/ Cory Doctorow / 6 am Mon, Oct 22 2012
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  • Kindle user claims Amazon deleted whole library without explanation

    Kindle user claims Amazon deleted whole library without explanation

    When your Kindle is wiped by Amazon without explanation, refund, or appeal, it's time to wake up and realize the truth: ebook readers treat you as a tenant-farmer of your books, not an owner. You have no rights, only a license-agreement that runs to thousands of words, and that you'll never fully satisfy.

    According to Martin Bekkelund, a Norwegian Amazon customer identified only as Linn had her Kindle access revoked without warning or explanation. Her account was closed, and her Kindle was remotely wiped. Bekkelund has posted a string of emails that he says were sent to Linn by the company. They are a sort of Kafkaesque dumbshow of bureaucratic non-answering, culminating in the customer service version of "Die in a fire," to whit, "We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters," a comment signed by "Michael Murphy, Executive Customer Relations, Amazon.co.uk."

    Update: Simon Phipp sez, "Kindlegate update: Linn says her account was mysteriously re-activated after my article published."

    Pity that there isn't any ground between "Go to hell" and "Sorry, we made a mistake," such as, perhaps, "Huh, before we take away all the books you've given us money for, I guess we'd better look into this, and here's what we think you did, can you help us understand it?"

    As previously advised, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed, as it has come to our attention that this account is related to a previously blocked account. While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

    Please understand that the closure of an account is a permanent action. Any subsequent accounts that are opened will be closed as well. Thank you for your understanding with our decision.

    I appreciate this is not the outcome you hoped for and apologise for any disappointment this may cause.

    Update:: Simon Phipps talked to Linn and got her story:

    Linn lives in Norway, where Amazon does not operate (Amazon.no redirects to the Amazon Europe page). She bought a Kindle in the UK, liked it and read a number of books on it. She then gave that Kindle to her mother, and bought a used Kindle on a Danish classifieds site to which she transferred her account. She has been happily reading on it for some time, purchasing her books with a Norwegian address and credit card. She told me she'd read 30 or 40 books on it.

    Sadly, the device developed a fault (actually a second time, it was also replaced in 2011 for the same reason) and started to display black lines on the screen (something I've heard from other friends as it happens). She called Amazon customer service, and they agreed to replace it if she returned it, although they insisted on shipping the replacement to a UK address rather to her in Norway.

    Then the e-mails that her friend Martin re-posted arrived. Linn has had no explanation from Amazon about what they think she has done wrong. All the e-mails simply refer to "another account which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies", in a tone reminiscent of a patronising official saying "you know what you did wrong so I'm not going to tell you". The e-mails also look as if they are simply a cut-and-paste from some procedure manual, because others have received exactly the same text (with just as little warning, explanation or recourse).

    Back in 2009, when Amazon settled the lawsuit over its remote deletion of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (you really can't make this stuff up), it promised that it would not perform any further deletions unless ordered to do so by a court. I repeatedly asked Amazon whether DRM-free ebooks, or files that users load onto their Kindles themselves, could be remotely deleted. I never received a response of any kind.

    My guess is that Amazon has the capability to wipe any file from any Kindle, and likely also has the ability to read any file on any Kindle. I'd further speculate that the policy violation that Linn stands accused of is using a friend's UK address to buy Amazon UK English Kindle books from Norway. This is a symptom of Amazon's -- and every single other ebook retailer's -- hopelessness at managing "open territory" for ebooks.

    "Open territory" is a publishing term describing places where no publisher holds exclusive retail rights. In English-language book-contracts, it's almost always the case that countries where English isn't the native or official language are "open territory," meaning that if a writer sells her English language rights in Canada and the US to Macmillan, and her UK/Australia/NZ/South African rights to Penguin, both Penguin and Macmillan are legally allowed to sell competing English print and electronic editions in Norway, Rwanda, India, China, and Russia.

