Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly

I love my Amazon Kindle. I love reading with it, I love how light it is,  and I love the battery life. I also love the fact that it automatically syncs with the Amazon Kindle application on my iPhone and iPod touch. That means any book will open to the last page read regardless of the device last used.  it is an amazing bit of technology   that makes reading books across multiple platforms beyond simple.

It’s a perfect situation — right? Well, it’s an almost perfect situation. This afternoon I discovered a huge Achilles heel in the whole Amazon Kindle environment.

Amazon.com_ Kindle_ Amazon_s 6_ Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation)_ Kindle Store

Perhaps the best way for me to explain the problem is by simply recounting the events that led to the discovery.

Two days ago I upgraded my iPod touch to iPhone OS version 3.0. Today my new iPhone came. That means two new handhelds in a three-day period. I loaded all of my primary apps onto both and began the process of entering my credentials for each app that requires them. (I decided it was best to start off with a clean slate rather than attempting to restore from a prior backup.)

When I got the Amazon Kindle app I knew there was one particular book I needed to download to both devices immediately. It’s a reference book that I wanted to make sure that I had on my device as the weekend began. But when I opened the app it only showed me a small subset of my books. “What?” I wondered. I went into that digital download portion of Amazon store and there I saw a list of all the books that I have purchased for my Kindle. “Great,” I thought “I’ll just choose the books that I want and click the ‘ download/send it to…’ Button next to the item.” I clicked and a few books gave back the message “successfully sent to”. A number of the books, however, including the one I was looking for, gave back the message that they were unable to be sent to my iPhone. I tried to download it to my iPod touch and received the same message.


Figuring that the store might not be recognizing the two new devices I removed all of my handheld devices from my account and added both my iPhone and my touch back. I went back in, clicked “download/send to” and received exactly the same message. I was starting to get frustrated.

At this point I decided that I’d spent enough time trying to hassle with this and, since I  must doing something very simple wrong, my best alternative was to simply call customer service. I did and that’s when I got the surprise.

The customer rep asked me to send every one of the books in my Amazon library to my iPhone. Most of them gave the message that they were sent but a number of them returned the message “Cannot be sent to selected device”.

“Oh that’s the problem,” he said “if some of the books will download and the others won’t it means that you’ve reached the maximum number of times you can download the book.”

I asked him what that meant since the books I needed to download weren’t currently on any device because I had wiped those devices clean and simply wanted to reinstall. He proceeded to tell me that there is always a limit to the number of times you can download a given book. Sometimes, he said, it’s five or six times but at other times it may only be once or twice. And, here’s the kicker folks, once you reach the cap you need to repurchase the book if you want to download it again.

Quick aside — all of the books that are in my Fictionwise bookshelf having been downloaded numerous times and although I have to go through the pain of unlocking them each and every time, I’m able to download them to any iPhone or iPod touch I’m using without a problem. It’s the reason that I’ve been using Stanza,  now owned by Amazon, a fair bit these days as I read through some of the books remaining in my account.

It gets worse.

I asked the customer representative where this information was available and he told me that it’s in the fine print of the legalese agreement documentation. “It’s not right that they are in bold print when you buy a book?” I asked. “No, I don’t believe so. You can have to look for it.”

We’re not done- it gets even worse.

“How do I find out how many times I can download any given book?” I asked. He replied, “I don’t think you can. That’s entirely up to the publisher and I don’t think we always know.”

I pressed — “You mean when you go to buy the book it doesn’t say ‘this book can be downloaded this number of times’ even though that limitation is there?” To which he replied, “No, I’m very sorry it doesn’t.”

Here is the major problem with this scenario.

First, it’s not clear that this is the policy.

Second, there’s no way to find out in advance how many times a book is able to be downloaded. You can buy a book and it can only be downloaded numerous times or you can buy a book and only then discover that it can be downloaded only once. (The rep even put it this way!) There is no way to know.

In the meantime, Amazon wants us to upgrade our Kindles every year or two. Apple wants us to upgrade our iPhone or iPod touch every year or two. This means that although the books remain in your Kindle library online you may not be able to download them once you upgrade your hardware. And there is no way to know — at least according to what the customer service rep told me.

