Jeff Bezos may be hoping that his apology for the way copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm were deleted from customers’ Kindles would have got him off the hook. Maybe it will. But it ain’t over yet.
A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books, lest it be forced to one day change or recall books, perhaps by a judge ruling in a defamation case — or by a government deciding a particular work is politically damaging or embarrassing.
“As long as Amazon maintains control of the device it will have this ability to remove books and that means they will be tempted to use it or they will be forced to it,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manager of the Free Software Foundation.
The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. This week it plans to present a petition to Amazon asking it to give up control over the books people load on their Kindles, and to reconsider its use of the software called digital rights management, or D.R.M. The software allows the company to maintain strict control over the copies of electronic books on its reader and also prevents other companies from selling material for the device.
Two years after Amazon first introduced the Kindle and lighted a fire under the e-books market, there is increasing awareness of how traditional libraries of paper and ink differ from those made of bits and bytes. The D.R.M. in Amazon’s Kindle books, backed up by license agreements with copyright holders, prevents customers from copying or reselling Kindle books — the legal right of “first sale” that is guaranteed to owners of regular books…