    However, the universal approach taken by ebook retailers to "open territory" is to pretend that it doesn't exist. If no publisher is registered as the exclusive provider of an edition in a given country, the ebook retailers just refuse to sell to people in those countries. I've spoken to e-rights people in the major publishing houses, and they hate this, because a) it just drives piracy; and b) it represents lost sales. But there's no shifting the etailers, apparently.

    If my conjecture about Linn's offense is correct, then she has not violated copyright, nor has she done anything that would upset a publisher. She's merely violated the thousands of words of impossible fine-print that comes with your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iPad, as have all of us. This fine print will always have a clause that says you are a mere tenant farmer of your books, and not their owner, and your right to carry around your "purchases" (which are really conditional licenses, despite misleading buttons labelled with words like "Buy this with one click" -- I suppose "Conditionally license this with one click" is deemed too cumbersome for a button) can be revoked without notice or explanation (or, notably, refund) at any time.

    It's likely that the EU's open market directives prohibit any kind of discrimination of sales based on national borders within the EU (though Norway isn't technically in the EU). However, the EUCD's strict prohibition on DRM circumvention (which Norway both voluntarily adopted and exceeded) means that purchasers of ebooks and ereaders can't take any steps to enforce their legal rights, nor can any business or nonprofit assist them in these matters.

    I was a bookseller for many years. I have no idea whether everything that my customers did with their books was legal. It's likely that some of them photocopied their books and passed them around. Embarrassingly enough, I once sold a small stack of rather excellent novels to a guy who bought them with a counterfeit bill. Despite all this, I -- as a bookseller -- was never, ever expected to repossess those books. I was not expected to police my customers' use of those books. I did not have -- nor did I want -- the facility to know what else my customers shelved on their bookshelves next to the books I sold them.

    Reading without surveillance, publishing without after-the-fact censorship, owning books without having to account for your ongoing use of them: these are rights that are older than copyright. They predate publishing. They are fundamentals that every bookseller, every publisher, every distributor, every reader, should desire. They are foundational to a free press and to a free society. If you sell an ebook reader is designed to allow Kafkaesque repossessions, you are a fool if you expect anything but Kafkaesque repossessions in their future. We've been fighting over book-bans since the time of Martin Luther and before. There is no excuse for being surprised when your attractive nuisance attracts nuisances.

    It's true that the ability to revoke files over the air is a boon to people whose devices are stolen or lost. Much of that benefit can be realized by designing devices that encrypt their storage (to a user password) by default (though we know about the weaknesses of passwords, of course). It's also conceivable to have an over-the-air deletion system that requires a sign-in from the device owner/user at a Web-browser, and that isn't available to the manufacturer alone. Both of these are more cumbersome than simply reporting your device stolen and knowing that the next time it's connected to the Internet, it will delete itself.

    But as we learned when Mat Honan's phone, laptop, and backups were remotely wiped by a hacker, having a manufacturer-controlled remote wipe facility means that your data is only as safe as the most careless front-line telephone-bank service rep at the manufacturer, which is to say, not very.

    If it's a choice between paving the way for tyranny and risking the loss of your digital life at the press of a button by some deceived customer service rep, and having to remember a password, I think the password is the way to go. The former works better, but the latter fails better.

    A note to anyone from Amazon PR contemplating sending me a comment regarding this: I expect that any comment from Amazon regarding this story will disclose whether and when Amazon can delete files (including files loaded by users) from Kindles, and whether DRM-free files can still be deleted. Also: as a policy, I do not quote anonymous spokespeople for firms unless they are telling me something that could cost them their jobs.

    Update: Here's how Ashleigh from Kobo explained their Open Territory workings:

    I was happy to see an article on the open territory issue - as it's not often discussed and I think it's an important issue for publishers today. But, as one of these e-Retailers you mention, I object to your statement below:

    "This is a symptom of Amazon's -- and every single other ebook retailer's -- hopelessness at managing "open territory" for ebooks."