This doesn’t bother me tremendously with a fiction book which I will likely buy, read and be done with. (I know some people reread books or love passing them around to family. I’m not one of them.) But it doesn’t work for me at all with regard to reference books. I want to know that I can buy a reference book and legitimately access it on the Kindle and the iPhone I own today and the Kindle 3 and iPhone 3G Q  I own next year.

I checked the site and could find no indication of download limits in the information on any of the numerous books I looked at. Therefore I will assume the rep gave me accurate, honest information. That being the case… this entire thing is ridiculous!!!!

No, I should not be able to send my books to anyone I feel like sending them to,  but in this day and age I should be able to redownload the books I HAVE BOUGHT after I upgrade my hardware! (It’s not like I can backup my Amazon Kindle books the way I back up my iTunes library. Amazon is my library backup! Or so I thought.)

At a minimum Amazon should be absolutely upfront about this policy and Amazon should NOT be using the argument that the number of times you can download the book is up to the publisher and they have no way of controlling it or EVEN KNOWING where the ceiling is. It should say right up front, before you purchase the book,

“If you purchase this book you’ll be able to download it a total of X number of times. After that you may be required to repurchase it.”

Oh, and while I’m at it, how about adding this line to their promo material…

Own an iPhone? The iPhone is a perfect companion for your Kindle. To read Kindle books on your iPhone or iPod touch, simply download our free Kindle for iPhone application.  Our new Whispersync technology saves and synchronizes your reading location across your Kindle(s) and your iPhone. That is, assuming you are able to download the book again in the first place. Now you can read a few pages on your iPhone and pick up right where you left off when you return to your Kindle. (Bold is added.)

At least that way we would know upfront what we are getting ourselves into when we buy a book.

This entire episode makes me question whether or not I will purchase any additional books from Amazon. I never wanted to get on the “DRM-Complaint Bandwagon”.

Tonight I’m not just riding the wagon,  I’m driving the damn thing.

The Second Part Of This Saga Can Be Found In This Post.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

61 Comments on "Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly"

  1. Wow. That is bad. The Kindle has always seemed attractive with me, especially since I generally trust Amazon. But this is the sort of thing I always fear with DRM. I don’t agree with this kind of crazy limit on downloading, especially when, as you say, you can’t backup the Kindle. But at the very least, it should be clear what you are getting at purchase time.

    How long before book publishers learn the lesson that has finally been brought home to online music sales?

  2. You’ve just made me mad…oh my. I typically do all my reading ON the Kindle, but I’ve also deleted books I don’t want cluttering up my Kindle either until I may want them later.

    I wouldn’t mind the policy above if the books were say $5 for a $25 or $30 book. But most books are still $10 or $15. I’m sorry, but this is insane. Amazon needs to DO something about this.

  3. I would be very happy for Amazon to come along and tell me that the information that THEIR rep gave me is wrong. BUT…before I posted I tried downloading one book over and over again and it eventually stopped letting me.

    Again, I would be very happy if the guy were just wrong in what he told me and would more than apologize to Amazon for raising the issue (although HE gave me the info) but it certainly doesn’t look that way.

    Also, it does look like you can save books to your computer and, I would assume, sync them to your Kindle but since I never heard that there were limits to the number of times you can redownload YOUR books why would I do that? At a MINIMUM Amazon should make a clear statement to do so.

  4. I have the exact issue with my 3 kindles and my one ipod touch.
    I own the kindle 1, the kindle 2 and the kindle dx.
    My original k1 was replaced twice by amazon, and the rep said that for some reason the original 2 k1’s were somewhere in my account.
    I have bought over 170 books from the kindle bookstore; the rep as a matter of fact said that he’d never seen that many books on an account before.
    The order by books were sent to devices has been k1 (x3, for the two failed k1’s), k2, ipod touch (not all books mind you) and the kindle dx. 7 out of the 170 books I cannot send to the dx… that poses another problem too, cause since I have them on the k2, if I wanted to sell the k2, I would lose access to these books (say ~$70 loss just there)

    I still have not received resolution in the matter, though I was told by the rep that he was going to ‘erase’ the old non-existent k1’s…

    But he had said something in passing that sent chills to my veins…
    there are some books supposedly that publishers may only allow download to TWO devices/activations only.

    When I asked him where was was written, he had no concrete answer for me…

    I believe that we should all get together en masse to request a clarification of the clauses by amazon, and given our in a sense ‘early adopter’ status, appropriate allowances from their part should be provided…thoughts, anyone?

