Just One of the Reasons Why Amazon is a Truly Magnificent Operation That Continues to Define the Possibilities of Cyperspace...

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos apologizes for stupid corporate behavior related to vaporizing Kindle content:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO
Amazon.com

More here.

We all have our various beefs with Amazon and other mega-retailers of the future/current moment, but it's nothing less than impressive the way this company and its leadership has always in the best way(s) possible, really rolled with the vibe, possibility, and potential of a truly new way of building a better world through commerce and connection. I'm also tempted to wish that Bezos would go into politics, but wouldn't that be a tragedy?

Bezos was one of our 35 heroes of freedom a few years back. Reason's coverage of Bezo here.

Full disclosure: Bezos is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • robc||

    Its easy to apologize after the fact.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Would you prefer that they apologized preemptively, just in case?

  • Douglas Gray||

    It's much harder to get that sort of apology when someone messes up in the public sector. Can you imagine a cop saying that an unreasonable break-in and search was "stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with the victims rights?"

    Or how about George Bush saying that the invasion of Iraq was "stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our Constitutional principles?"

  • ||

    There are two problems with this. First, now that Amazon has done this voluntarily, it will be much easier for a court to compel them to do this in a case of libel or a book banning (like the Catcher in the Rye sequel). Second, it's not like he gave the people their books back.

  • cmace||

    "Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles." = failz.

    He will never make a cop or a bureaucrat. He should have said "Everything we did was completely in line with our procedures. We are attempting to have charges pressed against these people for illegal downloading."

  • robc||

    Would you prefer that they apologized preemptively, just in case?

    I would prefer they preemptively realize what they were about to do was wrong and then not do it.

    But that is hard.

    An apology is easy (but still much better than most companies would do).

  • Elemenope||

    Second, it's not like he gave the people their books back.

    Well considering the situation, he probably couldn't give the content back. He probably should have given *equivalent* content back free of charge (like, say, copies of the authorized version of 1984).

  • ||

    The apology is a good idea, but the damage is done.

    It's not like it was an unprecedented situation. Apple deals with it all the time. They just pull the offending app from the store and keep it on the devices, even though it's been proven that they have the capability to remove it.

    On a related note, in Austrailia, anything published by an author who died before 1955 is in the public domain. So you can get your Orwell ebook fix at their Project Gutenberg site.

  • ||

    Full disclosure: Bezos is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.


    You guys will never make it in politics.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    I don't really care, but they might have been able to handle this on the backend by leaving the books alone and transferring money from the alleged thief to the apparent real owner, perhaps waiting for a court order to do that.

    P.S. Reason's favorite Contributing Editor speaks! I tried listening to the first few minutes to see whether he was going to outrageously lie again, but the faux-NPR just got to be too much. Maybe someone from Reason should have a talk with their Contributing Editor about the downsides of just making things up.

  • Mister DNA||

    Please, please, please, Urkobold and Baked Penguin... could you do one of those comic strips in which LoneWacko's hatred of Dave Weigel is broken down for the curious?

    I think it has something to do with Weigel helping a Pedro-like candidate beat out LoneWacko for a position on the Student Council (of course, in Weigel's defense, he was enthralled by the Pedro-like candidate's promises of HopeAndChange).

    Also, shut the fuck up, LoneWacko.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The apology is a good idea, but the damage is done.

    Any mistake where people incur losses is irreparable on some level. No amount of restitution or recompense (even where feasible and appropriate) can heal a breach of trust. Hence the apology.

    I refuse to accept the line of thinking that mistakes or bad judgement are somehow indicative of moral failure or lack of trustworthiness. Particularly in the still nascent intersection of electronic commerce and property rights, failure is always an option.

    How people respond to their failures that demonstrates and defines character. If they deny a failure or blame someone else, they deserve all of the scorn that can be heaped upon them. But if they publicly acknowledge a shortcoming and honestly try to do better as a result, I cannot fault them.

  • Elemenope||

    I don't really care, but they might have been able to handle this on the backend by leaving the books alone and transferring money from the alleged thief to the apparent real owner, perhaps waiting for a court order to do that.

    This is a shockingly not bad idea.

    Though it doesn't make up by a long shot the amazing tonnage of drivel for which you have been responsible.

  • hmm||

    I'll go against the comment sentiment and agree with the article. In today's business climate it's refreshing to see someone come out and apologize and even recognize the where the error occurred. (there are a lot of pandering apologies that are just for show and don't recognize the mistake at all, just a sorry)

    The true test is to see what is implemented internally to prevent this. The smart move would be to make sure your customers are allowed to see the internal changes designed to not allow something like this to happen again.

