“Orwellian” Kindle Deletions: Legitimate Copyright Kerfuffle, Giant Yawn, or Teachable Moment?

Last week, Amazon remotely deleted copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from users’ Kindles.  As it turns out, the ebook publisher selling the editions didn’t actually own the rights for these works.  As one could imagine, the blogospheric reaction to this event has been a mixture of smirking irony, outrage, confusion, and lots of I-told-you-so.  (See the first link above for an excellent overview of the reaction.)

I had a quick succession of thoughts while reading about the deletions:

  • ZOMG!  Jeff Bezos is stealing your stuff!
  • Um, you bought an unauthorized ebook from a shady publisher.  Why are you so surprised?
  • Wait, how were you supposed to know the publisher was shady?
  • Huh, remote deletion wasn’t in the terms of service.  But who reads those anyway?
  • How can consumers avoid this in the future?

Any ideas for how to address this event with our users?  It seems like a great opportunity to talk about DRM, reading legalese before you buy/agree, copyright terms, applying information literacy beyond books, etc.

And as librarians, how can we use news items like this to our advantage?  What knowledge and services do we provide that could be particularly relevant in situations like this?


  1. As a whole, I’m particularly concerned about our ability to own content and the rights that go along with that (i.e. right of 1st sale). Increasingly, our collections are moving away from ownership to contracted usage rights.

    As we continue to move towards digital object leases, we risk the loss of services and information which may in turn lead to a loss of knowledge. In the past, our collections withstood economic downturns because we owned the content. Can we expect the same to be true when we don’t own it?

    Possible solution: Patron education and lobbying with other groups outside of librarianship that could be affected.

  2. Excellent points about owning vs. licensing content, Bryan!

    I see this situation as a great opportunity to educate our users about the curatorial, archival, and preservation functions of libraries. And also an excellent example of how information literacy can be used “in the real world.”

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