Amazon zaps purchased copies of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindles

People who bought Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm for their Kindle were surprised to discover that it had disappeared from their devices overnight. It turns out the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic version, and Amazon caved into their demand to sneak into people's electronic libraries and take back the book at the publisher's request.

From Pogue's Posts:

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.

This kind of bullshit will encourage readers to visit Web sites in countries where the copyright has expired on Orwell's books so they can get free un-stealable electronic copies.

Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others


  1. Come on, 1984? Could they have picked a more ironic title to stuff down the Kindle’s memory hole?

  2. So then, will they be sneaking into people’s houses at night and also stealing the print copies?

  3. Down the memory hole.

    Does the publisher have absolutely no sense of irony, or too much of one?

  4. Amazon held up the Kindle in its left hand, with the thumb concealed.

    ‘There are five downloaded ebooks there. Do you see five downloaded ebooks?’


    And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five donwloaded ebooks, and there was no deformity. Then everything was normal again, and the old fear, the hatred, and the bewilderment came crowding back again. But there had been a moment — he did not know how long, thirty seconds, perhaps — of luminous certainty, when each new suggestion of Amazon’s had filled up a patch of emptiness and become absolute truth, and when two and two could have been three as easily as five, if that were what was needed. It had faded but before Amazon had dropped its hand; but though he could not recapture it, he could remember it, as one remembers a vivid experience at some period of one’s life when one was in effect a different person.

  5. Some said it would never happen; I get to go beat them with the “I Told You So” stick.

    It’s lonely being right all the time.

  6. “This ebook is not available on the Kindle. This ebook has never been available on the Kindle.”

  7. This is outrageous. I can understand blocking further sales (even if it is a dumb idea) but not taking back what has already been sold.

  8. Wow, I was contemplating buying a kindle, but was hesitating because of it’s closed nature. Not any longer though, now it’s time to look for something from another manufacturer.

  9. It’s good they don’t put “all sales are final” up anywhere.

    This is why I still buy CD’s and Blue Ray movies. A good lock and a shotgun can keep the corporate goons from repossessing things “just because.”

    Corporate power is so run amok these days. Rather then taking away their personhood, I fear someday they will replace the personhood of regular people with consumerhood.

  10. 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.

    Actually it’s not like this in at least one very important way. There is no physical invasion of privacy, and the intentional creepy/terror factor of that language is unnecessary here.

    I don’t know if the poster has been one of the voices decrying the music/film industry’s witch hunt for “pirates,” but I know a lot of the Boing Boing crowd has been, and you can’t have it both ways. An electronic copy of something is not the same thing as a physical object, and so amazon’s offense here is less heinous than a forced retrieval of a physical object.

    It’s still a terrible idea from a customer satisfaction perspective, but don’t go overboard. Make your protest and move on.

  11. I find it somewhat amusing that 1984 was one of the pre-loaded titles on my Sony Reader.
    It also appears to have survived after a quick manual sync (no WhisperNet, yo!) so I guess Sony used a ‘legitimate’ copy. Good thing too, as a new copy costs about $16 bucks at the Sony Connect Store.

    Egregious rent-seeking and overpricing, surely not the best ways to grow the ebook market…

  12. At least they got their money back.

    I don’t have a Kindle, but I’ve bought a few books through the Kindle store so that I could read them on my iPhone, and to be quite honest, that experience has stirred my interest in the Kindle itself.

    As long as they’re pulling these sorts of shenanigans, though, no Kindle for me.

    How does the publisher just “change its mind” about offering the book electronically, anyway? I’d think there would be some sort of legal agreement involved in the process of making that happen in the first place. If Amazon left room in the contract for publishers to just pull out on a whim, well… that was stupid, Amazon.

  13. And yet people still buy the Kindle.

    I use a service that allows me to check out a large selection of books and I get to keep them for weeks upon weeks before returning them to a local location. I can checkout as many books as I like with my plan, and I pay a small tax to use this service.

    Its called a library, seriously, they are pretty freaking awesome.

  14. Well, that’s upsetting. I love my Kindle, but Amazon just keeps alienating us further and further. One more reason to steal the book or buy it elsewhere and strip the DRM. Fuck you publishers, fuck you Amazon.

  15. If Orwell was alive today he’d say “What the hell? Where am . . . what . . . coffin? OH MY GOD, I’VE BEEN BURIED ALIVE! AAAAHHH!”

  16. @Cinemajay —

    Actually, they won’t sneak into your house to steal the print copies, they’ll just send the “firemen” to burn them for you, a la Ray Bradbury, or the Thought Police to confiscate them and torture you until you give up your accomplices and give in to Big Brother.

  17. “This is pretty sickening. Who’s the publisher?”

    Go to this really cool site called and you’ll be able to discover the publisher.

  18. And in one fell swoop I feel vindicated in my ceaseless quest to never buy an electronic book that has any connection to DRM or control from an external force.

    God bless Stanza on the iPod Touch, that’s all I can say.

  19. You should see the tools over on Amazon discussion threads defending Amazon tooth and nail on this. Pretty pathetic.

  20. Kindle is a great idea but I will never buy one. There are 2 reasons. One, they don’t sell it in Canada and two, Amazon has complete control of my content under guise of convenience.

    My solution is I buy the hard copy book and if I want to read it on my smartphone I download it. Format shifting. I would be happier if Amazon let me download files like you do with an iPod. I want a copy that cannot be taken away from me once I have it. Hearing this makes me angry even though I don’t own a Kindle and has assured that even if they became available in Canada I will not purchase one. You are buying a device that only lets you rent content.

  21. I buy paper books and sequester the carbon in my library. I’m like all uber green 21st century and stuff, none of this old-fashioned electronic book nonsense for me. That’s strickly for the rubes in the sticks who still burn coal.

  22. A little confusing, but it may be that the “publisher” (which is actually a kind of distributor) lacked the rights to distribute these books. In which case, Amazon would be obliged to do this, or be sued and be forced do. The same was (and is) true of samizdat and pirated print books.

    I can’t find any clarification as to whether these books were pulled for that reason or not.

  23. And it came to pass that once all books were digital, certain books became ‘unbooks’. These books were books one heard of but could never find, anywhere. A friend might have downloaded the book but when they looked it was gone.
    When asked about the books the Digital Authority on Media in Technology would always answer with a question; ‘If you can’t find the book, how do you know it ever existed?’
    And it was true, the unbooks did not exist, but like pulled tooth or a lost limb the existence of the thing was proven not only by its absence but by the uneasy feeling one had that the ideas in the book aught to be.

  24. and this why you should actually buy books, instead of a license to read a book. How is this thing still around?

  25. “Doublekindle”: To both own an ebook, and to not own it, simultaneously.

    “Doubleposting”: To both make and not make a mistake on one’s comment.

  26. My lovely girlfriend gave me a Kindle on Tuesday for my birthday. I love technology but I won’t allow some company to control by books and lock them to their device! It was returned this morning unopened before I heard this news. Now I’m double glad I did it. Being a geek I influence a lot of tech purchases and I will be steering everyone I know away from the Kindle!

