Amazon Deletes "Animal Farm" and "1984" from Kindles While Customers Sleep
So Amazon was selling bootleg editions of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" and "1984" on their Kindle, so what they did was they jacked into everybody's Kindle who had purchased copies, deleted these books, and refunded the money.

Sounds like a lie that a paranoid writer would make up, right? It even has the ironic flourish that betrays the hand of a cheap hack: the books in question are about the ways in which totalitarian organizations control information in order to control their citizenry.

(It starts with limits to what you can say. Like 140 character limits. Change speech; change thought. Go watch a Shakespeare play. Discover the way that the nuances of poetry, meter, and looping, limitless verbal play open up your mind to emotions that you thought were long dormant and provoke longings you thought you had quenched -- longings for more freedom, for deeper experience, and for a richer, better life. The first thing the Puritans did when they took over England was shutter all the theaters.)

So it's possible for Amazon to delete books right from people's machines thanks to their proprietary tagging and DRM system. They can find your books, flag them, and burn them if they decide you shouldn't have them.

While you sleep.

You may say: but Amazon is a benevolent organization and only has a profit motive! Their best interests are to give consumers what they want!

Fine, but technology is neutral. Seems like North Korea would love to replace all their books with devices like the Kindle. Seems like if I were running a dictatorship, the first thing I would do is take over Amazon and Google and then delete all the subversive, dissent-inspiring texts that have eroded dictatorships throughout history. Seems like "concentrating" anything is always a precursor to its destruction.

Is there an answer to this puzzle? Is there a way to retain the great things about the digitization of literature (instant dissemination, low overhead, multimedia legerdemain) while still protecting literature against the excesses of malevolent censors?

I think there is.

Posted by miracle on Sat, 18 Jul 2009 06:14:53 -0400 -- permanent link

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