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The Kindle, Orwell, and the cloud
What Amazon’s remote erasing of George Orwell books means for the Kindle and our faith in cloud computing
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mazon has remotely erased books from customers’ Kindle readers before, said Farhad Manjoo in Slate, but when it sent George Orwell’s books down “the Kindle’s memory hole” last week, the totalitarian overtones were “too rich with irony to escape criticism.” If “BIg Brother” Amazon can make your book disappear, without your knowledge or permission, maybe “we know what the future of book banning looks like.”

It’s not just books, though, said Robert Wright in The Atlantic. The Orwell-Kindle incident shows the broader “perils of ‘cloud computing.’” Computer technology has had “naturally decentralizing effects on power” in places like China. But as we move our software and content from our own desktops to the “cloud,” and into the hands of Amazon or Apple or an authoritarian government, “maybe Orwell will have the last, bitterly ironic, laugh.”

Amazon’s apologizing for the incident, but they—and you—are thinking of the wrong “gaffe,” said Alan Wexelblat in Copyfight. The problem isn’t that Amazon pulled some pirated e-books, but that it sold the “stolen goods” in the first place and then couldn’t “manage to keep egg off their face” when they were caught. The Kindle could change how we read newspapers and textbooks, but who’s going to trust Amazon now?

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