  27. @ #29 – Phikus:

    So are we going to see Fahrenheit 451 become Kindling next?

    Thank you, I came here for that reference, glad I didn’t leave disappointed.

  28. you could have made it clearer that people got their money back. (It is implied but not clearly stated in your summary)

    Anyone know if the refunds were 100% or less some kind of processing fee?

  29. Damn, now I’m beginning to wonder if I can’t sue amazon for a return of the kindle as well as the price of all content downloaded to it. I’d say this is a breach of the implied contract. I have one because I travel a LOT and it’s nice not to have to drag a ton of books with me, but this is getting ridiculous.

    -no way to tell if the book has audio enabled or not

    -no way to tell the number of available downloads before the content needs to be re-purchased to download again

    -complete removal of already purchased content with no warning, redress or input from the customer

    Seriously, I’m half tempted to just ask for all my money back from these obnoxious bastards. This really pisses me off. And to do this with these particular books is just obscene irony.

  30. If Amazon can delete books from your Kindle, presumably they can also replace those books with altered versions – to correct mistakes, delete defamatory remarks, bowdlerize naughty bits or even change an author’s arguments if they or their corporate friends didn’t agree with it. And you would never know.

  31. from another discussion board:

    “George Orwell died in 1950, so his books are not yet in the public domain in the U.S. Mobi is a reputable provider of well-formatted public domain books, but it looks like they goofed on this one.”;topic=11406.0

    it appears the publisher ‘mobi’ did not have rights to publish, so Amazon was obligated to remove it. certainly the law for ip needs to be reworked, but it appears they were following US law.

  32. Finally, no more glued on pages — I love big Brother… er um… Amazon…

    1984 … the irony is too unbelievable….

  33. I’m as anti-DRM as the next Boinger, but sometimes if I squint at the Kindle, $300 doesn’t seem like a bad deal for an e-ink reader with a built-in Oxford Dictionary of American English and free wireless access to Wikipedia. I could just use it for public domain texts, and pretend the DRM content doesn’t exist.

    Fortunately, it’s all over in a flash.

  34. The only thing that would have made this whole situation worse (or better depending on your level of cynicism) would have been if the other title had been Fahrenheit 451.

    I still think paper books are worth…the paper they’re printed on.

  35. I heard they’re working on a Kindle version of Fahrenheit 451 with a self-immolation feature….

  36. I saw somebody mention Stanza above … Stanza’s been bought by Amazon, you know. I remember downloading 1984, for free, a couple of months ago via Stanza’s connection to the online Feedbooks store, which hosts a lot of free and public domain content. Animal Farm too. They’re not there anymore either, so if you were planning on reading those through Stanza I hope you already downloaded ’em.

  37. #26, you *do* know that Stanza is owned by Amazon now, right?

    Apart from the fun irony, this seems like much ado about nothing to me. Someone f’ed up the rights (understandable since Orwell is public domain in some countries but not others), Amazon perpetuated the error by offering it up for sale, and they handled the return in a hamfisted way.

    You can bet that if the situation were flipped around, if Amazon offered up some of David Pogue’s older works for free, that (a) he would have shat a brick over this, (b) the internet public would have had a downloading feeding frenzy, and (c) absolutely nobody would be whining about inalienable rights for charging for books, or saying “I was going to get a Kindle but now I won’t!”

  38. The Sony Reader has as much DRM as the Kindle .. it just doesn’t have a wireless radio built in.

  39. 451 F is really hot, it takes a lot of energy to burn a real book. This new way is so much more energy efficient, just twiddle a few bits and no more ebook.

  40. Look, I agree that amazon is screwing this up in many ways but the basic problem is not theirs. Publishing companies are like the rest of the old media providers. Their model is based on the relative scarcity and expense involved in producing and distributing the product. They are unwilling to open up the market and allow content to be freely moved from device to device much less person to person. We have seen this before. (itunes among many others.) Amazon is by no means alone when it comes to being unable to work out sensible and consumer friendly contracts with the media companies. Pretending that amazon is the “big bad” in all this is counterproductive and misleading IMO.

  41. You don’t have to receive your books via the wireless option. Amazon allows you to download the books to your computer so you can transfer them to your Kindle via USB.

  42. This highlights how products like the Kindle blur the distinction between owning something and leasing it.

    Back in the 1960s, Ace Book published an unlicensed edition of Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, because editor Donald Wollheim had some weird theory that held that the books weren’t protected by US copyright. Ace eventually withdrew this edition, but if you bought a copy, you owned it. You were under no obligation to return it.

    In Amazon’s marketing materials for the Kindle, they use words and phrases like “shop” and “buy” and “your library” that imply that you own the e-book that you pay money for and download. Amazon maintains backups, but they tell you to “Think of it as a bookshelf in your attic”. But when they delete books from your Kindle, it underscores that you don’t actually own these things, you’re just leasing them.

  43. Gilbert Anonymous here:

    I don’t get it. I thought a kindle was like an Ipod–once it’s downloaded it stays downloaded and you can carry it anywhere. Does Amazon have some kind of electronic signal that can zap a kindle from a distance? If that’s the case I’d start carrying a kindle in a foil-lined pouch, since they also block RFID signals.

  44. @50, my particular Sony Reader has no DRM of any kind. Every e-book on there is free as in beer, and the software I used to convert and upload material (Calibre) is open source and free as well.

    It does have the capability of allowing DRM material to be added to it, but I never have or ever will put things of that nature on it. Just because it is a featureset does not mean it is a requirement.

  45. I think the copy they removed was a pirated version of the book posted by a self-publishing author. They removed the version from the Kindle store to save face, but they instead pissed a lot of people off. Either way Amazon looks bad, they should be more careful of how e-books can get posted into the Kindle store.

    The Kindle store is a total mess, that’s how they end up with about ten different poorly formatted versions of “The Three Musketeers” and at a range different prices when it should be free-as-in-beer.

  46. Hmmm… it seems like Amazon’s big mistake was designing the system so they -could- remotely access the device and remove content that had already been delivered: if they had done otherwise, then, no matter what “after-the-fact” copyright problems arise, they could not be “sued and forced to” remove content. (They might “be sued”, but this would not have been on the table as a potential remedy, so the hypothecated case would have to have been settled in some other manner: perhaps the original copyright holder would be entitled to some compensation from Amazon, and perhaps Amazon might have then found grounds for a claim against Mobi for their error that exposed them to this liability…)

    After all, if someone posts material on a website and then it is alleged that there is a rights violation, there is no way for the website to go out to every computer that might have possibly downloaded it, and so “retrieve unauthorized copies” is not a remedy that it is physically within the power of the allegator to demand (no matter how “entitled” they might be to enforce their claim).

  47. If they added those books back, would it re-kindle a relationship with them? (It was too good of a pun not to use -again.)

  48. Avram, I have the complete unauthorized Wollheim Tolkien set in my collection.

    Occasionally some bibliophile offers to buy them, but nobody wants to pay the big bucks.

