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Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos was traveling during the company’s earnings call Thursday but managed a virtual cameo appearance to apologize for la…

Amazon Founder & CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos was traveling during the company’s earnings call Thursday but managed a virtual cameo appearance to apologize for last week’s ham-fisted handling of illegal books on Kindle. In a message posted to the Kindle Community forum on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Bezos wrote:

“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.” He signed off “with deep apologies to our customers.”

He was referring to Amazon’s removal of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindle accounts of users who bought the books through the Kindle store for $.99 each. The discovery set off a backlash over the way the books were yanked from accounts and concerns that Amazon might abuse the process again. It also highlighted the way Kindle works: unlike the outright ownership of print sales, under the terms of Kindle use, Amazon only grants buyers a license that can be revoked at the company’s choosing. The uproar was fueled by Amazon’s poor handling of the situation and by the unfortunate coincidence of Orwell’s themes about invasion of privacy, institutional control and Big Brother. Turns out the books were added to the Kindle Store through the self-publishing tool but the publisher didn’t have the right to sell them.

Amazon was right to stop selling them — and would have been right to offer refunds in exchange for giving up the books — but utterly wrong in the way it was handled. Bezos doesn’t say here how the process will work in the future; as the owner of multiple Kindles, I hope he shares the resolution with the Kindle Community as well.

If this sounds familiar, it’s the second major Kindle content uproar for Amazon this year. In April, a <a href="Amazon Says

  1. London Print Girl Friday, July 24, 2009

    I'm not entirely anti-Kindle, but I never saw a book disappear from my shelf.

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  2. Good for Mr. Bezos. Admit you are wrong; move on.

    Loved his comment about learning from the scar tissue.

    A class act, all the way!

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  3. Is it me or is it completely ironic to have the book 1994 pulled from Kindle from those in charge from above??? Sorry if I’m stating the obvious.

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  4. Staci D. Kramer Friday, July 24, 2009

    @Dan No, it's not just you. 1984 is one of the reasons the reverb was so strong.

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  5. Cathryn Cranston Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Aside from the legalities, fine print, copyright restrictions, and sincere apology, the whole episode is really creepy. I look at my library, and I look at my Kindle DX. The former is mine, the latter is not. So where do I want all my notes, comments and underlines to be? Also, when something acquires a creepy attribute, it self-marginalizes. And at the same time, what are minor inconveniences such as the awkwardness of Kindle use in the subway, become magnified.

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  6. Thanks for saying out loud what we were all thinking Jeff. It went so against what every book lover believes so strongly in, that it really was "insane".

    The one thing I hate about the internet/cloud is that information/documents there today can be gone tomorrow. Scary to think that that can include reaching down into our personally owned, connected, portable devices (Kindle, and yes, you too iPhone).

    This simple apology (and not having it ever happen again) goes a long, long way with respect to Amazon/Kindle…..for me anyway. Not sure I will ever really trust Steve Jobs and Apple :-).

    P.S. @Dan, yes ironic (or creepy) that it was "1984". Could have been more ironic, it could have been "Fahrenheit 451"

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