Amazon’s Orwellian Instincts
George Orwell couldn’t have dreamed it up any better. When Amazon deleted e-books from Kindles belonging to customers who bought those books (because, says Amazon, the books in question were bootlegs added to its bookstore by a nefarious publisher), it gave the most vivid demonstration yet of how easy it is for people to consent to their own enslavement.
As Farhad Manjoo at Slate noted
Most of the e-books, videos, video games, and mobile apps that we buy these days day aren’t really ours. They come to us with digital strings that stretch back to a single decider—Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, or whomever else. Steve Jobs has confirmed that every iPhone routinely checks back with Apple to make sure the apps you’ve purchased are still kosher; Apple reserves the right to kill any app at any time for any reason.
In this particular case, Amazon hid behind the skirts of its Terms of Service (TOS), to which anyone with a working Kindle had agreed. The TOS are tantamount to, “anything we decide to do is okay, now shut the hell up and give us your money.”
TOSers are a crock anyway, because:
- they’re not negotiable
- if you want the product or service badly enough, you have to agree to the terms of service
- they’re not binding if they’re illegal or deprive you of your legal rights (i.e., if a state has a raincheck law and the terms of service say that sales are only good as long as items are available, the state law prevails)
- if they’re egregious enough and enough people complain, the company has to back down or lose a significant amount of good will.
In this case, Amazon stood by its actions but said it wouldn’t do anything like that again.
I do find it ironic that it’s corporations rather than government that are doing the enslaving, but I’m sure one day the two types of entity will merge into something called Decisions & Co. Manjoo again:
If Apple or Amazon can decide to delete stuff you’ve bought, then surely a court—or, to channel Orwell, perhaps even a totalitarian regime—could force them to do the same. Like a lot of others, I’ve predicted the Kindle is the future of publishing. Now we know what the future of book banning looks like, too.
[Image source: Photo by surfstyle via Flickr]
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