    I can't speak for our competitors, but I can speak to how books are managed at Kobo. Our contracts state that we will faithfully represent the rights declaration for each title. We have to respect where we've been told any given books have the right to sell, and we treat these statements as gospel.

    All the details about a book are communicated in our industry's xml standard, ONIX Each book's metadata contains an explicit statement on what territories we are allowed to sell in as a retailer of this title. As a global retailer, we encourage all publishers to be complete in these details and to provide us with maximum rights. In fact, I had hundreds of conversations about this a few weeks ago during the Frankfurt Book Fair. But, many publishers are very conservative about communicating rights in territories they are not actively engaged with. Also, many of the agency publishers insist on setting the prices themselves, and an unfortunate side effect to that is that the territories they haven't made the effort to price in the local currency remain unavailable.

    However, it looks like my own publisher, Tor, are pretty good on this. She adds,

    Looking at one title (For the Win) as an example, it looks like your publisher is doing a great job. ISO country codes below - but it looks like our friend in Norway who lost their account would have no problems buying your book on Kobo.


    This suggests that all the other ebook retailers who won't sell you my books (and, likely, other Tor titles) are doing so because they lack the technical chops to parse out the metadata supplied by Tor.

    Outlawed by Amazon DRM

    Outlawed by Amazon DRM (Google cache)

    (Thanks to Eirik and all the others who sent this in)

    (Image: DRM PNG 1 900, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from listentomyvoice's photostream)

    / / COMMENTS

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    1. I’m definitely not sad that I don’t buy eBooks from Amazon. I try not to buy books with DRM at all, but that’s not currently possible so I only buy books from sources that I know I can break the DRM. I never load anything to my ereaders directly from the store – I download to my PC, break the DRM if necessary, add it into Calibre, then push to my device from there.

      I would love to buy books from a place that pushed DRM free books to my device and let me back up copies and allowed me to actually own both the device and the media, but that doesn’t exist in the mainstream currently.I was thinking about getting a Kindle Paper White since it seems to be an excellent piece of hardware, but after this story I think I’ll stick to an Android tablet running eReader software that is not affiliated with a retailer and buying my ePubs from the Google Play store when I can’t get them from Baen or some other source that doesn’t do DRM at all.

      1. I bought a Kindle, because it is good hardware.
        I turned WIFI off, and it stays off. Ebooks are loaded with Calibre and a USB cable.
        I prefer to trade instant gratification for both liberty and security.

        1. Just because you turned your WiFi off is no guarantee it is really off. It’s sort of like GPS in cell phones that way…

          1. The battery life profile improves when the wifi is turned off. Detecting wifi traffic is trivial, so if it woke up occasionally to call in then it would be easily found out. There’s probably also a requirement that ‘off’ means ‘off’, as otherwise it might wake up during a flight.

            1.  As I discovered with my Nook Simple Touch when I downloaded some sample books from BN – even though my wifi was  supposedly off my battery would be dead in 3 days instead of lasting a month. Resolved the problem after deleting all sample books. So YES these eReaders can “cheat” and turn on your wifi when they want. In my case they were likely snooping to see if I was reading the sample books.

            2. You assume “they were snooping with WiFi” because the battery drained?

              They control the hardware and software – they don’t need to leave WiFi on to do that.

              It could trivially detect the act of reading, and turn WiFi on for just long enough to send a few packets, once, to tell them you’d read the sample books.

              If they cared.

              Which they don’t.

              As Max said, a simple bug in the software seems much more likely than a complicated and poorly implemented spying system that would make the user think the device was crappy.

          2.  Yup, not a guarantee, but battery life is a pretty good indication of whether WiFi or GPS is left continuously on in spite of the device claiming its off. Intermittent, stealthy enabling of either would be harder to to detect. I suppose you could keep your kindle in a Faraday bag…

            1.  Indeed it would. However, humorous your comment, it is simply a fact that you don’t if your phone is really turning off anything when it says it is. As has been noted, your cell phone is a tracking device that lets you make phone calls. The microphone and camera are turned on and off by software, and software, and malware can remotely turn them on. So this isn’t really tinfoil hat territory.