  5. Raymond Ser | June 20, 2009 at 1:21 am |

    Oh, crud. And now that Amazon owns both Stanza *and* Mobipocket, they’ll probably enforce the same DRM across all their products. Seems dumb that they have a DRM-free mp3 store but such strict limits on their ebooks. Maybe Apple will do unto Amazon what Amazon did unto iTunes and introduce a DRM-free ebook store. One can hope…

  6. Travis Ehrlich | June 20, 2009 at 6:46 am |

    I was just registering my new iPhone with my Kindle library this morning. Here is what the iPhone app front page says. I was able to download my current books. Of course this is my first time to try. I better read and enjoy as this might be my last. Who knows.

  7. I just found out a new area where this may really screw you:

    I purchased the DX. I had already downloaded the books directly to my Kindle2, and I simply figured I could transfer my books from the Kindle2 to the computer then to the Kindle DX.

    I did so, and when I went to go open the books that had been transferred, I got a large error saying that I needed to redownload the book or call customer service. Okay, that’s what I get for being lazy, right?

    So I went to my Amazon bookshelf (connection was not good where I live that day), and I was going to download to my desktop and then reload. But guess what? The file that you download to your desktop is unlocked for the specific device that you are going to download to – NOT just any of YOUR registered devices.

    What happens when I buy a future Color Kindle? Will I be able to read my books that I had purchased when I owned a Kindle 2, but hadn’t read until I purchased the DX, but might want to revisit on the Color?

    When it happened, I thought it was a complete nuisance. But now? Knowing that I can’t redownload at will is a huge problem that I didn’t expect, and I am more than a little bit pissed about.

    Unless we are missing something?

    And here is the thing. I Love the Kindle DX. But even if I load ALL my Kindle books on there and never remove them after reading (my usual habit), that means I am not allowed to ever load MY books on a newer Kindle? :-/

  8. I did a little digging on this and you may have been given somewhat false information. The limitation is in the number of devices you can have registered, typically 5 or 6. However when you deregister a device it does not automatically free up the license for use by another device. You have to specifically request that to happen. So this seems to actually be similar to mobipocket drm or microsoft lit drm. More cumbersome than they like to admit, but not completely limiting.

  9. Dan Cohen | June 20, 2009 at 8:51 am |

    vagelis wrote- there are some books supposedly that publishers may only allow download to TWO devices/activations only.

    This is the EXACT same wording I was given. The result is one of two possibilities-

    Either this IS the policy. BAD

    If this is the policy it strikes me as being analogous to buying a paper book only to find out later that you can only put it on one bookshelf in your home. If you move you cannot put it on a new bookshelf since it is tied to THAT bookshelf. If you want it in the new house you need to rebuy it.

    Amazon Customer Service needs retraining- less bad but BAD

    I so hope that is not the case and it is customer service error but…

  10. … and people complain about Apple’s iTunes DRM. And PC game activations…

    This is THE worst activation / DRM thing I have EVER seen. The Kindle looked interesting, but is now completely dead to me. $400 for a device that I can’t even refill as I wish with my own choice of books I have bought? That is absurd.


    Ahem, sorry, I accidentally channeled a fanboi for a moment.

    This seems like the downside to what Jeff Bezos was talking about a few days ago: treating the ebook hardware and ebook sales sides of the business as separate ( in case you didn’t see it). The former only really succeeds if people buy and then replace their Kindle hardware; the latter has to kowtow to publishers who fear copyright infringement, together with their own fear of missing out on revenue.

    Not making the limits of DRM – whatever those limits may be – reflects badly on both, but you can almost understand why they bury it obscurely in the T&Cs. If you’re trying to sell a concept of something being better and easier than a physical paperback, you don’t want to then overshadow it with transfer limitations printed in bold above and below the “buy it now” button, however ethical that might be. Ironically, of course, it’s the loyal hardware buyers who get screwed over the most, because they’re the ones who’ll want to download onto all of their multiple Kindle devices.

    Of course, in a cruel world you could just say “you should’ve read the T&Cs, shouldn’t you”, but I can’t see anybody at Amazon actually saying that. Viva la DRM revolution!

