously easy, Amazon has now made book banning both effortless and instantaneous.  You don’t even have to light a match anymore, let alone dispatch firemen to hose down an unlucky bibliophile’s library with kerosene; all you have to do is hit Enter.

I bought a Kindle after I injured my back, and it’s a pleasant traveling companion.  Apparently, however, if I want to keep the books I buy for it I have no option but to memorize and recite them to myself as I wander around in the snow.  Thanks, Jeff Bezos.

Endgadget has more from Amazon:

Drew Herdener, Amazon.com’s Director of Communications, pinged us directly with the following comment, and now things are starting to make a lot more sense. Seems as if the books were added initially by an outfit that didn’t have the rights to the material.

These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.

So, Amazon confesses to breaking into its customers’ Kindles and secretly activating the Memory Hole option, but they’re really sorry and promise never, ever to do it again, and you can totally trust them to resist enabling that previously unmentioned protocol that will cause your Kindle to self-destruct like those tape recorders at the beginning of Mission: Impossible.

That’s good enough for me.

A Plea For The Profane

Posted by scott on July 17th, 2009

As you know, we don’t usually rattle the tin cup around here, mostly because Chris Muir needs your support so much more, or he may have to stop supplying the world with cartoons about the wacky adventures of Cubist women with scoliosis.  But our old friend Anntichrist S. Coulter, who has been a fixture around Wo’C about as long as I have, is at a low point and could use a bit of help.

As some of you may know, she underwent surgery on her neck yesterday, which may finally restore some of her lost mobility and compromised dexterity, but she’s fairly helpless at the moment.  Her co-blogger Terrible explains:

[I]t’ll be a while before she’s back to being the Annti we all know and love. She won’t be able to get around on her own for a while and will have to be asking for rides etc. And will need to give something for gas etc to those she can get to help her. And as you all know Annti is on a very small fixed income and can’t afford a lot of the things many people take for granted much less come up with cash for a ride to get meds or groceries. SOOOOOO if you can PLEASE pitch in a little to help out by clicking on the PayPal Donate button to your right and down(labeled ‘Annti’s Feral Feline Food, Fuel, and First-Aid Fund’). Believe you me I know things are tight all way round for most of us these days but even a couple of bucks will help make a difference. Bad enough having to have neck surgery, worse still to have it when broke and unable to get about.

I’ve kicked things off with a small donation on behalf of the blog, but if you can help at all, I know Annti would appreciate it. And if we collect enough donations to reach our goal, I’ll promise not to sing “You Never Walk Alone.”

Click here, then scroll down.  The PayPal button is one the right.  Thanks very much, guys.