Amazon Ate My Homework

By Bryan Toporek — August 24, 2009 1 min read
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Ever since the inception of homework, teachers have heard just about every excuse in the book from ill-prepared students. While many students have used variations on the tried-and-true “my dog ate my homework,” a high school senior in Michigan is putting a new twist on the old classic, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog.

Justin D. Gawronski purchased a Kindle earlier this summer for his upcoming AP English class and downloaded George Orwell’s 1984 as part of his summer homework. However, on July 20, the WSJ reported that Gawronski “watched his copy of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ disappear right before his eyes.” He noted the irony of the situation.

Amazon deleted Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from all users’ Kindles after discovering that the self-service platform who added the books to Amazon’s catalog did not have the rights to distribute the books. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener.

According to Gawronski, the notes he had been taking about the book on his Kindle were also rendered useless. While Amazon didn’t delete the file on his Kindle containing his notes, since the book text “no longer exists, all my notes refer back to nothing,” Gawronski said.

Gawronski recently filed a law suit which seeks class action status against Amazon in federal court, aiming to prevent Amazon from deleting books from Kindles in the same fashion. Given the public backlash that stemmed from Amazon’s actions, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos promised that the company would not fall into the same trap again, calling the move “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.