In Ray Bradbury’s book, Fahrenheit 451, the society at the time has been out burning different books in an attempt to quash contrary ideas and exalt the trivial:
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don’t put out fires–they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury’s vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal–a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.” [Amazon.com review]
When Amazon’s Kindle removed illegal copies of Orwell’s books (like “1984” and “Animal Farm”), many were likening it to Big Brother behavior found in “1984”. I would liken it more to Fahrenheit 451.
Why? Because the fact that Amazon can remove books—which it has demonstrated the power to do—means that any owners of a Kindle are at the mercy of the software writers to make sure that their purchase stays intact.
They are at the mercy of those that control their technology when it comes to ideas. What Bezos and Amazon have done is shown the world just how much trust Amazon owners must place in the Kindle.
For instance, if a company can remove a book for any reason1, then it stands to reason that books could possibly be edited, changed, or decided to be in poor taste by a government in the future and we could lose copies of them if there are not originals or they are out of print.
Looking down the line, this becomes disconcerting, and almost makes one want to encourage traditional paper, a competitor, or some kind of open source way to monitor books, lest they held by a monopoly that can dictate what the book “really says”.
- And I believe that illegal/unauthorized copies of a book are a good reason to remove them