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Amazon offers to return Kindle users Orwell book or $30

By Peter Cohen, Macworld
September 04, 2009 12:20 PM ET

Macworld - Amazon.com found itself in the center of a swirling vortex of controversy in July, following its move to remotely delete copies of two George Orwell books that had been downloaded by Kindle users. Now the company is offering to restore the e-books, including any notes and annotations the users may have taken, or to give them $30, reports the Digits blog of the Wall Street Journal.

The e-books at the center of the controversy were George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, which had been sold to Kindle users erroneously. The Australian-based publisher of the e-books didn't have North American distribution rights; they notified Amazon.com of the error. Amazon.com then remotely connected to Kindles, which communicate using cellular network-based wireless technology, and remotely deleted the offending tomes. Overnight, Kindle users who had bought the e-books discovered that they were missing without a trace, though the cost of the books were refunded.

The move created an uproar in the community, with pundits, bloggers and others claiming Amazon was guilty of using "Orwellian" tactics to remove the book. The outrage prompted Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos to apologize to Kindle users in a blog post, calling the move "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles."

"As you were one of the customers impacted by the removal of 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' from your Kindle device in July of this year, we would like to offer you the option to have us re-deliver this book to your Kindle along with any annotations you made," reads the note. "You will not be charged for the book. If you do not wish to have us re-deliver the book to your Kindle, you can instead choose to receive an Amazon.com electronic gift certificate or check for $30."

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