It's here -- the first lawsuit in the case of Amazon.com's Kindle e-book reader and the whims of a company that deleted two George Orwell novels, "1984" and "Animal Farm," from Kindles without warning customers.
I never doubted that what has been described as the "Orwellian" action by Amazon.com would come to this.
After electronically deleting the books from the Kindles of customers who had already paid for the stories, Amazon.com explained its conduct by saying that the publisher of the books changed its mind about offering them in digital form. The company did issue full refunds for the purchases. Oh, and the vendor did apologize.
But that didn't help Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old high school student in Michigan who was reading "1984" on his Kindle for a homework project and was left with a pile of disconnected research notes after the book vanished from his e-book reader in mid-assignment, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now Gawronski is being represented, along with another affected consumer, by a Chicago-based law firm in a lawsuit against Amazon.com, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where the company is based. The lawyers are applying for class-action status for the case so that other plaintiffs can join in to pursue damages against Amazon.com.
So, now it's all up to the legal system and the court of public opinion. But I'm left wondering, what could the repercussions be if Amazon.com took similar moves with other books in the future?
How about next time, instead of just instantly deleting books that have questionable licensing arrangements, maybe Amazon.com could just "rename" them temporarily and let people finish the books before taking them away without due process?
Here, Amazon.com, let me help. Following is a list of my top five potential book renamings and how you can explain them to consumers:
- "I'm OK - You're OK" -- the classic tome by Thomas Harris on Transactional Analysis, now renamed, "Amazon's OK, But You're Screwed" because you can't finish the book to find out more self-help tips. And I hope you can read the rest of my review here, because I gleaned my information from Amazon.com's extensive online book reviews and I hope they don't try to penalize me by deleting this paragraph from your Kindle.
- "The Audacity of Hope" -- written by now-President Barack Obama, could be renamed, "The Audacity of Amazon.com."
- "He's Just Not That Into You," by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo -- now renamed "Amazon.com's Just Not That Into You Ever Finishing This Book."
- "Steal This Computer Book 3," by Wallace Wang -- now renamed "Amazon.com, Make My Day and Delete This Computer Book 3."
- "We Reach The Moon," by New York Times reporter John Noble Wilford -- now renamed "We Reach The Moon, and Then We Deleted It."
Hey Amazon.com, isn't it fun being a dictatorship in a world with instant communications?
(Todd R. Weiss is a freelance technology journalist who formerly wrote for Computerworld.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TechManTalking)