Has Amazon killed the Kindle?

Amazon may have inadvertently killed its own Kindle ebook reader over the past week. The company discovered that pirated versions of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm were available for sale on the Kindle bookstore. To comply with the copyright protection laws, Amazon removed the ebook versions from the online bookstore. But then Amazon also remotely deleted copies of the book from all Kindles and refunded the purchase price to the Kindle owners. So Kindle users woke up a few days ago to discover that Amazon had been rummaging around their Kindle, deleting stuff.

The outrage is understandable, and the issue highlights the difficulties of ebooks and copyright protection. Amazon was trying to comply with lawful request to remove pirated texts. And the difference between a paper copy of a book that has been printed as a pirated book and the same text as an ebook is that someone with a copy of a pirated ebook could, with some effort, but not a lot, make and distribute additional copies. So Amazon tried to protect the copyright owners but ended up alienating a lot of Kindle owners.

Amazon has since admitted it made a mistake and says it won't do it anymore, but the damage may already be done. It may dampen Kindle sales, but it may also dampen ebook adoption generally. Once unintended consequence: Kindle texts can be annotated with notes--the equivalent of writing in the margin of a paper book. When Amazon deleted user copies of the books, the company also deleted all the user notes, which were the rightful property of the Kindle owner. Oops....imagine if you had just spent hours reading that book and making notes for a term paper, and you wake up to discover all your work gone. You are not likely to buy another ebook for a long, long time.

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