The book in question was 1984 (and everyone make sure to say how ironic that is!). The "publisher" turned out not to have the rights to offer it as an e-book and Amazon pulled it from everyone's Kindle/Kindle app. Keep in mind that they also refunded everyone and it wasn't really Amazon's fault, they were just trying to correct a wrong perpetrated by the pseudo-publisher.
I think my point is that if you had physically purchased the book from a store, and then later it turned out that the publisher of the book didn't actually have the right to print it, and the store shouldn't have been selling it, they can't come to your home and take the book back. The people with the actual rights will sue the publisher who didn't have those rights and get the money that should have come to them instead. The store may pull any copies from their shelves printed under the wrongful publishers label, but has zero obligation (or legal right) to take it from anyone who purchased it.
I think that's a significant difference between the media, and I find the decision to take it off people's Kindle's almost as ridiculous as the fact that they have the power to do so in the first place.
If I buy a physical book, it's mine, but if I buy it via an ereader, it's not? That just seems like a questionable business practice.
It's more like if you bought a bootleg book or movie or CD.
If I bought it from a legitimate seller of such things, being told that this was a legal copy, I absolutely have a right to keep it. It's not like I've spent a huge amount of time researching this or anything, but I don't think that copyright law has ever been applied that way (up until now).
Technically it could and should still be confiscated from you, it's just a lot less practical to do so. It's not a question of "This way I have rights, and this way I don't" but "This way it's a lot easier to enforce those rights". The book wasn't the publisher's to sell and therefore was never yours to legally purchase.
It was absolutely legally mine to purchase at the time I purchased it. I didn't steal anything from the legitimate owner of the work. The person who illegally printed/published a copy and sold it to me did. If we were talking about single pieces of property, you'd have a point. If I steal someone's car and then sell it to you, the legitimate owner of the car can take it back from you, and you're out the money you spent on it. Buyer beware and all of that. But I've never heard of this applying to copies of copyrighted material before and I find it hard to believe that the only thing protecting a book or film owner from having something they paid for seized from them is that it would be too difficult to do so.
I think that the introduction of purely electronic media has allowed for a change in how these laws are applied because it is now possible to do such things, not the other way around. And worse, it appears as though the producers and sellers of electronic media have deliberately structured their products so as to be able to take things back if/when they want. Which raises a concern in my mind: If they can take it back because a court orders them to (like in the case of discovering that the publisher shouldn't have been selling the book), then can they take it back if it later becomes too expensive for them to let you keep it (like in this licensing case)? And if that's the case, then can't they just take stuff back because they feel like it?
I just think that this opens up a whole range of problems that allows for potentially nefarious manipulation of the media we see and hear. Online news sources edit their articles after the fact all the time (usually to hide mistakes they made, and sometimes without a retraction or acknowledgment that they made a change). What if the legitimate owner of some media wants to make a change in other things, like books, films, etc? If we switch to an all electronic media model, what's to prevent a film producer from deciding he wants to change a scene in a film you purchased and now everyone's copy changes? Or an author decides he wants to change the ending of a book? Might seem like a great idea at first because new editions can just be updated and everyone gets them, right? But doesn't this also open up the possibility of redacting history as well? What if, for example, Obama wanted to conceal the fact that he ate dog while a child in Indonesia because it weakens the whole "OMG! Romney put his dog on the roof of his car" bit. Today? He's stuck. But in the future, if all media was electronic, couldn't he quietly change that part of the book and update everyone's copy? And who's to say that a change was made? I mean, we could all insist that the book used to say he ate dog, but where's the proof?
I see a future where we may lose our ability to remember how things actually were in preference to how they are (or want to be) right now. The more we move away from ownership of physical things to licensed use of electronic copies of things, the more easy we do make it for those kinds of crazy sounding things to happen. Yeah, tinfoil hat and all of that, but I worry about these sorts of things. I don't think anyone implements these changes for those sorts of reasons, but once done, they can be used for them. It's something we really should think about ahead of time IMO.