Sunday, July 19, 2009

Amazon's sharing policies confuse its own reps - Update

UPDATES added near the bottom Original posting 7/17/09 - 10:16 AM - It was a system error, now being "fixed" per staff.

The Net has seen some heated writing about Amazon's DRM (Digital-Rights-Management) policies in that a first-tier customer service representative had told a customer-blogger that there was a limit as to how often we can re-download an Amazon-purchased book when the Amazon ads blare that a Kindle owner will be able to re-download a book at no added cost anytime the book is needed again when the customer has deleted it to save space.  Also re-downloaded with the book would be your highlighting and notes if you allowed Amazon to back them up.

The actual quantity limitation by Amazon is on the number of devices on which one Amazon-purchased book can be be simultaneously accessed under one person's account.  The limit that Kindle forum participants are used to mentioning to new members is "up to 6 devices," usually meaning Kindles or Kindle-compatible units like the iPhone and iPod that use the Kindle App.

Here's the Amazon FAQ statement in reply to the question: "How many Kindles can I use to access titles in my library?"

Most books and other non-subscription items you purchase from the Kindle store may be simultaneously accessed for your personal use on to [sic] up to six Kindles (or Kindle compatible devices) [emphasis mine] registered to your account.

If you reach the device limit and wish to replace one of your current devices with a new one, you must first deregister and delete the content from the device you wish to replace before you can access the content in question from your new device.  Please see the "Registering Your Kindle" section of our Managing Your Kindle Settings Help page to learn how to register/deregister your Kindle.  There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device.  [Emphasis mine.]

Subscription content can only be downloaded to one Kindle at a time, and only the seven most recent issues will be available for redownload from your Kindle or from the Manage Your Kindle page. '

  My own addition to Amazon's statement is that you don't really have to "deregister" a Kindle to do this -- you just have to Remove or Delete the book from that Kindle.  I've done this many times as I have many Kindles so that I can write with first-hand knowledge of the models.

There's now an Amazon forum thread about the finding that those who use Amazon's self-publishing books feature ('DTP' or Digital Text platform) have wording in their product-info areas that the number of digital devices able to share the book simultaneously is '5' rather than '6'... that's been confirmed by a few Kindle book authors.

It's possible that an error was made when placing this info with the DTP books and that someone meant to put "up to 5 other devices" (Bufo Calvin is asking Amazon about this), but maybe Amazon, which is the "Publisher" in those cases, wanted to have a lower device count for those, but that would be very strange and a confusing inconsistency it really doesn't need.

Karen of Books on the Knob also points out that Wiley had a limit of 4 devices months ago, apparently mentioned in the product description.

 She reminds forum readers that we can download a book "hundreds of times (costing Amazon 12 cents or more, each time)" so is puzzled (as are any of us) why Amazon, as 'Publisher' would choose 5 devices for authors who publish under Amazon's DTP publishing area.  Perplexing, but she also notes that it's been evident that most customers don't appear to care that much that they might be able to share books with only 4 other Kindles under their accounts.

UPDATE 7/18/09 - see Karen's update in her comment to this post.  This seemed to have been an error on the part of a staffer who may have posted the number without authorization.

UPDATE 7/18/09 #2 - Here is the forum page on which the Amazon staffer ("dtpadmin") responds to Bufo Calvin's question about the 5-device limit:
" Hello,

We have identified an error in our system. We are fixing the problem to remove the device limit for DTP titles. We apologize for this error.


I find that most people just want to be able to read a book.  The ability of a family or very good friends to share books on the same account paid for by one of them is considered a nice feature.

But Amazon has to get clearer about the policies, if nothing else, and wiser about them if they would keep a better focus on the customer experience.  I enjoyed a description of the Kindle the other day as a "vending machine" for products Amazon needs to sell us.  The long-term relationship needs more clarity and less fear that the customers want to steal books.  Most of us have had very good experiences with Amazon's customer service but there needs to be a way to give all the customer service representatives the same policy information and to place in the online-support areas more detailed and consistent information.

Amazon is a company that seems to have a lot on the plate.

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  1. It appears that whoever made the change didn't clear it with someone (or it was just a test to see if anyone noticed). I've posted a note from "dtpadmin" that says they are working to correct the error (although no book listings that I checked have updated, yet).

  2. Karen, that makes more sense. What a relief. I just couldn't fathom decision-making quite that bizarre, so this is better news.

    Thanks for keeping on top of this from the beginning and letting us know.

    - Andrys


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