Friday, April 17, 2009

Banned Amazon user loses Kindle access ?

A customer banned from access to management of his purchased Amazon Kindle books and from ability to buy more Kindle books has had his predicament described by online media, including the usually thorough Wired, with wild inaccuracy, including the claim that the banning was turning Kindles into "$360 paperweights."

Hardly, since the books remain on said Kindles, though some readers have bought the claim, repeating to one another that Amazon wiped out the files from the Kindle.  The customer has been reinstated with a warning, the customer writing that an Amazon rep had referred to his returning "virtually everything" he'd purchased.

The problem of loss of access to management of one's Kindle library at Amazon is an issue that's very important to address though, because a ban against further purchases shouldn't be tied to the ability to manage the customer's Amazon library of books a user bought which should remain available to the user - and the Kindle is sold for what it can do, a main focus being the ability to instantly download books.  For non-Kindle users: "manage" in this case means to be able to download again to your Kindle any material you had decided to delete earlier, since a feature of the Kindle unit is that Amazon stores the books (and your highlighting and annotations) for you for retrieval as needed if you've deleted them from the Kindle.

But on this important issue, there has been careless reporting that occurred beginning with the first posting I'd seen on a news site days ago, to be repeated over and over again, this time even by Wired's Bruce Sterling (a posting which does not allow comments).

The main source for the story is a humongous forum thread started by the customer who was banned, ostensibly for returning several "large electronics" later described by him as "2 TVs and 'several' cameras."  Some members are a bit dubious about some of it because the customer posted exact-duplicate posts on the Amazon forums, which require an active account in 'good standing'... and once the issue was resolved, the user has not responded to questions about the particulars.

For the record, since this report will keep circulating, ArsTechnica repeated the errors of reporting, but users corrected them in the comments areas (which do not get the same kind of distribution).

"Zayin" posts a comment with a few actual facts:
'There are a few inaccuracies in this article...

"...reportedly due to an overly high volume of returns on their Kindle books"
  The "high-price" returns were not returns on Kindle books, but rather returns on "large electronics" purchased via Amazon. Amazon will (apparently) lock your account if they think you are abusing their return policy. Other retailers will do the same...

"...which also locked him out of accessing his already-purchased Kindle items."
  This is partially incorrect. He wouldn't be able to redownload any books he had already purchased, or continue with subscriptions (if any) that had been purchased. However, any books already on the device would still be there, and any materials backed up to disk would still be usable as well.

"...turning their Kindles into $360 paperweights."
  The Kindle would still work as an ebook reader for any already downloaded content or content purchased from other sources. Most of my ebooks have come from Baen, not Amazon.

"A bookstore that locks you out because you treated it like a library doesn't take away the collection already sitting on your bookshelf, after all."
  Neither does Amazon, unless you leave all of your media on their servers, and keep nothing either on your Kindle or backed up to hard disk. I suppose that is possible, but it seems unusual, to say the least.

"Amazon is perfectly capable of yanking customer access to their books at any time—whether the service shuts down or not. The only way to get around it would be to break the user agreement with Amazon and crack the DRM..."
  This is inaccurate. If you have content downloaded, you can back it up easily. Plug the Kindle in to a USB port and copy the stuff to disk. As far as I know, Amazon has no method of pulling access to media already on a Kindle either (if you are really paranoid on this, simply disable the wireless)...'
"_fluffy" writes:
'I worked on Kindle, and wrote one of the DRM components (which was something I put off as long as possible, and basically tacked on at the very end).  The Kindle DRM is purely about keeping the publishers happy.  We didn't want to do it, but the publishers wouldn't allow us to sell their books if we didn't.  It was a make-or-break thing for the device's entire business model.'
 Again, it's my strong feeling that management access to one's Amazon Kindle Library of purchased books shouldn't be tied to a general banning of further purchases.

UPDATE:  A communique across the vast cyberspaces through which I can apparently toss a comment after all :-) Would that the K1 had lived as long as a hamster!  And you've a point: what happens to the entirety of Western Cybercivilization when the USA gets metabolized by the People's Republic of China (where gray Kindle screens first awake, sluggishly, and the PRC is looking to foreclose on us). Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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