    I keep them to show the kids why my 1st edition Ballantines have the end-note that says “Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase [this edition], and no other”.

    Recalling paperbacks is harder than recalling bits.

  49. So to clear it up, the files removed were illegal copies published by a company (Mobi) that didn’t have the right to do so. Anyone who has purchased it from the actual publisher (Penguin) still has it.

    The real crime here is the ability of Amazon to pull files from your device. No. Way. Don’t buy that shit.

    I’ve yet to see a proper review of it but, I saw the first ‘grey’ e-ink device to be on sale recently. Give me one of these, preferably with open firmware, over any device that that has the capacity to modify or delete files without my consent.

  50. Um, yeah. Any desire I had to ever CONSIDER purchasing a Kindle is now gone. I’ll stick to hard copies and ebooks downloaded online. Truly disgusting AND ironic.

  51. @30, I’m not sure if ‘the guise of convenience’ is really the heart of the issue. It is convenient. It’s wonderfully convenient. And this convenience doesn’t magically force Amazon into being a bunch of dicks – they made that choice on their own.

    Observe iTunes Store – very convenient, and while they’ve pulled apps and lost licensing to sell music, they haven’t (to my knowledge) done anything as horrid as pulling content back off of anyone’s device.

    These convenient systems can be just that, in the hands of a respectable distributor.

  52. This happened to me yesterday. At 10:06 AM I received an email from amazon telling me they processed my ‘return’ and that my $0.99 would be returned for Animal Farm. With my Kindle at home, I opened my Kindle iPhone App and watched as Animal Farm disappeared from my home screen. I went to the archive and saw the flash as it disappeared there as well.

    I called their customer support and talked to the guy about it for a bit. It sounds like the only way to keep this from happening is to keep the Kindle radio always turned off.

    Later that afternoon, at 3:13 PM, I got another email that 1984 suffered the same fate. I even got my $3.20 refunded.

    Weird thing was… I checked Amazon later and 1984 was back and available for $3.19.

  53. @47 (sort of @44), That’s how I use mine… I have nothing DRMed on mine at the moment, haven’t found the need to. Uses standard mobi format, and there’s plenty of freely available public-domain goodness to go around.

    I’m still frustrated by Amazon’s attitude toward their customers, but I’ve only fed them the entrance fee. So far, the device has been good to me, and worth the money. If only the money went to someone I respected a little more.

  54. I’ve got a Kindle 2. Love it. The only thing I’ve ever bought from the Kindle store is a subscription to NYT Breaking News that gets pushed to my device every few hours.

    Aside from that, I download “scanned” versions of the books I want to read. If I like the book and continue to read it, I’ll pick up a paperback version to lend to friends without Kindles. If I don’t like it, I just delete it. Either way, I’m happy, the author gets some money, and I’m not tied to some retarded DRM scheme.

    I don’t feel bad about doing this, because if the publishers made the e-books available without DRM, I’d buy ’em in a heartbeat. But as it stands, the only way I can “own” the book and make sure the publishers don’t revoke my license to read it is to “steal” a copy.

    Thanks, publishers!

  55. Later that afternoon, at 3:13 PM, I got another email that 1984 suffered the same fate. I even got my $3.20 refunded. Weird thing was… I checked Amazon later and 1984 was back and available for $3.19.

    So I go into a restaurant and order a cheeseburger. I eat it and pay the amount that was listed on the menu and the bill. When I’m in the parking lot, the manager runs out and tells me that the menu was misprinted. So I have to puke it up, get a refund, order a fresh cheeseburger and pay the bill again.

    If Amazon lists something for sale and sells it under those terms, they can’t unilaterally renegotiate a fulfilled contract. They failed due diligence. If they can’t make it good with the rights holders for the books, why hasn’t Amazon been arrested for sale of stolen property?

  56. Sony got in trouble for putting rootkits on music CDs.

    So if you really think your Sony reader doesn’t have DRM on it, or that it is something optional that you don’t have to install, who are you fooling besides yourself?

  57. The real problem here is that Amazon does nothing to check out whether the books they distribute through the Kindle are legitimate. If someone decides to “publish” a book on the Kindle, no one checks to see if they have the right to do so.

  58. It would be irony if they altered a copy of ‘brave new world’, or maybe if one of Cory’s books got pulled.

    That it was Orwell does not make it, de facto, Orwellisn.

  59. The cheeseburger analogy is a good one. Gets back to the readers vs. collectors issue. Once you eat the cheeseburger (or read the book, as the analogy goes) how can it really be taken away? Kind of like all of education, that way.

    I don’t understand the debate about book ownership, cause for me its not about owning the books, its about reading them. Remember Shirkey’s essay on reading vs. collecting??

    Books are about 10 bucks each, or less, on the Kindle. Price of a trip to the drive-through. Eat it, read it, enjoy it, and let it go… :)

    Of course, the fact that it was Animal Farm and 1984 that got yanked is pretty humorous. Maybe its a viral marketing campaign to get people to go out and get new copies of those classic treatises on tyranny. Frankly, I fail to feel the oppressive weight of the Kindle on my spirit. It’s just a gadget! The biggest travesty? No Ionesco! And something else I looked for recently just wasn’t there. You know how I hate it when corporations fail to provide the opportunity to buy what I want to buy! Oh well!

  60. This whole debacle would only be more ironic if the book in question were Farenheit 451. It would also give the name Kindle an entirely new meaning.

  61. LSK: “In two words, this is reverse piracy.”

    In one word, it’s theft. Deliberately and permanently depriving someone of their bought and paid for property.

    The Kindle’s coming to the UK pretty soon and I like to think we have pretty good consumer rights (even if all the rest are going to Hell in a handbasket) and that this would land them in trouble.

    If Amazon didn’t have the license to distribute the book, then that’s an issue for them to sort out with the rightholder. Once the sale has been made, that’s it. You can only have it back with either an agreement or a court order. You can’t unilaterally seize someone else’s goods (real or digital) like this and not be a thief.

    The ‘refund’ is not a refund. It is irrelevant since it may not be an acceptable transaction to the Kindle owner.

    Amazon is a thief.

  62. Published by “mobi”? As in MOBIPOCKET?

    The point nobody is making here is that Amazon owns Mobipocket. In fact, the Kindle format is the .mobi e-book format with minor device-locking hacks.

    Amazon owns this mess. Their agent decided to publish a book they apparently didn’t have US rights to in the USA. Amazon should have made some kind of arrangements with whoever has the USA rights to cover reasonable per-purchaser license fees after the fact and pulled the content from their store. Whatever money they lost on the deal is going to be less than they’re going to deservedly lose with respect to future sales.

    Instead, they chose to highlight what any reasonable person has to consider a deal-killer with respect to a Kindle purchase.

    Unlike a bookstore deadtree purchase, Amazon apparently can remove or alter the content of any e-book customers mistakenly think they bought. The irony of their choosing to do this with a book by George Orwell is pretty obvious.