          3.  So don’t give it the password to your wireless router, is it going to crack WPA2 to report back to the mothership?

            1. Because there’s no such thing as open access points.
              Also, some of those readers are 3G enabled, so no WiFi needed.

        2.  Yep. I have WiFi off (well, most of the time), and I usually download onto my desktop. Then I strip the DRM with the Calibre plugin that it takes all of one Google search to find, and I back it all up to my Ubuntu One account. Pretty simple workarounds that I wish more people would do. (which doesn’t make the situation any less wrong, of course)

          1.  Unfortunately even turning off wifi is too much for many people. I have to help my mother every time.

        3.  Actually, still no guarantee.  I think all the kindles use amazon’s proprietary cellular service called “whispernet” or something.  Way slower but they probably have just as much control over the device.

          1. I’m pretty convinced turning off wi-fi actually does turn off its ability to phone home.  I’ve had a Kindle for quite a while and I’ve never turned on wi-fi (it has built in wi-fi, not built in 3G).  I buy my books from amazon and transfer them via usb, managing my “collections” via a Calibre plugin.  I think I validated the machine itself manually via email instead of letting it connect.

            How can I be certain the Kindle is not phoning home?  Because I bought the cheaper, ad-subsidized Kindle “with special offers”, and it’s never once shown me a single ad.  I’m assuming that if there was a sneaky leak in the hardware, they’d use it to get ad revenue, not spy on me (or get ad revenue in addition to spying on me if it came to that.)

            1.  Yup. And even then (as the owner of a Kindle 3G, I know from experience), it only uses that when you have “Wireless On”.

              If there’s a separate “WiFi” vs. “Whispernet”  on/off setting I’ve never seen it.

        4.  I believe Kindles use what Amazon calls Whispernet, which is leased cell phone service, so even though you have wifi turned off, they can still remotely access your device and do whatever they want with it.

      2.  O’Reilly sells e-books DRM free.  As a result I buy a lot of books  from them.  Who’d have thunk it eh?

        1. We do not read books because they exist in some digital format, but because of their author/ genre/ content. Be glad to have found a publisher/ direct seller that does away with DRM. For most of us, however, that is not an option, as most other ebook sellers only carry “shackled” items that are sold with severe usage restrictions.

          1. It’s more that flickering light could be bad. For example, the Nook Color flickers at 128Hz, even 256Hz is noticeable. Not all backlights flicker. Also large and ‘deep’ pixels could tire your eyes due to trouble getting focus.

      3.  Try this software you can break DRM. I agree it’s always bothered me that I don’t really own the book in the same way that I own a paper book. I haven’t used this program so I don’t know what the limits of it are. Here is the link http://www.epubor.com/

    2. There’s only one way to be truly free from their tyranny. Hoist the Jolly Roger and set sail for the Bay. 

          1. The written equvalent of vynyl.

            Not to mention something Amazon would have to physically pry from your hands in order to deprive you of one. Which isn’t to say that ebooks aren’t an amazing technological advance, just that the idea of anyone having the sort of power to deprive a person of literature as evinced here is abhorrent.

        1. Buying DRM-free books directly from the author, or from an author’s cooperative, is a good method of getting ebooks that aren’t in so much danger of revocation at a publisher’s whim. Cory Doctorow, for example, sells DRM-free copies of his own books. C.J. Cherryh is selling her own ebooks nowadays. With luck, the publishers will either realize that their actions are hurting their sales and correct their policies, or go bankrupt and clear the field for a new, more functional business model.

          1.  I think we’re a long way from publishers coming to that realisation, sadly – at least if the music industry is any guide anyway.

