Writer Brock Clarke was shocked to discover that books by Muriel Spark haven't exactly been flying off the shelves of his local used book shop:
I was immediately and totally filled with rage, and demanded the names, addresses, and phone numbers of every one of his cretinous customers who hadn’t had the good fucking sense and taste to buy anything by Spark over the last twenty years.
“I don’t know the names, addresses, and phone of numbers of my cretinous customers,” the used bookstore owner said.
“The hell you don’t,” I said.
Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc., newly unsealed court records show....
"Well-founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon's customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases," the judge wrote in a ruling he unsealed last week.
It's good to know that the judiciary has its priorities in place: first is the right to conduct business and trailing somewhere behind: the right to privacy.
As it turns out, the government prosecutors were trying to discover who had bought books from a tax-evading bookseller operating through Amazon.com, not what those customers were buying. Still, we do buy a lot of used books from Amazon here, I shudder to think what would happen if that information got into the wrong hands!