    What happens if they sell a book whose contents are factual and loses a libel suit in the UK where the factual accuracy of a book is not a defense against libel charges? Your Kindle book evaporates.

    I could have purchased either a Kindle or a netbook with the cash I had at the time. I chose to buy the netbook. On which my e-books live. I also have a duplicate set of e-books on my Palm PDA. I’d say the wisdom of my decision is sort of obvious.

  63. Antinous, don’t tease me! You know Untitled 1 crashes my computer. Ah, well. I have my memories and they can’t take that away… :)

  64. I’ve seen it all. But I can’t post anymore cause I can only write in fits and starts snatching a minute here or there. Untitled 1 demands total commitment. :)

  65. Kindle < --> Fahrenheit 451

    Electronically burning books since 2009.

    Now you know where the name came from!

  66. On the good side, we have our new perpetual motion energy source: The modern world is bent on keeping George Orwell spinning in his grave.

    To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

  67. Doesn’t surprise me at all. Amazon’s been doing this type of thing for years. I quit buying from them when they decided not to ship a book in my order due to a “pricing error”. Many others got the book at that price; but Amazon changed their mind over a week after accepting my order, a couple days after it was supposed to have arrived. I filed a report with the BBB, but they basically said “Amazon doesn’t want to ship the book and we can’t force our main sponsor…”

  68. On what planet is this even remotely ok?

    A full “refund” in this case needs to include interest. They were able to use your money for a period of time, before they broke into your computer, deleted the file, and returned your money to you.

    Also, Amazon should be up on charges of felony computer trespass. If they want you to delete the file because they screwed up the copyright, they can ask. Breaking into someone’s computer to destroy data is illegal, and normally results in brutal prison time. A court order that Amazon may not use a computer for five years would also be appropriate in this case, to make sure they don’t offend again.

    Corporate “personhood” needs to go both ways. Can you imagine a real citizen doing this and not ending up with scars and an advanced degree in the shank?

  69. Bu-bu-but Rooootkit… C’mon guys, Sony doesn’t have wireless on their device, so it’s not even possible for Sony to do this. You can flash your own firmware on it, use an SD card to load your ebooks, checkout free library books using Adobe Digital Editions/Overdrive, or even skip the Sony software and use Calibre instead. Even if you hold out because of some conspiracy theory regarding Sony, there are still several great E Ink ebook readers (Cybook Bookeen, Hanlin, and the Irex Iliad come to mind) out there that are just as good in their own right, even ones with wireless like the Iliad. None of them allow the manufacturer to delete books from your device. This is purely an Amazon problem. If you have a Kindle, consider turning the wireless off. If the downsides outweigh the upsides, it’s a risk you have to take. If you don’t have an ebook reader yet, check out your options, don’t just buy Amazon because you don’t know what else is out there, and certainly do not just give up on E Ink readers because of Amazon’s gaffe.

  70. Browsing through the terms of service on the thing: “Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.”
    Technically, you don’t buy a book on Kindle, you just license the thing. Under terms of service which are freely amendable, etc, etc, by Amazon.

    Basically, I’d say divide the books you want into books that are important– the ones you’ll want to keep for years, lend to your friends, give to your kids, and such, and (to steal a concept from Dave Sim) “Reads”– potboiler novels, beach reading, stuff to kill time while travelling, and which you’ll mostly forget about in a year. Buy the first in paper, but the Kindle’s spectacular for the latter.

  71. I guess we still do not take the lessons of the past seriously.
    “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

    Orwell observed carefully what was happening in parts of the world with highly centralized powerful organizations and their fruits (nazizm, stalinism, communism) and wrote these very books as the warning.

    I think we should seriously take this event – and the irony behind it.

    The digital world may not go for DRMs as it is practiced today. We saw the first, still quite innocent as for its scale, incident. But it shows us what really could happen…

    Once again:
    “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana)

    Having in mind that history does not repeat exactly, lets look, with eyes on XX century and its “-nisms” at Google, Amazon, eBay and other giants that can trully control us …

    1. Orwell observed carefully what was happening in parts of the world with highly centralized powerful organizations and their fruits (nazizm, stalinism, communism) and wrote these very books as the warning.

      Would that be the same Orwell who drew up a list of ‘crypto-communists’ for the benefit of the Orwellian-sounding Information Research Department, the British Foreign Office’s covert propaganda arm?

      It turns out that his books really are how-to manuals.

  72. @94 – Antinous: Yes, the same. He might even do it with crystal clear intentions. I think he might be truly and deeply concerned about Soviet’s infiltration into minds of free world people.

    When you look how it did happen, that after II WW Soviets took entire EE into their orbit – you can discover they did it not just by tanks and power – but also by going into people’s minds.

    That’s a very delicate issue.
    See for example a note about this guy:

    He was one of the most important thinker for us when it comes to win over communism in 1989, but … he has a part of his life IN the communism itself!

    Don’t take that I support denunciations and Orwell’s step done indeed in, ironically called, “Orwellian/1984” way. No.

    But I think he might be a bit naive and did it good-heartedly. And I also think that it’s hard to call IRD the Orwellian-sounding band !!!

    Whatever we would say, even if he indeed did the bad thing, even if he had bad intentions: His books should be read by generations and analysed with diligence…

    We see it clearly today after this little Kindle event …

  73. wow, u linked to my Uni (Adelaide) – cool!
    just wanted to say, I got 90% of my texts for this semester online, in PDF or RTF format
    Many, legitimately, for free, via the uni website (you linked to) – info wants to be free :D

  74. So….it’s okay to be Orwellian if you’re anti-Communist but not okay to be Orwellian if you are a Communist? That seems kind of Orwellian.

  75. @#98 – yes there WAS assymetry, it trully was.

    I have no doubt it was bad to spy for communist regimes in free countries, while it was not bad to spy for free conuntries in communist ones.

    I lived for 30 years in such “mild-” communism.
    And I know what I say.

    The point is that even if Orwell did something in Orwellian style – he did it probbaly because he was afraid that TRUE orwellian times could come to the free countries as is happened to entire soviet zone.

    But if you want my honest answer to you short catchy question – the answer without any historical context:

    No it is not OK to denounce people, not OK to do covert actions, to do anything “orwellian”, think “1984”-like, involve in anything “Animal farm”-like …

    The purpose of my argument was to tell you, that we should not sharply judge Orwell…

    That’s all.

  76. I don’t understand the debate about book ownership, cause for me its not about owning the books, its about reading them. Remember Shirkey’s essay on reading vs. collecting??

    Books are about 10 bucks each, or less, on the Kindle. Price of a trip to the drive-through. Eat it, read it, enjoy it, and let it go… :)

    No. Some of the best books I’ve read are ones that my parents bought decades ago and passed on to me when I was old enough. Some of the books I read are ones like to come back to months or years later to re-read. Hell, some of the books I own are just beautiful as objects.

