John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Kindle Ate My Homework

bezos_kindle Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s hair-shirt apology for Kindlegate was a nice gesture, but it didn’t go over particularly well with Justin Gawronski, a Michigan high school senior who lost his homework when the retailer remotely deleted a copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” from his Kindle earlier this month. He’s filed a class action suit against Amazon seeking money for those who lost work due to the book deletion and an injunction barring the company from improperly deleting books from Kindles again.

Below, an excerpt from the suit and the document in full:

On or about early-June, 2009, Mr. Gawronski purchased for $0.99 an electronic copy of George Orwell’s “1984” for use on his Kindle 2 from Amazon’s Kindle Store. He purchased the book because it was assigned to him as a summer homework assignment by a teacher at his high school.

On or about July 20, 2009, after reading online about Amazon’s practice of remotely deleting copies of “1984” from Kindles, Mr. Gawronski powered on his Kindle 2 only to watch “1984” vanish before his very eyes. Because “1984” was the most recent book he had been reading on his Kindle 2 prior to July 20, 2009, the Kindle 2 powered on to the last page of “1984” Mr. Gawronski had been reading. Within moments of powering on his Kindle 2 to this page of “1984,” the entire e-book disappeared as Amazon immediately remotely deleted it from his Kindle 2.

Mr. Gawronksi did not consent to Amazon remotely deleting “1984” from his Kindle 2.

As part of his studies of “1984,” Mr. Gawronski had made copious notes in the book. After Amazon remotely deleted “1984,” those notes were rendered useless because they no longer referenced the relevant parts of the book. The notes are still accessible on the Kindle 2 device in a file separate from the deleted book, but are of no value. For example, a note such as “remember this paragraph for your thesis” is useless if it does not actually a reference a specific paragraph. By deleting “1984” from Mr. Gawronski’s Kindle 2, this is the position in which Amazon left him. Mr. Gawronski now needs to recreate all of his studies.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work