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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Amazon removes titles from Kindle devices

Last week, Kindle customers who had downloaded either George Orwell’s “1984” or “Animal Farm” were surprised to find out that the books had suddenly disappeared from their Kindles. According to an article from the New York Times, Amazon removed the titles and credited customer accounts because the titles were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have the rights to them. But did Amazon have the right to remove the titles from consumer’s devices? According to Amazon’s License Agreement and Terms of Use for the Kindle, it does not seem like Amazon had the right. The agreement states, “Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use.”

Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, provided a comment on the issue stating, “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.” However, according to some postings on web forums, this is not the first time that Amazon has had some issues with certain titles and then deleted the titles from devices. If it is that easy to delete trade books from the Kindle, what happens if a textbook is uploaded without the proper rights? Will that be taken too?

The New York Times interviewed a 17-year-old who was reading the book “1984” for class and lost all of his annotations when the book disappeared. He commented, “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work.” If the same scenario played out for textbooks, and annotations from the semester were lost, it would surely create a nightmare for students.


Anonymous said...

Hello Liz, I understand that both iChapters and CourseSmart provide e-books that are designed to terminate at a given date, and that the user also looses their notes, etc. So we already have this model in place in higher ed.

Elizabeth Looney said...

Thank you for reading our blog and providing a comment. You brought up a good point that some e-books terminate at a given date and the annotations are lost. In that scenario students are expecting the book to terminate and to lose their notes. That does not make it any better, and highlights a key problem with some of the current e-book models. In the blog post, I was referring to a situation where the books could disappear in the middle of the semester because of a rights issue and the students would unexpectedly lose all of their work. Mid-semester loss of that content would probably be seen as more problematic to most students than post-semester loss. Your point is a great illustration though of some of the current weaknesses in the e-textbook space. Thank you again for sharing.