    Even if you disregard all of these, the simple fact is that Amazon is lying to its customers. The small print on the website says that you’re paying for a license to read the book, but everything else — their marketing, the button on their website, the order confirmation — tells customers that they’re “buying” the book. When we think of property we’re accustomed to thinking of it in terms of the doctrine of first sale: once we’ve bought something it’s ours do keep, re-sell or loan to others as we please. Amazon is being deliberately deceitful and exploiting that set of assumptions, to make people forget that they’re only paying for a revokable license to read the book. People who want to borrow the books from a library will do so; Amazon’s customers are there because thgy want to — and believe they can — buy a copy to keep.

  77. That ebook link is Adelaide uni… my lil’ home towns’ university – one of them, anyway.


  78. I now believe that the entire Kindle existence is merely a beautiful marketing strategy to get people to understand how valuable actual books are.

  79. Thanks for the link to the Adelaide collection.

    But how is it legal or appropriate for them to assert a CC license on public-domain material? Especially a CC license that prohibits some freedoms.

  80. This sucks because I was really looking at the Kindle and other ebooks out there as the future of the book industry but, now Amazon and whom ever the publisher was really screwed it all up. Good job!

    On a side note though, I can really see a Cafe Press shirt coming out of this. Anyone care for a try?

  81. @Antinous and others: the IRD was an ad-hoc group fighting and propagandizing against Communism. Orwell’s list was formed for the purposes of recommending possible members for the IRD: it’s not like he was turning it over ti MI5 or something. Orwell’s labeling of other Britons as Communist or not was only in the way of a job recommendation: he didn’t want propagandists or sympathizers fighting the Reds. Saying that those on the list were “denounced” is incorrect.

    It would be sort of like if one of the Boingers were starting an anti-DRM brigade, and one of us applied, and you, Antinous, were to say, “Nope, on the basis of Tdawwg’s posts he’s a bit soft on DRM.” Nothing wrong with that.

    There was a great exchange about this at the NYRB a few years ago. Here’s an article by Timothy Garton Ash, from which I’m cribbing the above. Here’s a relevant para.:

    If the charge is that he was a secret police informer, the answer is plainly no. IRD was an odd cold war outfit, but it was nothing like a Thought Police. Unlike that dreadful genius Bertolt Brecht, Orwell never believed that the end justified the means. Again and again, we find him insisting to Richard Rees that you have to treat each case individually. He opposed the banning of the Communist Party in Britain. The Freedom Defence Committee, of which he was vice-chairman, thought political vetting of civil servants a necessary evil, but insisted that the person concerned should be represented by a trade union, that corroborative evidence must be produced, and that the accused should be allowed to cross-examine those giving evidence against him. Hardly the methods of the KGB—or, indeed, of MI5 or the FBI during the cold war. He told Celia that he approved of the aims of IRD; this does not mean that he would have approved of their subsequent methods.

    So, no, not really “Orwellian” in the standard sense of the term. Do read the article, though, for Ash’s noting of the more ambiguous points of Orwell’s actions. An interesting case, to be sure.

  82. Got this email this morning:


    We have recently refunded your purchase of Works of George Orwell. Includes
    Animal Farm – Nineteen eighty-four (1984) – The Road to Wigan Pier – Coming up
    for Air – Burmese Days – 50 essays and more.. This book was 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 refunded previous customers.

    We are working with the authorized rights holder to make this title available in
    our store very soon. We apologize for the inconvenience.


    Customer Service Department

    I was really pissed when this was removed. It was a deal at only $4.97! This email was a better explanation than the first one I received from their customer service which was “we found a problem…we refunded your money”.

    It will probably cost me more to buy all of these items back. Its not grand theft but it is theft in my opinion.

  83. I must say, that until this happened, I was really, really keen on the Kindle – unfortunately it’s not available here in the UK yet, but with travelling a lot & finding it hard to drag around a small subset of my paper books, I’d been hoping for something like this for many years before the first kindle was ever announced. I’ve always been a huge fan of Amazon & as a regular cutstomer over 10 years I’ve had a flawless customer experience with them. Combined with the prospect of Amazon’s ability to provide a huge selection of ebooks this was exciting for me.

    But this has really put me off, and after reading many of the comments here, I’m going to re-examine Sony’s offering (even though I’ve had my issues with Sony & their attitude to customer service in the past).

  84. Orwell made up a list of crypto-communists and gave it to a secret government agency, but it doesn’t really count because of a lot of byzantine intellectual workarounds. Sounds like doublethink to me. Why not just suck it up and admit that your hero betrayed his own principles and acted as a low level collaborator?

  85. If that’s as response to me, Antinous, a few corrections: 1) Orwell’s not my “hero,” just the subject under discussion: the only way I’d really lionize him is for his armed service against the Fascists in Spain (for which he’s kind of Everyone’s Hero, no?); 2) if you’ve read Ash’s article, you know how difficult it is to pin down Orwell’s “principles”: he was an avid Cold Warrior, after all, so how would providing a list of unsuitable Cold Warriors be undermining his principles? Why would working with a secretive government agency whose purpose was fighting Communism be necessarily bad, if done within limits, for such a man?; 3) he was only collaborating in the literal sense of “working with” the IRD: his list had no legal repercussion, as “collaborating” with the KGB or Stasi would have had in those days; 4) few people who’ve really read Orwell paint him as a saint: he was a policeman in colonial India (Burma? I forget exactly), for crying out loud, and knew the world of government surveillance and spying firsthand. This is precisely how he could fashion such devastating critiques of said worlds: much like Graham Greene, another morally ambiguous British writer of the period, Orwell had firsthand knowledge of what we only read about through fiction. The fiction, with all of its resonant language and viewpoints, comes out of a very messy life: to use the former to interpret the latter–or worse, to pass judgment on the author–is a rather hazardous and imprecise process.

    For “byzantine intellectual workarounds” substitute “cultural, intellectual, and literary history,” and then we’re on: we’re talking about a public discussion of a subtle historical matter here, one that you’re being unfair to by labeling it thusly.

  86. Who said that this is problem with copyrights …. sure that’s official. But why let people read stuff that might open them minds for what’s going on on this world today … Better just forbid to sale … Next step will be to claim that this book is terrorist manual and prohibit it formally :)

  87. @110, @111 – Antinous, Tdawwg

    I am ready to admit: yes Orwell has been my hero since I first read his 1984 around 1980.
    And has been for generation of us – who brought down communism in Easter Europe 20 years ago.

    So I will never agree to Antinous conclusion:
    “(he) betrayed his own principles and acted as a low level collaborator”
    In fact – I protest to call Orwell “low level collaborator” !!!

    I gave you my clear arguments, Tdawwg, gave you even more.

    I guess you do not understand the point here.

    So once again – even if he was guilty of some shameful deeds (I believe he wasn’t) – his books form such amazing corpus of anti-totalitarian thoughts that I would forgive him if he did what you said he did.

    More important message I wanted to make is that the genuine ideas and truths are not always clean and clear like crystals – people stray in their lives.

