How Corporations Should Handle Mistakes


Every large corporation, sooner or later, is going to do something bone-head stupid.  It is the nature of people to make mistakes now and again, and if you aggregate people into a large organization that affects lots of other people, those mistakes will be bigger, bother more people and perhaps have more serious consequences.

We’ve lived through years of non-denial denials [“those statements are now inoperative”], equivocation “what the Senator meant was…”  and failure to take responsibility (“mistakes were made [passive voice]). It is totally refreshing to see a CEO take full and unequivocal responsibility for a mistake, and my bet is that by doing so Jeff Bezos just saved Amazon a great deal of time, money and aggravation, as well as loss of good will.

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.
With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO




[Background, the week of July 13 Amazon deleted certain editions of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from user owned Kindles as they had been sold in violation of copyright. They credited the owners of the books for the cost, but many were surprised to learn that Amazon believed it had the right to remove books already on their Kindle. The irony that one of the books was 1984 was too precious to miss.




Nineteen eighty-four (1984): George Orwell: The Kindle Store



(Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Associate, and have been for some time.)

About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen online courses. His latest book, Building APIs with .NET will be released early in 2025. Liberty is a Senior SW Engineer for CNH and he was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Microsoft MVP.
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