KindleGate Blows Up In Amazon’s Face


UPDATE: The following update appeared on David Pogue’s Times column.

EDITOR’S NOTE | 8:41 p.m. The Times published an article explaining that the Orwell books were unauthorized editions that Amazon removed from its Kindle store. However, Amazon said it would not automatically remove purchased copies of Kindle books if a similar situation arose in the future.

My Note- It doesn’t change the core issues here!

Just a few weeks ago I posted on a series of encounters I had with Amazon and their customer service. The first post raised questions about DRM. The second clarified some of the initial misinformation I received but, on other levels, only made the situation worse. The third post was an open request to Jeff Bezos to clarify the issue personally. (He didn’t and I never heard from Amazon again.) All of it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Today it went from bad to worse.

Earlier today our friend Alex Kac at WebIS sent us a link to a piece from David Pogue at the New York Times. It’s bad, really bad, and raises Amazon’s Kindle issues to an entirely new level.

The short story is that people who purchased certain books discovered that Amazon remotely remove them from both their Kindles and iPhones after Amazon and the books’ publisher had a falling out. Pogue writes–

(Amazon) electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price. This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

Okay let’s count the issues here…

1. This proves you rent, not buy, eBooks from Amazon.
2. Amazon acted without prior notification and then merely credited accounts the price of the books.

But there is another HUGE issue that Pogue doesn’t touch on. That issue —

What happens to notes and highlights I’ve painstakingly taken if Amazon removes a book from my Kindle???

This isn’t a theoretical issue people.

I’m currently reading the book “Nudge”. I’m not reading the book for fun. This is work and I m taking the notes for something I need to write over the next few weeks and I’ve been amazed at how good the Kindle is for this.I’m about 15% into it and already have 75 notes and highlights. But now…I’m concerned.

Sure maybe it’s unlikely that Amazon will suddenly have a falling out with the publisher of “Nudge” but what if they did? Heck, I’ve already had an issue reinstalling books, and now owners of “1984” have had their copies ripped off their Kindle without notice. So don’t tell me this shouldn’t be a concern.

We now know that Amazon can remotely remove the book from our Kindle without prior notice. That’s bad but, then again, if it happened I could always buy a hard copy of the book. But what happens to my notes and highlights if Amazon wipes the book? I assume those would be gone too and those are irreplaceable. That’s a huge issue and is reason enough to question whether or not to keep using a Kindle.

My open letter to Jeff Bezos last month went unanswered. I never heard from any of the four customer service reps I spoke to again either. So I repeat the call —

Mr. Bezos —

You have a great product. It works well. It has the potential to finally move people into the electronic era and we all know that that’s the direction things are moving. But there are huge open questions that remain and your silence on the subject only makes it worse. My encounter with your customer service representatives was bad. The episode that Mr. Pogue writes about is far worse. The issue of what happens to notes and annotations… that a huge issue and one that needs you to address immediately.


The Original Post

The Follow Up Post

An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos

Hume’s Other Fork – Life imitates Art

fox@fury— Are Amazon’s book revocations legal?

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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.

10 Comments on "KindleGate Blows Up In Amazon’s Face"

  1. Christopher Gavula | July 17, 2009 at 6:38 pm |

    one problem though – you say the erase it without permission but you agreed to the terms of service so legally you dis give them permission!

  2. Dan Cohen | July 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm |

    This is an excellent read on the subject Chris.

    Are Amazon’s book revocations legal?

  3. Travis Ehrlich | July 17, 2009 at 6:57 pm |

    I saw Barnes and Noble put out their own book reader app for the iPhone recently! I’m just sayin’.

  4. robtillotson | July 17, 2009 at 8:57 pm |

    I’m not surprised they did what they did… it seems like it would be easier than explaining to a judge, not to mention a bunch of angry publishers, how they committed a slew of copyright violations, then decided it was better to leave the illegal copies in the wild despite having a nearly-zero-effort means of finding and removing each and every one of them. Better for the platform’s survival to take some bad PR from customers (that will be forgotten as soon as the Internet finds something else to be angry about) than piss off your content providers, until your platform is big enough to dictate terms (like iTunes is in the music industry).

  5. They did Travis and it is a nice reader too. There are, however, some issues there as well.
    The last thing I am going to do is start buying yet another series of drm-locked books. B&N owns Fictionwise (and I own many Fictionwise/eReader books) but they do not appear to work with the new reader.
    One of the draws of the Kindle for me is the sync with my iPhone/Touch. (although this episode makes me want to turn of Whispersync since that is how Amazon pulled books of the iPhone). A real competitor will not arrive until someone comes out with a good-sized reader that also allows books on a handheld too. The best positioned? Apple with their upcoming tablet. I have had no issues with my Fictionwise books and the Stanza reader is great for them… oh, no, I forgot… AMAZON now owns the Stanza reader.

  6. Is it possible to back up your Kindle contents on a PC? If yes, does Amazon’s removal affect the back-up copy when you download it back to the Kindle?

  7. A terrible week for cloud computing (Twitter/Techcrunch disclosure of stolen Google Apps) and eReaders.

    Amazon made a major major mistake which will be tough for them to downplay unless they change their Kindle software so as not to be able to erase anything remotely from the headquarters.

  8. Dan Cohen | July 18, 2009 at 8:58 am |

    One could argue that Amazon had to do something to remove the copies of the books that they had no right to sell in the first place. Regardless, their handling of this was awful. At a minimum there should have been clear notification BEFORE doing anything else.

    The issues surrounding this are huge and growing.

  9. I agree that the idea of the Kindle is great. I’m packing for a trip and taking 4 books with me, that stinks. It takes up room and adds weight. The Kindle would be perfect.
    It also looks like a really nice gadget, but I think you are all wasting your money. $299.99 just to earn the right to purchase books that you don’t own but the guys who took your $299.99 do. Makes no sense. Not to mention they can do what they want to those purchased books without even a warning. I guess at least there were refunds.
    I’ll stick to paper. I purchase my books. When I’m done I place them in my collection, give them to a friend, re-sell them, or donate them to my library.
    At the end of the day, the book gods never go “poof” and make my books disappear.

  10. Dan Cohen | July 18, 2009 at 9:12 am |

    cenobyt wrote

    “At the end of the day, the book gods never go “poof” and make my books disappear.”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

Comments are closed.