    What matters more – what they get out their straying…

  88. My vote: not buying a kindle now.

    Antinous: wow. Hadn’t ever heard that. Sure, socialism vs communism and all that jazz, but handing a list over to an intelligence agency…. You gotta go pretty far out of your way to make that work. I think he’s one of the most important writers of all time because of the direct simplicity of his vision, but fuck. That’s hard. And he narced on Steinbeck?! No heroes….

  89. They weren’t an “intelligence agency,” Querent, so much as a clandestine, ad-hoc group of propagandists and other anti-Communists: a bunch of writers and thinkers, in effect. His “narcing” had no effect on the lives of those he listed. Think of it as unofficial vetting for a governmental agency that turned to him for advice and support. (Or simply explain how having Communists and Communist sympathizers would have aided in an anti-Communist propaganda effort.) Read the Timothy Garton Ash article I link to above for a look past the myths of Orwell’s “collaborations.”

    I mean, Bertrand Russell wrote for the IRD. Bertrand Russell=/=Beria.

    Maybe a more valuable question is why we need Orwell to have been a hero. Can’t we study who the man was, without distorting the facts of his life around our expectations of who he should have been?

    Here’s Orwell himself, in “Politics and the English Language” (1946), on what happens when nuance drops out of an argument in favor of simple, readymade political verities.

    When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

    So much for “low level collaborators” and other convenient bogeymen. Maybe we should add doublethink to the list above?

    1. Tdawwg,

      You’re being an apologist.

      His “narcing” had no effect on the lives of those he listed.

      When you turn a list of names over to the authorities, you risk the lives and reputations of everyone on that list. The fact that nothing happened is fortunate but irrelevant. He ratted people out to the authorities in a time when that was a very dangerous thing to do. You’re judging from decades in the future. At that time and in that place, he was a collaborator. You can try to ‘nuance’ it all you want, but he betrayed not only his associates but any principles that he ever claimed.

  90. @117, TDAWWG

    Hm. I think I’ve been a little mis-taken.

    I don’t actually need him to be a hero. That phrase is a mechanism I developed to keep myself from falling into good-guy/bad-guy dichotomies. The work remains…I’m not trying to poison the well.

    I will also read the article you linked, and into the nature of the organization.

    I’m not trying to be dismissive, like those who may say “Jefferson owned slaves” and thereby discredit any value ascribed to the Declaration of Independence.

    Also: I’m certainly not convinced that this isn’t possibly as bad as it sounds. I force myself to entertain such possibilities. I refuse to allow myself to NOT permit the possibility. (fun with double nots.)

    I can’t need it to not be true. My mom says Jimmy Carter couldn’t have know about East Timor because he is a “good man.” I’ll not be that.

    I will read the article you posted. And thanks.

  91. oh, and that piece you just quoted is one of my favorites. one of the reasons i love his work. such simple, direct analysis. reminds me of darwin. like they say of marijuana, “a very special kind of stupid.” not to insult their intellects, but it is an almost simpletons approach. and it is profound.

  92. I want a t-shirt that has the word ‘KINDLE’ crossed out by “hand” and the word ‘kindling’ written in. Maybe a picture of the device being broken into flinders by an axe.

  93. @ #117

    Ah…so I’m reading the article. “a bunch of writers and thinkers, in effect” is a bit misleading. It was a covert governmental organization.

    Involved in propaganda.

    George Orwell would not have been on the top of my list of prospective employees for such an organization.

    “Think of it as unofficial vetting for a governmental agency that turned to him for advice and support.”

    Well, I’ll think of it as seems most fitting. I would have to say “apologist” is looking like an apt term. Not trying to fight here, but I think the heart of doublespeak is the ability to make a simple issue (“we invaded a resource rich third world nation without provocation”…”he handed a list of those he suspected as communist to a covert government agency”) seem complex and thus more digestible.

  94. Editing above: actually that quote is quite misleading. They may not have been M16, but they employed veterans of same. They tried to influence the language used by the BBC.

    As for the facts, I cannot see that the above article works terribly well in your favor. Of course, the above article is not all fact….

  95. Ha! Print is dead, indeed! You can have my dusty, musty old boxes of books when you prey them, etc.

    Xopher@121: Yes, books do heat a room!

  96. OK, the flap over delisting gay works page rankings, the Orwell flap, what do you think Amazon will do for the hat trick?

    1. what do you think Amazon will do for the hat trick?

      Stop selling Tuscan Whole Milk.

  97. Antinous, you’re just being inaccurate. He wasn’t acting in a legal or police matter: just information-gathering, and about prospective employment at that! He was simply saying, “Don’t hire these people.” This isn’t Kazan before Congress: no careers wrecked, no firings, no lives gone down the drain. The “authorities” were prospective employers of those listed, not the police or the law courts, or anyone who’d get them into trouble. Sorry, but you’re misreading the facts.

    He ratted people out to the authorities in a time when that was a very dangerous thing to do.

    This misstates the case completely: there was no danger to getting a “nay” vote from one George Orwell, convalescing in hospital and being asked to evaluate a bunch of potential propagandists. No “ratting out,” no danger to any named.

    Querent, I don’t quite see what you mean. They were a governmental association, true: many of them were civilians, though, and they were propagandists, not spies chasing after Britons. I’m not saying a word about the justness of what they did, just its function, and Orwell’s role in aiding the same. How this can be construed as being an “apologist” for Orwell is beyond me.

    Here’s what others think:

    Bernard Crick justified Orwell wanting to help the post-war Labour Government. “He did it because he thought the Communist Party was a totalitarian menace,” he said. “He wasn’t denouncing these people as subversives. He was denouncing them as unsuitable for a counter-intelligence operation.

    Thus Orwell’s biographer.

    John Newsinger considered it “a terrible mistake on his part, deriving in equal measure from his hostility to Stalinism and his illusions in the Labour government. What it certainly does not amount to, however, is an abandonment of the socialist cause or transformation into a footsoldier in the Cold War. Indeed, Orwell made clear on a number of occasions his opposition to any British McCarthyism, to any bans and proscriptions on Communist Party members (they certainly did not reciprocate this) and any notion of a preventive war. If he had lived long enough to realise what the IRD was actually about there can be no doubt that he would have broken with it”

    Thus a Professor of History at Bath Spa University.

    Celia Kirwan insisted: “I think George was quite right to do it. … And, of course, everybody thinks that these people were going to be shot at dawn. The only thing that was going to happen to them was that they wouldn’t be asked to write for the Information Research Department.”

    Thus Orwell’s friend-lover, and a principal in the affair, the woman to whom he gave the list. None of these sources, cited by Wikipedia, agree with you and Antinous; ditto Timothy Garton Ash. Are they all apologists, too?

    Orwell also went public with his thoughts about fellow socialists. Here he is writing in the socialist New Leader in 1947, two years before the list, about MPs who may have been crypto-Communists:

    The important thing to do with these people – and it is extremely difficult, since one has only inferential evidence – is to sort them out and determine which of them is honest and which is not. There is, for instance, a whole group of M. P.s in the British Parliament (Pritt, Zilliacus, etc.) who are commonly nicknamed ‘the cryptos’. They have undoubtedly done a great deal of mischief, especially in confusing public opinion about the nature of the puppet regimes in Eastern Europe; but one ought not hurriedly to assume that they all hold the same opinions. Probably some of them are actuated by nothing worse than stupidity.

