Peter Kafka

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Jeff Bezos Apologizes for Kindlegate, but Can’t Promise It Won’t Happen Again

jeff-bezosAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn’t make it to his company’s earnings call today, but he did find time to apologize for Kindlegate–Amazon’s boneheaded removal of George Orwell novels from his customers’ e-book readers.

Here’s the text of his mea culpa, posted at a company-hosted bulletin board:

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

If you’re feeling petty, you can note that this apology took six days to arrive. But that would make you petty. A bigger person would say that Bezos’ self-flagellation is pitch-perfect in every aspect and a rare admission of fallibility from an American leader.

Great, right?

Almost. Now all we need is for Amazon (AMZN) to promise that it won’t go into your Kindle and take away something you bought, ever again. But the e-commerce giant won’t say that.

Instead, it’s left open a big, worrisome loophole that it refuses to close. Amazon says it won’t forcibly remove your content from your Kindle “in these circumstances.” But it won’t say what circumstances would prompt it to take back product it’s sold.

That’s dumb. And doubly so coming from Amazon, a company that succeeds in large part because of its well-deserved reputation for kick-ass customer service.

And let’s be honest: Very few Kindle buyers are worried about losing their e-books in the middle of the night. And if Amazon wants to reserve the right to do this again, for specific reasons, well, that’s cool, too. Just spell it out, one way or another, and we can all move on.