How-To: Read George Orwell's 1984 on your Kindle


Over at Make: Online, Phil Torrone provides a step-by-step for reading 1984 on your Kindle without fear of having Amazon sneak onto your device and zap it down the memory hole while you sleep.

Once you arrive in Australia stop by this site and download a copy of 1984. Read the warning first:

Under Australian copyright laws, copyright in literary works of authors, who died before 1955, has expired. These works are now within the 'public domain' in Australia and this is why the University is able to reproduce such works on this site. HOWEVER, works may remain copyrighted in other countries. If copyright in the work still subsists in the country from which you are accessing this website, it will be illegal for you to download the work. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country. In particular, the works of George Orwell are still under copyright in the United States and the European Union, and therefore users in those countries should not download these works.

Don't worry - you're in Australia, they're totally chill down under.

How-To: Read George Orwell's 1984 on your Kindle


  1. Or you could just buy an official (Kindle) edition instead of the unauthorized edition someone uploaded.

  2. @mcmikedermott – how does the customer know it’s the “authorized” version? they don’t.

    at any time it seems amazon can “reach in” and delete something you bought, your fault or not. by making your own books for the kindle (using my how-to) you avoid that possibility. even if they remotely delete something you created (i doubt they would do that) you can always put your books back on the device, or any other device.

  3. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt owns the rights to publish 1984, and their official Kindle edition isn’t going anywhere. Great graphic here though.

  4. @Anonymous – yah – i don’t think customers know/knew or cared who owns the right to publish 1984 in the USA, they bought something and it then it was removed without their permission, including all of their notes and annotation.

    i’m not sure how anyone would know who has the rights to publish something and sell it on a kindle, i suppose you could do a lot of research before you buy a book on the kindle to double check, but that seems an odd way to buy a book.

    any way – houghton mifflin harcourtnot doesn’t own any rights in australia (or canada, or russia) it seems. any of those places you can download the book legally and make an ebook for your kindle.

  5. Um… does this mean that is coming after the paperback version I got in high school, next?

    This situation is kind of like Fahrenheit 451, but instead of degrees, it’s kilobytes.

  6. Doesn’t anyone know how to hack the Kindle to stop Amazon from having the ability to edit the contents???

  7. @7, PT – It doesn’t take “a lot of research” to figure that out.

    It also doesn’t take much more than a small bag of common sense to look at the copies of 1984 that are on the Kindle store. One is published by a well-known publisher (Houghton-Mifflin) at a price ($9.99) that indicates that they still hold rights rather than it being one of the public-domain texts that publishers put up.

    The other copy was cheap as hell, and had no real information… The description looked like a bunch of quotations from Wikipedia. Honestly, this really should raise suspicions.

    You say that customers don’t know/care who owns the rights. Ignorantia juris non excusat.

    You say that they ‘bought’ something, and then it was removed. They bought nothing. They paid for a license, which Amazon can revoke. That’s baked into the system.

    I’m not trying to be an Amazon apologist here. I don’t think they handled this properly, and I’m pretty frustrated by it. I think it’s a good idea to avoid DRM whenever we can, the system continues to prove how broken it is. Yet making so many flawed arguments doesn’t really seem to help the case against.

  8. @hohum – i have a kindle and i don’t think i’ve ever taken a break from the book buying process to look up the publisher’s name to make sure whatever i am buying is authentic, maybe next time i will.

    it seems all the customers who bought the fake 1984 also didn’t do that, i didn’t buy the fake 1984, but i understand how many people could have. i don’t think it’s proper to assume they didn’t have a “small bag of common sense” – seems reasonable that they assumed it was a valid purchase.

    the online experience and kindle experience makes it seem like everything on there is ok to purchase and you don’t need to worry about doing additional research besides buying what you want.

    maybe this will change things and amazon will have a better way of authorizing books for sale on their system. i really don’t think the customer should be bothered with all this extra effort to buy a book, and if they are willing to do some extra work – just make their own copy so they can do whatever they want with it and not worry about being pre-book-buying-research-authorizers.

    all that said, i understand what you’re saying, and amazon did exactly what they were likely asked to and will also likely make things better going forward. they have a good device and it’s fun to use, i like making my own ebooks though.

  9. @PT, 13, You do raise a good point that the whole Kindle experience really puts everything at the same level. I didn’t really think that through, I’ll be honest. I know that there’s self-publishing and all that jazz on the Kindle store. So to me, the pulled version seemed obviously sketchy, especially in comparison to the legit version. I’m sure most users don’t know that there are real publishers and self-publishers on the Kindle store, because, as you’ve said, Amazon doesn’t do anything to really make that common knowledge. Without that knowledge, it’s true – everything seems legit.

    I’m sure many consumers don’t do this, but it does make a lot of sense to me to ‘comparison shop,’ if you will. If I see two instances of (seemingly) the same book on the store, I’m curious as to why… And in this case, the one product seemed a lot more real than the other. But, again, this is with the knowledge that Amazon isn’t playing gatekeeper.

    Of course, now we know what they’re playing instead. And I agree with you that hopefully this nonsense will encourage Amazon to rethink some policies. You’re right – the customer shouldn’t really need to be bothered… At the same time, we should all probably take a more active role in understanding what we’re paying for and why.

    P.S. I like to make/reformat my own books as well. I have a Kindle and the only texts that live on it are public domain texts that I slapped on there myself. Actually that’s a lie, I also have a bunch of the free crap that Amazon tosses out from time to time.

    One last thing – the Calibre suite is a decent way to accomplish the same stuff you were doing if you don’t use Windows. Cheers!

  10. In Australia Kangaroos bring you 1984 on your kindle.
    In Russia kangaroos from amazon take 1984 from your kindle.

  11. Or, you could NOT BUY THE KINDLE, and give your business to some other, more deserving e-reader company.

    And download it from an ‘Stralian website. Like I did last week.

  12. Writing as an anonymous bookseller at an anonymous independent bookstore in Southern California, there’s always the painfully easy option of having a physical book. It’s unfortunate, but the economic downturn and the rise of the Kindle has forced us to scrap our covert book squads that break into homes to “retrieve” books.

  13. The Kindle has major problems with questionable sellers selling very poor copies of books, and the interface can make it very difficult to find the respectable copy.

    Search for any public domain work, for example, and one will be confronted with hundreds of copies of the same work, with almost all of those copies horribly formatted, with advertisements in their titles, tables of contents that are wrong and non-functional, illustrations that are missing, and chapter headings that are just part of the text at best. There appears to be no way to review a particular Kindle version, so reviewers can’t warn others of particularly poor copies and direct them to better ones.

    The copy of 1984 that was recalled was apparently one of these, ‘published’ by one of the companies that puts their name in the title and dumps the text from some online source.

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