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Amazon offers to replace Orwell books on Kindles

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Amazon.com Inc. is offering free books or $30 to Kindle customers whose copies of the George Orwell novels "1984" and "Animal Farm" were deleted from their electronic reading devices in July.

When Amazon erased the books from Kindles, citing a problem with the rights to the books, the company issued refunds to the buyers. But the episode startled many Kindle customers, who didn't know Amazon had the neo-Orwellian ability to erase content that had already been purchased and downloaded to their devices.

It prompted an apology from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who said deleting the books from Kindles to address the rights question was "stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles."

In an e-mail sent Thursday to Kindle owners whose books were erased, Amazon offered to redeliver the titles to their e-readers for free, along with any annotations users had made. Or the customers can get a $30 Amazon.com gift certificate or a $30 check -- which could be worth much more than two Kindle books, because many of them cost $10 or less.

When Amazon deleted the books, it said they had been added to its catalog by an outside party that did not have rights to the books.

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said Friday the Seattle-based company now has the proper rights to distribute the Orwell books.

The July deletion prompted a Shelby Township, Mich., high school student to sue Amazon. Justin D. Gawronski, 17, said the removal of "1984" from his Kindle made the notes he had taken on the e-reader useless. He was reading the book for an advanced placement course in which he had to turn in "reflections" on each 100 pages of text.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, calls for unspecified damages and a ban on future deletions.

Jay Edelson, a Chicago-based lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of Gawronski and an adult reader in Milpitas, Calif., said Friday he was pushing ahead with the suit despite Amazon's olive branch, which he called a public-relations move by the company.

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