We are not joking. Late last week, Amazon deleted purchased copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from the ebook readers of hundreds of users. New York Times tech writer David Pogue summarizes it best:
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned ....
You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony? The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were '1984' and 'Animal Farm.'
We're relaunching our "defective by design" tagging campaign, and we couldn't have asked for a better occasion or a better target. Here's what you can do:
1. Go to the Kindle Amazon page.
2. Give the Kindle a quick but thoughtful 1-star review.
3, Tag it "defectivebydesign", "kindle swindle", and "1984".
4. Do the same thing for the pricier version, the Kindle DX.
6. Bonus: send a message to publishers by tagging Kindle books. Here are the top selling books for Kindle.
And here are some talking points you might use in your review:
1. When you buy a Kindle, Amazon controls it, not you. They can enter into your Kindle and delete your books at any time.
2. They recently deleted hundreds of readers' copies of 1984 without their permission (I'm not joking, Google "Amazon 1984").
3. Amazon's software allows them not only to delete books at any time, but also to cripple them -- as they did recently when they disabled the "read aloud" Text to Speech feature on already purchased titles.
4. Amazon refuses to clarify what exactly their DRM system can do, or how they will or won't use it. Deceptive advertising practices like this are currently being looked into by the Federal Trade Commission. Notice that there is no mention or warning of DRM on the Kindle page.
The New York Times article quoted a student who lost his notes and annotations when the book was deleted: "'They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,' he said."
We've campaigned against the Kindle before, and it's having an impact. Check out this op-ed in the Minneapolis / St. Paul Star Tribune by a columnist who noticed our campaign. He still bought the Swindle, but his article shows that the tags and reviews give shoppers significant pause.
The story caught fire over the weekend and was on the Times' "most emailed" list. Even people who don't know what DRM means appreciate the irony; they understand that there's something fundamentally wrong with technology that works this way. This is a perfect story to spread, and a perfect moment to target the Kindle for 1-star reviews.
Over the coming weeks, Sarah, Matt, John and I will be selecting more DRM-infected products for the tags and the 1-star reviews they deserve. We're looking for hot new products, or products that make particularly appalling use of DRM. If you'd like to suggest one, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.