Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
It's hard to overstate the irony in this case. Arguing that it had accidentally sold stolen books, Amazon reached somehow into their customers' Kindles and deleted, "in a stunning bit of poetic reality," copies of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm". Reaction across the internet was immediate, sharp and critical, and Amazon has sworn never to delete customers' materials again. As if (and the main point, that it can, is not resolved). Kindle World has kind, if somewhat bemused, coverage of the furor, includijng reports of students' lost notes on the book, the justification for the move, and more.

The appropriately named Kafka notes that though "all sales are final" you have purchased only a "license" to the work, and not the copy of the work itself. Make magazine explains how to recover your deleted copy of an Orwell work (step one: go to Australia...). The New York Times covers the story very kindly, noting only that "Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea." Doug Johnson says "I see it more like turning on your television and finding some of your cable channels gone." Maybe, but Kindle books are not marketed as though they were here-today gone-tomorrow channels. Tim Stahmer says "Producers of video content would love to exercise this kind of control of your television and DVR through government-mandated schemes like the broadcast flag." They would also like this degree of ownership over your computer as well, and already have it over your mobile phone (as Apple has demonstrated, deleting app after app).

Amazon's Kindle was always a fiasco, bad for literature and bad for learning, and now it can only be called a total fiasco. We'll see whether incessant marketing can continue to promote the idea that people should pay for work they could easily obtain for free (an idea that has a lot of traction in academia) but socially and technically the Kindle has reached a dead end, its true intent revealed before its time.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Jul 27, 2021 7:53 p.m.