  12. Chris Davies Says:
    June 20th, 2009 at 11:04 am e


    Chris- you didn’t get the memo? Apple is trying something new and moving toward complete transparency. You are WAY out of the loop my friend! 🙂

    We’ll be working on getting direct clarification on this. I’ll tell you one thing, if it is as bad as it appears it might be I will be letting go of my Kindle fast. This is a huge issue that, to my mind, could undermine all the momentum the Kindle and eBooks seem to have.

    Again I say- I hope the customer service reps have it wrong!

  13. Dan Cohen | June 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    Now things are getting interesting…

    As I mentioned in my original post the customer service rep unambiguously told me that I must have hit the download limit for the book that had prompted the call in the first place and in order to get the book that on my iPhone again I would have to buy it again. Since I needed access to it I repurchased it and downloaded to my iPhone without an issue.

    About forty minutes ago I received and email from Amazon confirming a refund of $9.99. The refund was for… THAT BOOK and it came with the hope that it resolved the issue I had brought to them.

    Here’s the thing– I NEVER ASKED FOR A REFUND! In fact, after purchasing the book I had not been in contact with Amazon again.

    Which leaves me wondering if someone from Amazon read the post and they are backpedaling.

    I’ll be making an inquiry soon and will report back. At a minimum I hope to get clarification on the policy.

  14. Okay, I am a publisher and I publish our books at Kindle and NOWHERE in any of our information that we enter do we limit the number of downloads a person can have. I have gone in after reading this and looked and there is NOTHING to indicate that we have a choice on this matter.

    Ya’ll know that you can go to Fictionwise and get Kindle fomrats, right? And if you like Fiction, you can go to and buy direct there. No DRM and even though we say 10 downloads, if you need more, I will personally make it happen!

    Karen Syed

  15. Dan,

    Can you report the titles or publishers this issue has arisen with?

    Like you, I think customer-service rep error has to be ruled out definitively.

    But it would put a whole new light on things if someone else has also experienced this with the same titles or with other books from the same publisher(s).

    Roger Sperberg

  16. willis911 | June 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    I know the selection is limited and it’s just one genre, but this is why I only buy Baen Books from the Webscription website. No DRM and a huge FREE library. Their premise is that books are like crack give some away and you will be hooked to buy the rest. If you like Sci-Fi or Fantasy give them a look. Huge discounts on series purchases also.

  17. In regards to the refund I’ve read on another site that they will sometimes do this since issuing the credit is apparently easier than fixing the issue.

  18. I’m appalled to find this out – my girlfriend bought me a Kindle and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it and stopped pirating media on it, since they’ve made it so easy to snag stuff online.

    Finding this out though – sorry, Amazon, I hate DRM and this is the worst case of it I’ve seen yet. I won’t be purchasing anything else and dumping my subscriptions in favor for eclipse automatic uploads – I had absolutely no idea AT ALL these restrictions were in place.

  19. I was actively considering the purchase of a Kindle, but this issue killed that. I mean, if someone came into my house and tried to take my books we’d have violence. How is it any different when Amazon does this same theft electronically?

    I vented in more detail on my blog at

  20. That’s why I was *so* pleased to snag a Kindle1, where I can shift content to the SD card and “keep” it. I suppose that’s also why the eliminated that route for shifting content on the newer Kindles…

  21. roderickm | June 21, 2009 at 7:08 am |

    What a price for convenience!

    Kindle owners don’t buy books, you rent them. Amazon and the publishers have the ability to “evict” your book and raise the rent. Dead trees don’t come with such nasty strings attached.

    DRM offers no benefit to the customer. Any product, service, or platform that employs this user-hostile technology limits its own success. Anyone care to wager how soon this DRM will be cracked in the name of fair use?

  22. roderickm- great points.
    This whole thing bummed me out and showed, at the least, that with DRM involved there may well be a lack of control and a difficulty getting the right information. For example, the Amazon site says you can have a book on up to six devices at a time. After going through three more reps (a post earlier today recounts it) I found out that this isn’t fully true. The publisher decides how many devices a book can go on. It is usually six but can as few as one. Also when you remove books and get rid of a device it does not seem to remove that device from your list of devices. Better still there is currently no way to know in advance.

    The biggest problem is that I spoke to four different reps and none seemed to really have the answer. Even the most experienced guy had to put me on hold numerous times to ‘find out”.