    He’s targeting them, not as traitors, terrorists, criminals, but as hacks who were misleading socialist Britons about the nature of puppet regimes in Eastern Europe, i.e., he’s calling BS on a bunch of besotted politicians who were buying the Kremlin’s swill about the socialist utopias flourishing under Communist rule. And note that even here he’s pulling punches, giving them the benefit of doubt, and telling his readers to review their cases individually. Maybe he was a bit of a purity troll, and he certainly was a homophobe and anti-Semite and all-around hater, but I admire his willingness, publicly and privately, to speak his mind, advance his views, and, indeed, to “name names”: to praise the good and excoriate the wicked. That’s what writers do.

    1. Tdawwg,

      Many, many people who have collaborated with covert government agencies have thought that they were doing the right thing. History still refers to them as collaborators.

  98. When Orwell wandered into Spain looking to aid the republic, he wound up fighting alongside the renegade trotskyist POUM. As a rifle company squad leader he took a fascist bullet for the cause and stayed around long enough recuperating to see the Cheka purge and execute many of his comrades, radical socialists, anarchists, and anybody else who was on Stalin’s shit list. It was then that his hatred of Stalinism jelled. When he later fingered people he thought were soft on that vileness, for whatever reason, he was participating more in the internecine struggles of the radical left than in the East versus West Cold War. Remember, his book identifies two equally despicable evil empires.

    (My spell check has never heard of Stalinism or Trotskyism; yep, that figures.)

  99. Antinous, we’ll disagree then.

    Takuan, those articles aren’t related to the issue. Nasty stuff, though.

  100. Garton Ash again, in response to Takuan:

    Consider who some of the people on the list were, and what happened to them. Peter Smollett was singled out by Orwell for special mention in his covering letter to Celia. Under “Remarks” on his list, Orwell noted: “…gives strong impression of being some kind of Russian agent. Very slimy person.” Born in Vienna as Peter Smolka, during World War II Smollett was the head of the Soviet section in the British Ministry of Information—one of Orwell’s inspirations for the Ministry of Truth. We now know two more things about him. First, according to the Mitrokhin Archive of KGB documents, Smollett-Smolka actually was a Soviet agent, recruited by Kim Philby, with the codename “ABO.” Second, he was almost certainly the official on whose advice the publisher Jonathan Cape turned down Animal Farm as an unhealthily anti-Soviet text. How, then, did the British state prosecute or persecute this Soviet agent? By making him an Officer of the British Empire (OBE). Subsequently, he was the London Times correspondent in Central Europe. The worst thing that seems to have happened to him is that some of his short stories about postwar Vienna were heavily drawn upon by Graham Greene for The Third Man. In the film, he makes an insider-joke phantom appearance as what the viewer must assume is the name of a bar or nightclub called “Smolka.”

    Not exactly the London Cage…. OBE is a nice step up from KGB, no? Fascinating stuff….

  101. Tdawwg,

    “None of these sources, cited by Wikipedia, agree with you and Antinous; ditto Timothy Garton Ash. Are they all apologists, too?”

    There are those, even in the article you cited, that do agree with Antinous and I (as much as we agree :) ). If I had been named in such a secret list, I might think it was funny and flattering, but I would not think it was benign.

    As to the use of “apologist.” I find what Orwell has done here to be reprehensible. If carefully framed, it seems less so. I call that “making apology.”

    I don’t necessarily mean it to be an inflammatory phrase (though I certainly understand that it can be). I don’t spit the word at you.

    You, I understand, do not find his actions reprehensible. Thus, to you it is not apology. But I think we have to be careful. As Orwell said, “Every saint should be guilty until proven innocent.” (maybe a paraphrase.)

    I understand that the list was, from one perspective, just a recommendation that these people would not have been right for that job.

    But the job was work as a state supported propagandist. Personal politics being checked as a requisite for that position. Sure, it makes sense from their position, but damn it’s creepy.

    Propaganda to me is not information. It’s manipulation. The word hasn’t always meant that, right (see Edward Bernays), but it’s pretty clear (from the article you cite) that the IRD meant it in the sense I understand it. Even to fight totalitarian communism…. The means dictate the ends, and that is not a gig I’d have thought Orwell would have dug.

    And we don’t actually know that the list was only ever used for its initial purpose. That also is in the article you linked. We know all too well today that information gathered for one purpose can be put to many other uses by the state.

    I’d never hand any info over to a state supported civilian (which IRD was not totally) PR group. I’d assume without even thinking about it that the info would be misused to ends other than my own (and likely nefarious).

    Finally: I’m not going to go around condemning the man or his work because of this. But I do think this was a questionable act–at best–and should be called as such.

    Thanks for maintaining civility!


  102. “to praise the good and excoriate the wicked. That’s what writers do.”

    Right. But most don’t do it in secret lists to clandestine government agencies.

    Buddy66 @134 makes some great points. I’d say, though, that he was enlisting the aid of one of the evil empires to fight the other. In a very round-about way, of course.

  103. in decades to come, people will look back at the Cheney Presidency and all the lives lost and blighted worldwide as a result of it. They will ask: “Why didn’t decent people DO something”.

    I guess you had to have been there.

  104. Same here, this is a great discussion.

    If you mean “apologist” in the sense of “offering a reason for, explaining,” then sure: but the word carries such a weight of “mitigating, explaining away, rationalizing” that I felt the need to dispute it. You certainly weren’t spitting it at me.

    It would be good to know more about the IRD: propaganda is manipulation, sure, but there’s a huge difference between Churchill’s speeches and the color-coded Homeland Security Terror Popsicle. So I guess I’d be a lot more comfortable with his actions were the IRD more of the former kind.

    I think his actions are far darker from our perspective: after being bombed in WWII and fighting, after foodlines and privation, seeing the Soviets on the rise–it’s easier for me to credit his actions as at least wanting to be virtuous. There’s also his involved relationship with Kirwan: this isn’t a case of a private citizen “dropping a dime” on somebody.

    The question for me is: if the man who envisioned 1984 saw a similar horror in the Soviet Union, did he think that the IRD, and his actions re: the list, were like or unlike the horror he was engaged in fighting? Did he miss the irony, or did he accept it as being part of a politics that was for all its failings pragmatically better than its foe’s?

    1. The thing is, if you told me that Orwell was a murderer or a pedophile, I would consider it irrelevant to his writing. It’s the particular relationship between the incident and his works that make it bitterly ironic. And trying to spin information, of course, also hearkens back to his works.

  105. should Orwell be judged on the balance of his deeds?
    How much good did he do relative to evil?

  106. that book looks crazy, tak.

    there are many ways to judge a man. i’m not much in for zealous conviction along the lines of “good” or “bad,” myself.


