February 28, 2013

Amazon employees snuck into your house last night and carefully removed all of your books while you were asleep


“Don’t mind me, I’ll just be standing here in the dark, watching.”

If you use Amazon’s Kindle app on a device running Apple iOS, you may have noticed something different about your personal library Wednesday morning. Namely, its absence.

Late last night, Amazon released an update to the app. Soon thereafter, they noticed a bug. If you happened to download the new version of the app, it would sign you out of your account.  After you signed back in, an Amazon employee would immediately jimmy open that loose window in your kitchen, sneak into where your keep your books and spirit them all away, but only after having removed all of your bookmarks, un-dog-earing the pages and painstakingly erasing all of your scribbled notes, figuratively speaking.

Amazon quickly discovered the glitch in their update, and put up a notice warning users not to download it. Because of the Apple review process, however, they were not able to get a safe update in place until late Wednesday morning. That meant that for the many many users like you who hadn’t opted to read the advisory note, or for users who set their device to update the app automatically, their libraries were deleted  and their notes on their books erased. After you turned out the light and tucked yourself in, Amazon employees picked your lock, tiptoed comically into your home, and stealthily lifted every one of your books from your shelves—metaphorically, that is. They figuratively leaned across your sleeping figure to reach those books on your nightstand, breathing shallowly so as not to wake you. They sat there, we imagine, in the dim light, beside your bed, erasing, erasing. They knew where your annotations were in each book, even in that gloaming, because they’d read them before. They’d read them all before and judged you for them, your notes and musings and simple highlights. They laughed quietly, through their metaphorical nostrils, at your thoughts, at your hopes for what each book might mean for you and for your life. They laughed, figuratively, and then they erased them.

Because the app backs up your purchases in the cloud, users were able to re-download their purchased books. And indeed, because Amazon keeps such close surveillance on its customers, many even had their bookmarks or most recently read pages tracked in the cloud as well. One knottier problem arises with those books for which users have a limited number of downloads and to which they might not now have access to. Now, that is, that Amazon employees waited until you had begun murmuring to yourself in your sleep and figuratively opened up your backpack, found the textbook you needed for this week’s classes, and casually set it alight, eyes gleaming in the flickering glow through the eyeholes of a terrifying plastic Bezos mask.

The new version of the app has fixed the problem. By which I mean Amazon will not be removing things from your home when they sneak into it, figuratively, tonight and every single night thereafter.

[Thanks to McNally Jackson, from whose tweet I cribbed the idea for this post.]


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.