  23. Travis Ehrlich | June 21, 2009 at 1:40 pm |

    I will have to politely disagree that this story was an attempt at a “linkbait” article. Dan was truly livid about the experience. I think Amazon just found a problem they must deal with immediately. I assure you this article was done in all sincerity.

  24. Well, first thing I did was to create a backup folder on my laptop for the Kindle files & will also backup offsite. These files are small and memory is CHEAP.

    Why not have your own backup? Not like this is difficult. My Zone Alarm Extreme will backup to offsite drive automatically in fact….

  25. As with all DRM, you MUST be a crook and you deserve to be treated as one.

    What companies who use DRM don’t understand is all DRM does is punish its lawful and loyal users. Once you get fed up enough with crappy DRM, you either go elsewhere, or go back to non-DRM solutions.

    Case in point… I tried to do everything legally for home theater. I purchased a compliant video card, projector, player, etc etc. I go to play a BluRay movie and it stuttered and coughed and would not play a movie that you could watch without all these interruptions. I called to video card company and they passed me off to the player company who passed me off to Microsoft. After upgrading all my systems, spending about 10 hours on the phone, or doing updates, it still wouldn’t work. So, about a thousand dollars later, I’m in DRM hell and there was just no way out. So I had to resort to purchasing a program that removed the protection. Voila! Movie played great.

    When are they going to realize that their most loyal customers, those who purchase 80% of their content, don’t want to be treated like crooks?

  26. I have one problem with the Kindle. DRM.

    I view the Kindle as a pure substitute for a book. The way a book works is that I can read it and – when I’m done – I can give it to Amy to read. She can then give it to a friend of her’s to read. Or put it on her bookshelf.

    I can’t do this with the Kindle. I can read the book. I can put it on my bookshelf. But I can’t give it to Amy.

  27. Duh…why do you think the Amazon Kindle was created? It was created to have more control over copyright. Why do you think P2P and torrents were created ? To get around copyright. Throw the Kindle away and support if you want freedom to read your book anytime you want. That’s all I can say. Keep giving the big corporations money like buying their new stupid gadgets and you’ll make the beast bigger and you’ll have less freedom. Support Torrents and !!!

  28. Why is this surprising to any of you? Haven’t you been following the whole RIAA vs torrent court battles? This should be expected.

  29. EdwardJTeach | June 23, 2009 at 11:26 am |

    Stop buying stuff from these bastards. Boycott if you are not satisfied. Why do you put up with it? You shouldn’t, these companies own you. You buy a new phone every year? Are you kidding? My god, the waste from the old phones is staggering. You don’t need to do that. Download your books from torrents, and then you can have them forever. And guess what, you can upload them to your kindle if you want to use it. But i bet you next years model wont be that much of a difference then this years, it might have an extra shade of grey that you paid 300 dollars for. Stop being an idiot.

  30. tadeoblasto | June 30, 2009 at 5:56 pm |

    This is an excerpt from Amazon Kindle’s License Agreement and Terms of Use:

    “Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.”

    I guess the terms “…view, use, and display…” could be interpretable, but “unlimited” is pretty clear.
    It looks like the customer service rep doesn’t know what they are talking about. I have run into this on previous calls to Amazon concerning the Kindle. Lots of “hmmmm…” and “huh…” on the line.

  31. wow when i read this i was furious then when i called they said that any device that has been returned can have the licenses removed and you just have to call them to get the licenses removed.

  32. Dan Cohen | July 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm |

    stewie56- that’s all good and well assuming the customer reps know the policy. One of the things I bumped into over and over, and perhaps the most troubling part of this whole episode, was the fact that the very people who are supposed to answer questions didn’t seem to have a clue much of the time.

  33. Well, you convinced me. I buy mostly reference books & will hold off until I can make sure my $ is not going to get flushed down the digital toilet. Been there too many times – especially with Apple.

  34. Well im still not sure why they have to have DRM on there books but like someone said its the authors are responsible i don’t own a kindle and before i read this i was highly considering getting one but now im questioning if i should from what i have seen it is a great device but i dont know why who ever is in charge of the whole DRM issue really needs to rethink things IMHO

  35. Well my advice here, do not purchase books. Just download it, convert to convenient format and read. Buy some like Sony reader. Keep your data in your private space. Do not trust this %$#^%$rs.

