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Jim Huggins
July 24th, 2009
11:37 am
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How to perform an apology
Some of you have been following the Amazon-Kindle-1984 debacle. 

Brief summary: the Kindle is an electronic-book reading device.  A while ago, Amazon was selling copies of George Orwell's book 1984.  Only problem was ... some time later, they discovered that the person selling the electronic copies of 1984 through Amazon didn't have the right to do so from the publisher.  So, all the copies that had been sold on Kindle were illegal copies.  In response, Amazon remotely deleted all copies of the book from all Kindles, refunding everyone's money in the process.  This was disconcerting on a number of levels ... primarily that Amazon had the capability to delete something off of a Kindle without the owner's consent.  Of course, there's a delicious irony about this happening to 1984, a book in which society has the ability to retroactively rewrite history.

Anyways ... Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, posted an apology:

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.

Students, please observe ... this is the way to make an apology.  No ducking the issue, no attempts to offer an explanation to justify the bad decision, no trying to change the subject.  Stand up, admit the screw up, own responsibility, and take the hit.

If only everyone would take this level of responsibility ...

Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

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Date:July 24th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
I think Jeff did okay at apologizing, but I'm of the opinion that a good apology, in addition to admitting a screw up and taking responsibility for the bad decision, should offer redress. This one is a little lacking there, in my view.
Still, much better than typical responses to corporate missteps.
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Date:July 24th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Generally, I agree. In this case, though, I'm not sure what effective redress would look like. Amazon can't undo what it did; it can't knowingly give back an e-book that it knows is not legal to distribute.

But as we both agree ... this is certainly better than many apologies.
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