    The actions will speak louder than the words, and only time will tell if the actions come to fruition. (how's that for a cliche mash-up?)

  • hmm||

    This is a shockingly not bad idea.

    I don't think that is his idea. I read a similar suggestion in a business article. It might have been in the WSJ or the local Post Disgrace, I don't remember. The largest caveat in the article was the amount of time to get a court order and some other legal issues with identification of parties or something like that. IP law hurts ma melon.

  • Elemenope||

    I don't think that is his idea.

    This is my shocked face. :-| And I was about to get faith in the redeemability of even LoneWacko.

    IP law hurts ma melon.

    This, and how!

  • ||

    Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.

    He spelled "stupidly" wrong. Aside from that, I agree with the article. He owned the mistake. He's not a weasel. And he keeps my K-cups coming cheap. Long live Bezos.

  • Elemenope||

    He spelled "stupidly" wrong.

    Grammar Nazi fail. Both 'stupid' and 'thoughtless' are substantive adjectives, with the adverb 'painfully' modifying the idiomatic adjective 'out of line'.

  • Warmongering Lunatic||

    It's not as good as not fucking up in the first place, but it's a long sight better than defending the error. Grade: C+, with a marginal note, "I know you can do better"

  • William||

    Heroes of freedom? That has a rather Soviet ring. But then you libertarians have a rather Leninist mindset. A hero is somebody who toes the party line, right?

  • ||

    I would also take it more seriously if they didn't merely promise, but made it more solid by modifying their TOS so that they could not do this short of a court order. Better yet, pull a Batman and destroy the capability to do this.

    I know, asking for actions rather than mere words makes me unreasonable.

    Full disclosure: I own a Kindle and this pissed me off.

  • Yogi Berra||

    'Its easy to apologize after the fact.'

    And you can observe a lot just by watching.

  • Elemenope||

    And you can observe a lot just by watching.

    I think the intended elision is "It is easy to apologize after the fact, rather than doing the right thing to begin with".

    You know, counterfactual comparison of actions.

  • hmm||

    P.S. Reason's favorite Contributing Editor speaks!

    *throwing a bone*

    Listening to it all, god I made it through Madcow, I'd have to say the assertion that the only reason or the driving reason for birthers is racism is a pretty thin argument and one that can't even remotely be supported. It almost seems like a pandering cop-out to the known audience more than anything.

    The rest of the shit is just rehashed same old same old for all links and accounts.

  • Elemenope||

    Listening to it all, god I made it through Madcow, I'd have to say the assertion that the only reason or the driving reason for birthers is racism is a pretty thin argument and one that can't even remotely be supported.

    Tend to agree. Clearly, the primary motivating reason for birthers is paranoid batshit insanity. Racism never need enter the picture.

  • ||

    I don't think it eludes Bezos that an apology is only part of it. The PR firm in my rectum says that it takes four or five demonstrations of good faith to recover a customer who feels betrayed. Bezos' PR firm is probably better than mine, just based on their respective invoices, so he probably knows that too. Maybe he follows through, maybe not. I think he gets credit for one act in many people's books here.

  • FlyOnTheWall||

    Sorry, but this isn't a good apology, nor am I impressed.

    Nowhere does Bezos state any specifics. He doesn't say "we won't delete already purchased content ever again", or "we're doing such-and-such to make sure we have the appropriate rights to the content we're selling."

    No, just mealy-mouth vague references to missions and such.

  • Mike Castle||

    Were you at my townhall meeting, LoneWacko?

    FFS people, the Honolulu Advertiser had a F'ing birth notice (pdf) in 1961!

  • ||

    Wingnut welfare handjob:

    "Full disclosure: Bezos is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website."



    And sure, I know Bezos supports Cantwell, and poss. other Dems too, but this Reason money is pure 'don't tax us poor rich people, from whom all benefits flow' propaganda-mill goodness. Credit where credit is due: Reason is at the vanguard of the Wingnuttia of tomorrow.

  • ||

    [crazy]Because a birth notice in a newspaper is complete evidence of Obama's birth in the US[/crazy?]

  • ||

    I think a nice testimonial gift for Bezos would be a shiny new metallic fireman's helmet.

    (Unfortunately he's so stupid that he wouldn't get the reference)

  • ||

    Can we all agree that any arbitrary contribution to any political organization or media outlet can be construed as either "don't tax us poor rich people" or "give me free shit"? Can we agree on that so we never have to hear such empty arguments ever again? No, I suppose not ...