  36. I realize I’m (more than) a little late to this post, but I read all the comments and found no happy ending. I received a ton of Amazon gift certificates for Christmas this year and was on the verge of buying a kindle. After reading this, I’ve decided against a kindle or any e-reader and will stick to buying “real” books. Kindle = FAIL

  37. DogWings, obviously your call but I don’t think you need to entirely nix the kindle idea. Yes, there are some major issues with drm. Yes, I was hopping mad that Amazon’s own people had no clue about the drm policy. But…
    Amazon is a bit better on the drm front now. There is a popup that appears when you reach the allotted number of devices that tells you and then let’s you know you can “release” the license on one device and then add the book to another.

    For me the advantages of the Kindle, having tons of books with me all the time in a light device, having most books be fat cheaper in kindle edition than dead tree edition, the ability to buy a book and have it in seconds and the awesome whispersync that let’s me read a book on my iPhone or touch and then have the kindle open to the last page I read FAR outway the negatives.

    I started this thread and still gave issues with the drm policy but I also have a kindle DX and love it.

    Hope that helps with the decision.

  38. annlikesred | January 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    So, I thought I was being clever when I turned my old itouch into a mini kindle – all the books transfered fine from my iphone, then for some reason all but one now have a message that reads “download failed, try again?” I have not been able to get the books back – and a few of them were free books. I am not very technical and am so frustrated. Any advice?

  39. Interesting #Kindle article: .. thoughts?

  40. More fascinating info to consider if you're thinking about getting a Kindle: Which I do, nearly everyday.

  41. There was a time when you put your money in a bank and actually got something back a respectable interest rate.
    As the old saying goes (Buyers beware) When you sign or accept terms you are in effect giving away your rights. You are paying $10.00 to rent a digital copy of which you have no rights. How much does a digital copy cost the publisher???? Once again coperate greed wins over ignorant consumers. But it is never too late for the almighty consummer to fight back.
    I love the idea of an e-reader but if I buy a book it should be mine to do with as I wish.
    Come on people this country was built on the rights of the individual STOP sighning your rights away.

  42. There are even organizations out there fighting for your rights.
    So if you don’t have the balls to stand up for your rights then stop _______ whinning!

  43. @debenham Read this, which doesn't even go through all the issues, like that you can't "lend" or give a Kindle book away

  44. This might have turned me off the Amazon Kindle .

  45. Kindle's DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly | Gear Diary

  46. Uh oh. RT @cooperdesigninc: Kindle's DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly | Gear Diary

  47. Just found I can't download prev. purchased Kindle books due to a limit on # of downloads. Seriously?!

  48. According to kindleworld blog (dated January 4, 2010) “There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device, but there may be limits on the number of devices (usually 6) that can simultaneously use a single book.”

    Can someone confirm this?

  49. so where's the kindle drm hack set of tools?

  50. Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly | Gear Diary

  51. Inconsistent publisher DRM restrictions on Kindle downloads limit Amazon's reach into mobile apps market. –

  52. This blog was very helpful in making those who want to buy a Kindle more informed consumers. As I was looking into the Kindle, the concerns raised on this blog post were helpful in making me ask questions that ultimately led me to purchase a Kindle. I figure that I owe it to the community to post the responses to the questions that I had.

    1.)How many devices can I share each book on?
    While the standard is six, publishers have the right to restrict the DRM to fewer than six devices.

    2. How do I know if the DRM is fewer than six?
    On the Amazon Kindle page when you are purchasing a book, if the publisher has restricted the book to fewer than six devices then you’ll see the message “Simultaneous Device usage: Up to X simultaneous devices, per publisher limits” on the website detail page. – this is per Kindle customer service.

    3. What if I need to upgrade one of my devices?
    -You would need to delete your books off of one of the devices and then deactivate it from your Amazon Kindle account. This should free up your DRM to put it on another device.

    4. Can I lend my Kindle books?
    As of December 31, 2010, you can now lend your books to people with some restrictions.

    Ultimately, I chose the Kindle because Amazon was the only place that had the titles that I needed. Experience with device on day 2 has been very good and I feel this is a major improvement from paper.

  53. Hi I’m ready your old article. I wonder if the download limitation still applies after buying the book …. wel this year of 2011?

