April 12, 2010

Are iPad quotas and successes leading Chinese factory workers to suicide?


Steve Jobs introduces the iPad

Steve Jobs introduces the iPad

Last Thursday, according to a short Publishers Marketplace dispatch (subscription required), Steve Jobs announced that “iPad sales had risen to at least 450,000 units, and iBookstore downloads (not sales, as the paper of record had it) reached 600,000 books.” As was noted in several other pieces over the weekend, the number of actual books sold, versus downloads of public domain classics for free, is impossible to know without more detail from Apple. (Though, as New York Times reporter Brad Stone noted, in this “Apple is only meeting the lofty bar set by Amazon in releasing e-book statistics that mean less and less the more you think about them.”)

What is clear is that iPad sales will continue apace: Apple has plans to release its 3G iPads later this month, which will cost between $629 and $829, depending on storage capacity. And there is significant demand expected for the more advanced version of the iPad.

All of which leads to this shocker:  increased demand for iPad production may have led to a string of suicide attempts connected to the Chinese company Foxconn that produces the device. According to this Valleywag dispatch (which depends on reporting from the London Telegraph), there have been four such suicide attempts in the last month:

Valleywag predicts that further information will be hard to come by: Foxconn “is relentless in shielding its work on behalf of Apple’s supremely secretive executives. Workers have been interrogated and roughed up, and the company’s guards kicked a Reuters correspondent and a New York Times translator was threatened with a beating.” But, as the site notes, “It’s a mystery, but it’s also easy to make some educated guesses about what’s got workers going nuts.”

Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.