High school student suing Amazon over book-deletions which rendered his study-notes useless

High school student Justin Gawronski is suing Amazon for deleting his Kindle copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, because in so doing, they messed the annotations he'd created to the text for class (the annotations say things like "remember this paragraph for class" but the paragraph in question has been deleted). The case is intended to become a class-action on behalf of other Kindle owners whose annotations were deleted rendered useless by Amazon when it improperly deleted an infringing copy of the Orwell book from Kindles. Nothing in Amazon's EULA or US copyright law gives them permission to delete books off your Kindle, so this sounds like a plausible suit to me.



  1. Hmm. One suspects he’s making this up.

    Possibly the people who illegally published their edition of 1984 to Amazon should be the ones who are being sued, or also sued.

  2. Good. Let the Amazon mutant rot and die like it deserves. The smug ads, the promise of ‘ending paper’…

    Save the world, crush a Kindle.

  3. Great, hope this turns into a major class action lawsuit. Stuff like this needs to have an example set with precedents if we’re actually going to make realistic use of this technology in the future.

    Companies need to be made painfully aware of what happens if they don’t act responsibly with DRM technologies.

  4. I was waiting for this. Course, Amazon probably was too. They probably consulted with their lawyers; did a cost/loss analysis and decided it was still cheaper to lose a class action than it would be to find a way not to steal from faithful customers.

    Either way, we should all be thankful for attorneys- as slimy as many are. They are often the only person in our corner when it comes to defending our rights.

  5. So did he use:

    “Sorry sir, my Kindle ate my homework!”

    Or the Ellen Feiss defense:

    “Then my Kindle went beep beep beep beep and my notes were gone. And I had to do them again. And they weren’t as good…bummer”

    If he had tried both and still didn’t pass then he might have a case.

  6. only a few hundred copies of 1984 were sold for the kindle, good luck getting a class-action lawsuit together. good luck finding 5% of those who bought the book, in fact.

  7. A reader on Gizmodo pointed out that when notes are saved on a Kindle, they are saved in a different file (myclippings.txt) than the book itself. So if this kid took any notes they would not have been erased.

  8. So did the Kindle delete the annotations or just make them useless? Your blurb is inconsistent on this point:

    they messed the annotations he’d created to the text for class (the annotations say things like “remember this paragraph for class” but the paragraph in question has been deleted).


    a class-action on behalf of other Kindle owners whose annotations were deleted by Amazon

  9. @#4

    I’m sure he thought he was. After all, the whole e-book advertising mantra is “just a s good as a real book”.

  10. I think this kid has the right idea. Amazon didn’t have the legal obligation or authority to delete the books when it discovered they came from an unauthorized seller.

    Just yesterday the NYTimes “Green Inc.” blog posted a story about the plan of six universities to offer certain text books online for use on the new Kindle.
    Considering how text book publishers love to put out new and virtually identical editions to effectively kill the resale value of previous editions, I wonder that they’ll try the same stunt with the Kindle versions: deleting “obsolete” versions to “encourage” students to buy the new edition.

  11. I dislike this “use a real book” stuff. It’s odd when gaps in technology are touted as superior. You wouldn’t see anyone suggesting you use one of those gigantic cell phones from the 80’s and 90’s instead of a modern-day cell, would you? Kindle is the prototype of a new technology that shows promise but obviously has many flaws left to be fixed. To lambaste someone for taking the initiative and embracing this evolution is really against the idea of industrial progress.

  12. And he didn’t buy a real book because?

    This country, and the world is becomming wayyy to dependent on technology!

  13. Hmmm… no that’s not “what you get” I disagree.

    I do prefer physical books, but that’s just a preference. If a company is offering an item for sale and you pay for that item they have no right to take it back from you. The problem is bad for the people offering the technology in the long run.

    I, for one, will not buy into the whole kindle thing until I know that this will not be an issue. I can currently buy a book, scan it into my computer and have an electronic version no one can take from me, as well as a physical version I can keep.

    I doubt I’m the only person who isn’t willing to buy into a new technology when it promises to rip me off at every opportunity.

  14. The complaint is impressive. I recommend reading at least the intro, which contains some funny references to the irony of Amazon deleting 1984, of all book, Big Brother style.

    And they have an interesting theory regarding conversion. Obviously Amazon will move to dismiss, but I’m predicting this complaint will survive an MTD and move on to discovery.

    For the non-lawyers: Amazon is in for a long, dirty, expensive fight on their hands.

  15. For the “buy a real book” crowd: stop blaming the kid. He had every reason to expect that Amazon wouldn’t be deleting a book he purchased. There was no precedent for this, after all.

    I’ve purchased tracks on iTunes for use in academic settings. If the iTunes store suddenly changed their minds and deleted them off my computer I’d be pretty peeved at both Apple and anyone who chided me with “buy a real record!”

  16. Rendered useless? I’m not even sure I believe that. I guess if he took terrible notes to begin with, but otherwise I’d say ‘rendered less usable.’

    He can buy a legit copy (Kindle store or paper) and piece it back together.

    Not that he should have to, but I’m getting a real ‘I’m helpless!’ vibe from the story…

  17. this suit will hopefully be good for the greater copyfight. it will actually help us step into a future where one doesn’t *need* to lug a physical book around (except me, b/c i just love book-smell way too much).

  18. There’s a real simple solution to this whole problem.


    At least until Amazon gets a clue.

  19. My cousin attended my high school about 15 years after I did. Some of the books I read in h.s. were still on the reading list, and I still had them in my bookshelf. I saved him the cost and hassle of buying his own copies, and got the satisfaction of providing legacy books with my psychic energy attached. I mean annotations and highlights.

    Try that with a Kindle. 15 years from now, where will your Kindle library be? What will block your (cousin/nephew/nieces/child’s) access? Hardware malfunction? Data corruption? Jeff Bezos?

  20. Yes, yes I think everyone understands that some people like real books over e-books. We’ve established this about 100,000 times in pretty much every discussion about e-books on BoingBoing (and I’m sure many other internet forums) over the past few of years.

    I like real books too, they look nice on my shelf and are easy to lend, etc, etc, etc.

    However I’m all with this kid.

    Like it or not ebooks and ebook readers will continue to rise in sales and will become very regularly used technology. People should be supportive of this kids claim because it will set important precedent for future cases and therefore future products!

    Imagine how much better the mobile phone market would be these days if way back in the early days of mobile phones someone had brought up an anti-competitive behaviour claim up that stopped people getting locked into shitty long term contracts and stopped carriers from locking phones, etc?

  21. Regarding #13: Your point is well taken, but I personally know at least a few people that just want a mobile phone with no bells and whistles. I’ve been at Verizon and seen an older couple come in and ask specifically for a model that was just a phone. They left disappointed. Obviously, this is a small minority, but there is a segment of people that want just a phone.

    Additionally, smaller phones are somewhat of a fad. Some people like the larger hardware as it has a more solid feel to it. I myself am not part of this group. To me the iPhone is too large for me to carry around. I am waiting for the iPhone mini.

    And amen to how much better the mobile phone market could be in the US. It is still ridiculously hard to share data between phones, backup contact lists, synchronize data across several devices. This stuff should have been figured out years ago.

    To relate this back to books, hopefully it won’t take them anywhere near as long to figure out the little details.

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