Reaching into people’s electronic bookshelves to take back books is a monstrous violation of reader culture. Amazon just reached deep into thousands of people’s Kindles to remove “1984” and made a huge mistake. By doing this, Amazon violated the No. 1 principle in design—know your customer culture and respect it.
Thousands of readers feel violated by Amazon—and rightly so. There may be lots of legal copyright reasons why Amazon felt it had to remove “1984” (and act like “1984,” the irony is so rich), but in silently crawling into people’s Kindles and taking away books belonging to them, the company dealt a terrible self-inflicted blow to its own business model.
The culture of readers is a hybrid owning/sharing culture. This is especially true of the older boomers and their parents—the core customer population of the Kindle. They grew up owning and sharing books. It’s an integral part of the relationship people have with books. It’s emotional. Older readers keep books on their shelves for decades. They want them there to re-read—or just share their lives with them. Sound nutty? I still have anthropology books from grad school by my favorite professors. The classes and professors remain with me through the possession of these books.
Sorry Amazon, you just blew it big. Now do something to make up for your mistake. First apologize. Then explain. Then change your policy. If you must deal with copyright issues, talk with your audience, get them to participate in a conversation on the issue, ask for their advice.
Or get out of the e-book biz.
Amazon broke one of the basic rules by not allowing people to share books they bought online. Everyone I know who has a Kindle mentions this as a big downside. But they were willing to accept it for the convenience of e-books. Now Amazon is breaking the other basic rule—keeping loved books forever.