How Amazon's remote deletion of e-books from the Kindle paves the way for book-banning's digital future.
Let's give Amazon the benefit of the doubt--its explanation for why it deleted some books from customers' Kindles actually sounds halfway defensible. Last week a few Kindle ownersawoke to discover that the company hadreached into their devices and remotely removed copies of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Amazon explained that the books had been mistakenly published, and it gave customers a full refund. It turns out that Orwell wasn't the first author to get flushed down the Kindle's memory hole. In June, fans of Ayn Rand suffered the same fate--Amazon removed Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and The Virtue of Selfishness, with an explanation that it had "recently discovered a problem" with the titles. And some customers have complained of the same experience with Harry Potter books. Amazon says the Kindle versions of all these books were illegal. Someone uploaded bootlegged copies using the Kindle Store's self-publishing system, and Amazon was only trying to look after publishers' intellectual property. The Orwell incident was too rich with irony to escape criticism, however.Amazon was forced to promise that it will no longer delete its customers' books.
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was an associate editor at The Atlantic
from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews
. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation.