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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Amazon Kindle "wipe" confusion: some questions for Amazon

There is much confusion over what happened in the strange case of a Norwegian woman who claims to have had her Amazon account suspended and therefore could no longer access upwards of 50 ebooks she'd paid for.

What now seems clear:

  • Amazon didn't "wipe" her kindle. Her kindle broke, her account was suspended and it was therefore not possible to recover her paid-for ebooks from Amazon's "cloud". 
  • Since the press got involved her access has been restored.
  • Amazon customer service and PR don't come out of this at all well and it leaves serious questions over the "ownership" of your "purchases".  In effect you don't own the ebook, despite in many cases paying more for an ebook than a regular book, and despite reports of Amazon using their near-monopoly on the supply of ebooks to screw publishers and authors into the ground.

Whatever the whys and wherefores of this specific case, Amazon have since issued a rather blunt statement:
"We would like to clarify our policy on this topic. Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help. Thank you for your interest in Kindle."
This leaves three questions for Amazon:

  1. Why was Linn not able to restore her access after contacting "customer service for help"?  It took the press to get involved before she saw any action.
  2. "Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library," but in this case it clearly did.  I note the use of the word "should not" rather that "does not".  Clearly this is a statement of intent rather than implementation.  What steps are being taken to ensure that no customers are ever affected in this way again, so they can always access their lawfully-acquired content?
  3. Given both of the above, isn't it also time to provide customers with the tools to back-up their kindle content to their computers so that purchases will always be accessible to users in any eventuality?  After all hackers seem already to have found ways to crack the content-protection mechanisms; the "bad guys" with the know-how can pirate ebooks yet the "good guys" can't back up their kindles?


1 comment:

  1. You can backup your Kindle library to your computer - install Kindle for Windows (or Kindle for Mac) and you can replicate the whole library to the PC device.

    The problem is that most Kindle users rely (not unreasonably - this is Amazon's advertising) on the Kindle library in the cloud as the backup for the library on the physical Kindle. Amazon can take away access to the library in the cloud by suspending your account. Then you can't restore it to a new Kindle device, unless you have a copy on Kindle for Windows/Mac.


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