  • ||

    John-David,

    .......really? Are we taking up the lonenut jobs cause? He can't even defend his position.

    This birther shit is fucking silly.

  • Mister DNA||

    A hero is somebody who toes the party line, right?



    Maybe so, but a Libertarian hero tows the lion.

  • Illegitimacy ||

    Desire for illegitimacy drives the birther thing.

    Left version:"Bush really didn't win down there in Florida"
    Yes he did.

    Right version: "Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii USA"
    Yes he was.

    Same fucking thing.

  • Mike Farmer||

    "Heroes of freedom? That has a rather Soviet ring. But then you libertarians have a rather Leninist mindset. A hero is somebody who toes the party line, right?"

    Oh yes, libertarians are such tyrants, demanding people live free and all that stuff. I mean, what about "Live free, or die" -- man, is that some evil shit or what? Libertarians will, like, kill people if they don't live free!

  • ||

    If you don't want a Kindle then don't buy one. Funny to see libertarians worry about the power of large corporations.

  • hmm||

    Funny to see libertarians worry about the power of large corporations.

    Why is funny to see free market people concerned with free market issues like not fucking your customers?

    A hero is somebody who toes the party line, right?

    Since I have been informed I will do you the favor of informing you. There is no line toeing here. Just lion towing or the towing of lions.

  • ||

    jayjayhawker,

    I might have been too clever with my use of the crazy tags and the question mark. I think that the one point I brought up, which has been used as proof that Obama is an American citizen, can be questioned. I have no dog in this fight, and even if Obama wasn't a citizen, who is going to remove him from the White House? The entire matter is a joke, and that's why I treat it as such.

  • Some dude||

    It was really pretty bizarre watching people get outraged after ebooks were erased when they should have been outraged from the beginning that ebooks can be erased.

  • ||

    And sure, I know Bezos supports Cantwell, and poss. other Dems too, but this Reason money is pure 'don't tax us poor rich people, from whom all benefits flow' propaganda-mill goodness.

    First of all, fuck that twunt. Second, reason has always been good about disclosures, if not for any other reason than someone like lonejackass would come along and point it out on his really cool blog.

    And I do like Amazon from a purely selfish POV. Just bought two Judo books today (lightly used) for less than a new one would cost at B&N.

  • ||

    Its easy to apologize after the fact.

    Libertarianish creed:

    It is better to ask forgiveness then to ask for permission.

  • Mary||

    but it's nothing less than impressive the way this company and its leadership has always in the best way(s) possible, really rolled with the vibe, possibility, and potential of a truly new way of building a better world through commerce and connection

    Full disclosure: Bezos is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.

    I think I should remove that big glob of sperm hanging from your ear lobe...

  • Hugh Akston||

    sage, you probably coulda got those books cheaper still on half.com.

    Desire for illegitimacy drives the birther thing.

    Agreed. Birthers et al. are just hoping a loophole will undermine the popular choice that they consider wrong. No racism is necessary.

    Referring to the [President] as Barrack Hussein Obama, on the other hand...

  • $||

    Referring to the [President] as Barrack Hussein Obama, on the other hand...

    They only do that to annoy army guys.

  • ||

    sage, you probably coulda got those books cheaper still on half.com.

    Eh, maybe, but I got things to do over here. Amazon is the first place I looked. And what would I save, 25 cents? Not worth my time, my friend.

  • adn||

    Apple doesn't have the technological capacity to remove apps and downloaded materials, just to revoke whole devices. If they had that power I bet they'd have used it by now.

    (By the way, it's not illegal to "possess" infringing material, only to make or distribute infringing copies. So all the laws that could have been broken had already been broken when Amazon sold the copies. Pissing off customers doesn't undo that. It does limit their civil liability, of course. Copyright law, of course, makes no sense on this point. This is why customers can rightly be pissed. A side effect of this is that it's not illegal to keep ripped copies of CDs on your hard drive if you've sold the CD. Either making the rip was illegal at the time it was done (no retroactivity here) or it wasn't.)

  • Anonymous||

    [crazy]Because a birth notice in a newspaper is complete evidence of Obama's birth in the US[/crazy?]

    Yeah, it can't possibly be for the benefit of the gransparents in Hawaii. After all, it noted the time and place of birth, right?

  • robc||

    Libertarianish creed:

    It is better to ask forgiveness then to ask for permission.


    Interesting that you say that since I was making the exact opposite point.

