Amazon attacked for deleting George Orwell

Two books bad ... Amazon deleted 1984 and Animal Farm from its electronic book reader, the Kindle. Outraged customers lose texts they bought. Is this a warning of what our future holds? I am now feeling rather glad that, like most academics, I have a substantial library of REAL books. There are many books printed hundreds of years ago that are still readable. How long will material stored on today's magnetic and optical media remain available and readable? Will we one day need to go to a government-run museum just to read a CD? I have a little story to tell in that connection which I will put at the foot of the news item below:
Online retailer Amazon has been forced to fend off accusations of Big Brother-like behaviour after it erased two George Orwell books from customers' electronic book readers. In an Orwellian move, copies of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were mysteriously wiped from customer's Kindle devices.

The Kindle is an electronic book reader that lets users download and read texts from Amazon's online catalogue. Online complaints compared Amazon's move to a book shop breaking in to a customer's house to steal back purchased books. One student lost all of the notes he had made while reading one of the books.

The texts were uploaded by a publisher who did not have reproduction rights, Amazon told technology news website CNet, and so they were deleted. "We removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers," a spokesman said. "We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances." [But will anybody ever trust them again?]


My story: I recently decided to convert my old Windows computer into a DOS machine -- as a sort of museum for all the old DOS software we used to use a dozen or more years ago. In particular I wanted to create a collection of all the old DOS games that the kids used to play and which they enjoyed so much.

But as soon as I tried, I failed. I had set up DOS machines often in the past so I expected no trouble but this time I failed. I just could not get DOS to boot from the hard drive. Fortunately, my stepson is both himself a computer retailer and also the son of a computer retailer so he remembered a rare switch (/mbr) to the old FDISK command that solved the problem.

But I then found that a lot of my old floppy disks had become corrupt over time so it was important to get the CD drive accessible from DOS as soon as possible. And that was easier said than done. After a couple of hours of hunting around and head-scratching, I finally found a driver file that worked and also figured out the syntax of how to set it up (with driver in CONFIG.SYS and CD command in AUTOEXEC.BAT).

But then there was the problem of getting the sound to work. Modern motherboards have the sound onboard and DOS cannot access that. Fortunately, however, I had an old Soundblaster card left over from a project of a few years ago and we found a slot on the motherboard that would take it. But we have no DOS drivers for it so, at the time of writing, the sound is not yet working. My stepson is however fairly confident that he will be able to find the files we need. But would he be able to find them in (say) 10 years' time?

So the moral of the story is obvious. Stuff that is stored on the routine technology of today can become almost inaccessible in as little as 10 years' time. It makes you think. Technological change does create some risk of wiping out our past.

Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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