David Pogue says Amazon is doing the right thing in finally offering to return "1984" - including users' annotations - to Kindle users who had the book remotely ripped from their hands. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent out an email to those users today offering to give them a legitimate copy of the book, including any annotations they may have made, or a $30 refund if they don't want the book.
“As you were one of the customers impacted by the removal of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ from your Kindle device in July of this year, we would like to offer you the option to have us re-deliver this book to your Kindle along with any annotations you made. You will not be charged for the book.”
The email apparently restates Bezos' angry mea culpa he issued back in July when news of the snafu hit.
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.
You'll recall that the reason for the pull-back was that Amazon discovered it didn't have the rights to sell that particular copy of "1984." As Pogue notes, Amazon did have a legit copy available and it could have alerted users to the situation, offering the switch or rebate, ensure that annotations would still be available and done the switch. Instead they took two months to take care of people. Bezos' apology meant little until the users were made whole.
The damage to Amazon may be more than just of a PR nature. Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard Law prof, says content owners and lawyers will take note of Amazon's ability to control users' Kindles.
"There is this new prospect for control, and it is hard to imagine that regulators or litigants won’t notice." Litigants in defamation cases or government regulators could demand that these services remove entire works from their collections, or simply a word or paragraph that they found offensive, Mr. Zittrain said.