  54. I have not run into similar issues in the past year but tat doesn’t mean limits don’t still exist on some books.

    Sent from one iOS device or another

  55. I was very disturbed by your experience, so I called Amazon support, and the support agent explained the policy AND sent me the e-mail pasted below that stated the same thing. I would use this e-mail to challenge Amazon to give you back access to your book downloads. I wonder if you merely forgot to DE-REGISTER some old devices?  [email protected] .  


    We store all your purchases from the Kindle Store on so you can access your books and other content from multiple
    Kindles and Kindle applications, as long as the Kindles and Kindle
    applications are registered to the same account.

    There is no
    limit on the number of times Kindle content can be downloaded to a
    registered device, but there may be limits on the number of devices
    (usually six) that can simultaneously have a single book or Kindle
    active content title. You can manage your existing Kindle library and
    change your subscription delivery options through the Manage Your Kindle
    page at:

    You can also download your content wirelessly from your Kindle or Kindle reading application through Archived Items.

    The options for transferring content, and instructions for each option, are available in our Help pages here:

    Thanks for using Kindle.

    Thank you for your recent inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

    If yes, please click here:

    If no, please click here:

  56. Dan,

    I was quite alarmed by your post.  Alarmed!!!  So I was quite relieved to see the response that Thom Ives received from Amazon.

  57. Sherifelwafai | October 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    i am noob in this but can u transfer ur books to the pc and save it there? or vise versa? and wht if u had an old books that u didnt buy from amazon can u transfer it too?

  58. There is no limit on the number of times Kindle content can be
    downloaded to a registered device up to 6 different ones because each
    device has its own serial number so does not matter how many times you
    redownload your books. Aamazon knows that it is you and the device
    belong to you so you can do this to up to 6 devices that could be
    include smartphone, tablet and computer with kindle app or kindle
    software installed. Things you can not share is a single book, Kindle
    active content title or subscriptions. But you can manage your existing
    Kindle library and change your subscription delivery options to
    different device through the Manage Your Kindle if you upgrade or change

    The most important things is meaning of  devices, does not mean current
    number of devices that you register on account because device could be
    deregistered and reregister unlimited.

    For example, I have 6 people in our family and each person own kindle or
    kindle app or software installed devices and they all love to read
    books. And all the devices has been register through one account (Not
    that you do not have to but why not since one paid book could be share
    by everyone up to 6 devices) Let’s say, I purchased a book titled “How
    to kindle” from kindle store and all 6 people download and read book
    with their own 6 individual devices. So if I removed the book from my
    device for more space to put more book or simply reset the device, I
    could redownload the same book without the problem but if I deregister
    my kindle and bought new one and register on amazon to download the same
    book, I can not do it. Because deregister does not mean all the books
    in that device has been removed. You still can read  and keep all the
    books from the kindle or device that has been deregisted unless you
    remove the books manually yourself. That is reason amazon limit the
    number of devices to protect the copy right. If amazon does not have
    this policy, some people could let other people to download the same
    book from your account unlimited.

    Most time this problem does not happen unless you have a big family who
    loves to read or too many devices registered which is difficult to
    manage. I hope in future amazon will upgrade their website so we can see
    all the detail and transaction of each book to minimize this

    Now you have freedom to carry and read couple thousands books in anytime
    and anywhere with tiny device. Let’s manage well to enjoy fullest.

  59. I’ve been searching the internet researching buying an e-Reader. Your page is the last of a long list where people tell me how authors and publishers get shafted, how companies capriciously remove books your in the middle of reading, how sellers fleece you, and how many people seem to spend vast amounts of time they could be spending reading buggering around with control panel. So I’m not going to buy one. I’m going to carry on reading book-books.

  60. Kaet44-

    It’s not that terrible, though I agree that the negatives tend to get publicized far more than the positives. Honestly though, many of the issues that exist that are not DRM related are pretty much entirely because the publishing industry has failed to adjust to the modern world, not because of DRM.

    Before you give up on ebooks entirely, I will throw one thought out there:
    You can pick up a NOOK Simple Touch (or Kobo reader if you are not in the USA) and use it to solely read public domain and un-protected ePUB titles. Plenty of classics and self-published books do not have DRM, and you could still enjoy the benefits of an ebook reader without using the drm-laden ecosystem.

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