  • Anonymous||

    Stupid arguments.

    Why didn't they acknowledge their mistake and replace the license of the tainted document with an untainted document, at their own expense?

    They could still publicize it; but it wouldn't have gotten this exposure. What a campaign!

  • MNG||

    Amazon is amazing. When liberal friends try to criticize capitalism it's one of the first things I point to. In their seeking their own self interest Amazon has opened up a world of opportunity, convenience and connectedness that did not exist before its enterprise provided it.

  • ||

    Grammar Nazi fail. Both 'stupid' and 'thoughtless' are substantive adjectives, with the adverb 'painfully' modifying the idiomatic adjective 'out of line'.

    Elemenope fail. The word of the week was "stupidly".

  • Jimbo||

    I'm blaming the victims.

    Anyone who bought a Kindle gets what's coming to them. It was well known that the Kindle had this "feature" built in when they bought it. Why should they now be surprised when Amazon uses it?

    I think that Amazon screwed up and is trying to make up for it. But the problem is that they built a e-book platform that isn't truly free. Like Apple, you don't really "own" what you buy from Amazon. You just get their permission to use the content while they approve (and then only on devices they approve of).

    I'm waiting for an open platform e-book reader to come out that allows me to buy/read/use content in any manner I want.

  • +||

    William | July 25, 2009, 6:50pm | #

    Heroes of freedom? That has a rather Soviet ring.
    But then you libertarians have a rather Leninist mindset.


    Indeed, William. Ayn Rand is on that "heroes" list, yet Reason never misses a chance to trash her on this very site. Spitting in the face of one of your "heroes" is despicable, two-faced behavior, unbecoming to Reason's mission as a site of "free" minds.

  • TallDave||

    Did you guys read Bezos' reviews?

    I found it interesting he was an Atkins guy.

  • mark||

    Spitting in the face of one of your "heroes" is despicable, two-faced behavior, unbecoming to Reason's mission as a site of "free" minds.
    So where may I find a copy of the drinking game rules, and who is the final judge in ambiguous cases?

    Ayn Rand thought altruism was evil, in direct contradiction to empirical data suggesting the opposite. That is more obtuse than objective. I appreciate her role in drawing people (myself included) into the study of philosophy and politics, and her belief in the primacy of the nonaggression principle, but her dogmatism drove her and her followers a bit crazy, as they attempted to rule their own minds like a dictator. I read the whole way through Atlas Shrugged but I have no desire to read it again--it was completely devoid of creativity. What in the hell was wrong with that woman?

    So I think all the criticism is warranted and all the ridicule is worth it for the laugh. At best I think people should have a love/hate relationship with Ayn Rand, as she seemed to have with her characters. The treatment she has received on The Simpsons is both funny and apt. Apt!

  • robc||

    Ayn Rand thought altruism was evil, in direct contradiction to empirical data suggesting the opposite.

    Ummm....want to explain how it is possible to prove empirically good or evil?

    Not that I agree with Rand on altruism, but the concept of empirical data on evilness confuses me.

  • hmm||

    You need an axis for the data to be empirical. At least for the evil data.

  • Kevin||

    Better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.

    I'm not a Kindle user, and I'm MUCH less likely to become one now.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Ayn Rand thought altruism was evil

    Yes, well, there's that. But, she had a pirate! And, a special kind: the ReverseRobinHood kind that stole from PoorStarvingEuropeanWarRefugees.

    P.S. Regarding the cert issue, how is it in the public interest to have CNN's Howard Kurtz try to mislead the American public? Isn't it a dangerous situation when reporters basically just make things up?

  • mark||

    I don't know if you can prove it with numbers. But suggesting that you shouldn't do something if there is no direct benefit to you seems like a willful disregard for history and human nature. She spent at least a page in John Galt's speech attacking the idea that "no man is an island".

  • BakedPenguin||

    Please, please, please, Urkobold and Baked Penguin... could you do one of those comic strips in which LoneWacko's hatred of Dave Weigel is broken down for the curious?



    Mr. DNA - sorry, I meant to reply earlier, but I've been running around all day.

    Weigel had the presumption to call bullshit on the birther nonsense. Can you imagine? A brown person, with an IllegalForeignParent, potentially an IllegalForeigner himself, running for President, and Weigel refused to ask ToughQuestions and UploadTheVideo. Actually, Weigel did talk to someone in Hawaii, and had the temerity to accept the answers he was given, despite the proven fact that the birth certificate printed was an ObviousFraud! Lonewhacker called Hawaii himself, and they refused to talk to him!