  107. To me, the fact that they chose to do this is immaterial. The fact that they CAN do this is enough to make me swear to never get a Kindle.

  108. Dropped out of discussion because of time zone :-)

    @#140 Tdawwg: Let’s say OK – he did it, i.e. handed over the list to IRD. Even though, I think he was sure he did the right thing.

    So my answer to your question (1) is: He saw his actions as “unlike the horror he was engaged in fighting”.

    As for the question (2):

    I believe he did accept it (i.e. irony) “as being part of a politics that was for all its failings pragmatically better than its foe’s”

    How can I be so sure. Here is the allegory:

    I witnessed in my life the “reality show” of
    Orwellian world, 1984-like, when all our phone conversations were tapped, all letters opened, travels limited and police controlled etc etc – that was in 1981 – the “Marshal Law”.

    And I must once again tell you – it was worth fighting such world, even with means that, in normal times, are questionable.
    Seeing such things, in reality – is the experience that changes the mind. I think that
    was what happend to Orwell.

    I react with emotions here, because that way of
    discrediting people who did something great is somehow universal. And makes me crazy.

    Walesa of Solidarity was accused in his homeland of being secret police spy, and totally decried by certain “circles”.

    I will not go longer alng this lines, though.
    I would be happy to discuss them on my blog ( or on someone’s else if I’m invited.

    We started with Amazon and Kindle. I think there is still a lot to discuss about that event. The unbelievable realisation of some thoughts of Cory’s Doctorow “Content” (

    BTW, Cory – when you saw this incident with Orwell on kindle – what was your comment – I would love to know it :-)

  109. printed book librarians resisted the goons of the Patriot Act and their demands for list of names and the works they checked out.

    How much easier for Amazon and Kindle to betray.

  110. I think most people will take away the wrong message from this (and all similar) stories.

    DRM (digital restrictions management) isn’t about watching a series of anti-consumer actions that may be reversed in time.

    DRM is about the loss of freedom for the viewer/reader/listener—user. When you get involved in any DRM scheme you lose the freedom to determine what you may watch, read, or use.

    Digital media doesn’t have to work this way. There are lots of digital devices one can read books, watch videos, or listen to audio with that work perfectly well without DRM.

    That loss of freedom (which becomes a power for the publisher) doesn’t go away because the publisher changes their mind again, apologizes, and restores what was once lost in some Apple-like promise to restore purchased files N more times. The publisher’s power is there to stay and your loss of freedom lasts as long as you use a DRM-encumbered system. If anything, the apology and restoration exists to hide the loss of freedom and the power the publisher has.

    I talk more about this latest DRM story on my blog.

  111. Have any of you read the book or seen the movie ‘Farenheight 451’ by Ray Bradbury?
    May I suggest that you all at least ‘google’ the name and take a look at what it is about. Devices such as ‘Kindle’ offer those that might want to, the opportunity to do exactly what the ‘World Government’ in the book did through burning…..the means to destroy the written word. A little ironic that books could become ‘kindeling’ for a cyber fire. You do realize that this technology marks the end of the ‘free thinking author’, the ’free thinking publisher’ and the end of the independent bookstores that supply this ‘free thinking thought’ in print. The internet is becoming more controlled and so are books which will ultimately lead to total control. Have you asked yourself why ‘Amazon’ supports this technology when most of its income comes from book sales? I wonder who is now in control of Amazon. Think this through before you climb on board the information express and its last ride into abyss.

  112. If they (Amazon) can delete content on your device, including your own notes(!) and bookmarks(!), it means Amazon has full control over your device.

    What tells you Amazon also can’t:

    – Obtaining a full list of all material on your device? Whether bought via Amazon or bought otherwise?

    – Obtaining the nature and obtaining the content of what you read? Obtaining everything you have on your device, including important business documents or adult entertainment material?

    – Obtaining all your notes and bookmarks?

    – Record and control your reading habits? When you opened which book on what page for how long.

    – Replace existing content with “improved” content? Censoring, manipulating, rearranging everything they don’t like.

    – When your Kindle is connected to your PC, perform all of the above on your PC?

    The last time someone had such power over what you can and can’t read was in the 16th century, before the Age of Enlightenment. It took people a lot of blood to wrestle the right to read what they like from the authorities.

    So, more than 200, 300 years later this is not just about Amazon (illegally?) removing content from your device and a $0.99 refund. It is also about

    * Your privacy

    * Amazon controlling what you can read and what you can’t.

    * Remote sabotage of a computer-powered system

  113. If I’d fought for the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain and barely escaped with my life after having my Communist “allies” betray and murder my friends, I think I’d be much harder on home-grown Communists than Orwell ever was. The man had grounds for bitterness.

  114. IN SUPPORT OF #83: If there is a legitimate copy available from Penguin (#65), and there are people who purchased a copy from Amazon, then the solution would seem to be that Amazon must “un-steal-back”(or whatever) the copy they took off the Kindles who made good-faith purchases. If they refused to do so within (let’s say) 90 days . . . Class Action time. Any Lawyers out there ? ?

  115. I think, at the very least, I’ll postpone the whole ebook thing for a while. Possibly look more into a iPhone/iTouch instead. It’s weird though, Bezos generally seems to mean well.

    Amazon needs to come put with an unequivocal statement on this issue. Once over the transom it’s yours, completely, always and forever. Publishers who can’t abide by those terms don’t get to be Kindle peeps.

  116. Did anyone catch Jeff Bezos’s apology in the Amazon forums?

    Initial post: Jul 23, 2009 12:16 PM PDT
    Jeffrey P. Bezos says:
    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.

    With deep apology to our customers,

    Jeff Bezos
    Founder & CEO

  117. Wait, didn’t the purchasers OWN their electronic copies of 1984 and Animal Farm? Didn’t they buy them and pay for them? If that is not ownership, I don’t know what is! If this is legal, then breaking and entering to recover hard copies must be legal, too.

    If Amazon sold them illegally, that must be their problem. They literally broke into owners homes and committed burglary! Amazon STOLE those copies, and must not only return them, but face serious, multiple criminal charges for breaking and entering and larceny.

    And we must never forget that they can not only track what we read, but replace your original copies with doctored copies, thus doing a “1984” by re-writing historical records even without our knowledge. We have a right to expect our texts to be today what they were when we bought them! This points to a clear potential for OUTRAGEOUS abuse, intellectual, historical and regarding personal property.

    These are very good reasons to reject Kindle, and every other electronic reader, completely! May this despicable incident cost Amazon at least many millions of sales!

    In the mean time, having read Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo’s’s apology, I don’t see anything about returning the stolen copies.

    I want to know that Amazon is being prosecuted to the full extent of the law for this really bizarre, outrageous crime.

  118. And this sort of copy right bs is why Paper books are better. Really any electronic thing has this bs policy… so does the stuff on apple store music. Unfortunately everyone feels THEY own stuff YOU bought. That ever happened to customer service? it died with Chivalry and manners I suppose.

Comments are closed.