In 2009, Amazon remotely removed 1984 (along with Orwell’s Animal Farm) from customers’ Kindles. The books were removed after Amazon realized that they did not have the rights to digitally publish the books on Kindles, and the company refunded customers. Many customers were angry, saying that Amazon didn’t have the right to remove something they’d already bought (and some were pretty freaked out, as they were unaware that such a thing was even possible).
Was there a board meeting about this? I wonder what it would’ve looked like. I admit, I’m probably the last person who has wondered this, but I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to write about it. Calm down.
The (possibly imaginary) meeting undoubtedly involved some twits, but…isn’t it a prerequisite when you work for Amazon that you’ve actually read some books? There’s a pretty good chance that someone in that room had read 1984. Maybe they didn’t understand the Big Brother scenario well enough to know how completely ironic (not to mention a little scary) it’d be if they just reached into people’s Kindles and pulled 1984 out without a word. Perhaps someone read the book when they were four years old and thought that Big Brother was actually Winston’s big brother…
If they haven’t fired their PR person yet, they really should.
How it should’ve gone down:
Dude 1: We have to pull 1984 because we don’t have the rights to it.
Dude 2: Um, hello, do you know how many educated people will laugh at us for that? It’d be like a memory hole. It’d be a disaster. You’re fired!
It’d be like erasing Voldemort from the Harry Potter series because you decided his name was scary and then expecting the story to make sense without him there. Okay, well it’s not exactly like that, but I can’t think of an appropriate analogy because it’s just too unbelievably ridiculous.
But hey, if Orwell was right at all, in 50 years Amazon could remove as many books from Kindles as they liked and nobody would notice (or care). Maybe we’d even like it.