    Also, notice how when Reason publishes one article by a liberal like Cox, she's their "favorite" contributing editor, while this friend o'Lonewhacker gets no mention.

    I did kind of cover the whole birther idiocy with this cartoon. I hope you understand if there's only so much of it I can take, even to parody it.

  • robc||

    I don't know if you can prove it with numbers.

    Schizo much?

    Is there "empirical data" or isnt there?

    Im not disagreeing with you on Rand being nuts on this. Im calling out your bullshit.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    I hope you understand if there's only so much of it I can take, even to parody it.

    I know, it's harsh. That's why we need more trolls.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    But still, there is comic potential in Lonewacko's WeigelObsession.

  • hmm||

    Is there "empirical data" or isnt there?

    The empirical argument is silly, but there is an argument that there are no human altruistic acts since the person committing the act almost always receives some sort of moral or righteous satisfaction. The whole satisfaction of doing the right thing argument.

    Some of the economic number crunchers need to weigh in. This is their domain.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    hmm,

    I'm not a number cruncher, but I was thinking about this aspect of human psychology a lot the other day. It's like (method?) actors say, "what's my motivation". I think empathy can be a motivating factor, although I'm pretty sure from an evolutionary psychology perspective, this sort of thing could all be reduced to the desire to keep the "herd" healthy or some such.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Of course, not everything really reduces so clearly, because the "figure-ground" relationship of the psyche is somewhat ambiguous, and what is a "spandrel" and what is the result of evolutionary adaptation is not necessarily obvious.

  • Mister DNA||

    But still, there is comic potential in Lonewacko's WeigelObsession.



    Yeah, I completely understand Baked Penguin being past the LoneWacko ToleranceThreshold, but the Weigel aspect is sort of an unexplored facet of LW's largely one-dimensional WorldView... Weigel is Lex Luthor to LW's Superman, or vice-versa.

    It could very well be that LoneWacko invested heavily in oceanfront property in Southern Arizona, only to have Weigel foil his plans to sink Mexico.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    It could very well be that LoneWacko invested heavily in oceanfront property in Southern Arizona, only to have Weigel foil his plans to sink Mexico.

    Something tells me Grant Morrison could make that story into the funniest shit EVAR.

  • Mister DNA||

    Something tells me Grant Morrison could make that story into the funniest shit EVAR.



    If Morrison writes it, it would still have to use Baked Penguin's LoneWacko graphic; that tinfoil hat is priceless.

    What the hell... with Baked Penguin's permission (and access to a decent sized .gif, .jpg, or .png of the LoneWacko image), I'll make a stab at it. I'll do my best not to ruin the franchise a la Joel Schumacher.

    If yes, post a link the the image or email me at jlb_in_cc *at* yahoo *dot* com

  • drm||

    All of Apple's music is DRM free. Comparison fail

  • Geotpf||

    drm | July 27, 2009, 10:23am | #

    All of Apple's music is DRM free. Comparison fail


    False.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I'm late as per usual... and I just skipped through most of the thread...

    But I just wanted to note that I've long suspected that Henry Waxman (who is in fact, "my" congressman) - is, in actuality, a Vogon.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Woah, sweet... LoneWacko is here.

    Also:

    "I don't know if you can prove it with numbers. But suggesting that you shouldn't do something if there is no direct benefit to you seems like a willful disregard for history and human nature. She spent at least a page in John Galt's speech attacking the idea that "no man is an island"."

    Well... 1st, you can't prove "evil" with numbers, so the "empirical" data you're talking about re: altruism is just silly.

    2nd, Ayn Rand never said that you should do something if there was no "direct" benefit to you - she was saying that you shouldn't do something if there is no benefit to you at all. This is quite different.

    The whole Galt's Gulch thing should be explanation enough, but she did advocate charitable giving. Also, she was quite aware of the fact that people all have different specific values and wants, and that people should do things that benefit them in indirect or non-monetary ways.

    Though putting words in Rand's mouth is unnecessary i think... which brings me to:

    3rd, Galt's speech was like 90 pages long. Devoting 1 page to refuting the idea that (metaphorically as I recall) man can be an "island" in some respects seems hardly a "gotcha" moment.

  • mark||

    Im not disagreeing with you on Rand being nuts on this. Im calling out your bullshit.

    You got me.

    she was saying that you shouldn't do something if there is no benefit to you at all. This is quite different.

    Fine, you got me here too. I stand by my "dogmatism" comment and that her philosophy nearly drove people insane, believers especially.

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