            Besides, cynic that I am, I can’t help thinking that the publishing houses feel as though they’ve finally found a way to deal a blow to the second-hand book market and casual lending by lacing everything they can with DRM and hoping no one notices or complains.

            1.  … isn’t the music industry precisely the example of publishers embracing the revelation that DRM is a miserable failure and doesn’t preserve sales?

              Can you even buy DRM-protected music anywhere?

              Apple and Amazon, for instance, both sell entirely DRM-free music, do they not?

            2. Oh yes, They have been doing this for years with college text books. They release a new edition with almost no changes but the cover, and the class no longer uses the old edition, and there goes the available used copies.

          2. Gotta say, of the self-published books I’ve bought thus far, only one or two haven’t been so bad that I wanted to stab myself in the brain rather than finish them.

            1. You aren’t looking in the right places. Easily %90 of what I read is self published. By far most of them are pretty good. Certainly not bound to be classics, but readable.

              Yes, you find the occasional piece of crap. Those are the ones I’m careful to leave a review for!

        2. my book collection outgrew my home. and unfortunately i have a hard time getting rid of them once i read them. with my kindle i can have hundreds (or thousands, i read a lot) of books in my collection and not take up an entire room. for me it’s that simple, although given the alternative of not reading it all i would certainly default to physical objects and then fill my storage unit up a bit more.

      1. I have had links, entrusted to me, that access secret ebook libraries, online collections, assembled, collated, personally shared between friends with common tastes.
        If I buy an e-book, shouldn’t I be allowed to share it (nay – FORCE it upon) my friends?
        And isn’t that what a library is all about anyway – (public or private)?
        so i have KIndle reader, running on a blackberry – with a whole chunk of great reads.
        I can’t afford to buy new editions – even 2nd hand paperbacks are getting too pricey.
        Look – I bought (and gave away) ‘[Neuromancer’ three times over, since I first read it in high school.
        Now I have a copy, in my pocket, stored on a semi-smart phone recycled from a large corporation – loaded with reading all downloaded from a word-of-mouth, hole-in-the-wall book club.
        So I may as well put on my mirror shades and do some tetrameth….[-__-]

    3. This is exactly the sort of thing that forces people to turn to piracy. Why on earth would I spend money on anything that could be permanently ripped away from me against my will at any moment?

      As long as draconian policies like this exist so will piracy.

      1. Just watch out for Senator Guy Montag’s “Digital/Analog Rights Management Harmonization act”…

    4. I bought a Kindle but my long-time flat mate pretty much took it over and I rarely go looking for it now. Currently, I’m reading Slavoj Zizek’s new, monstrous 1200 page hardback and all seems as it should be. After reading this article I feel even more on the right path.

      1.  If you’re reading Zizek, you’re hardcore enough that Amazon should worry about you, instead of the other way ’round.

    5. Linn uses amazon.com and not co.uk for her Kindle purchases.. Which makes the story even more puzzling.

    6. B&N Nook did the same thing to me. That was the last time I used it. It’s back to the good ole fashioned library for me.

        1. You would be surprised. Analog TV is mostly obsolete (I don’t watch TV so I don’t care either way), but even many TOP40 hits can be bought on vinyl – although why would anyone care of 90% of that stuff, I don’t understand. There’s a whole cassette subculture that still exists, in addition to used vinyl and cassette shops. And so on.

          1. Man, I’ll never understand the resurgence of “cassette subculture,” as you call it.  All my cars (save one, the 2007 RAV4) have always had cassette decks, and I still have most of my cassette collection.  But I haven’t been tempted to listen to that teetering stack of wow and flutter in ten years or more.  Bleah.

      1.  I’m with you..my vinyl is still my music medium of choice. And radio..does that count? I also never ever use my cellphone unless absolutely necessary; it stays off and in my car. Amazing but I still manage to survive! ( I gave a gift Kindle away)

      2. This kind of thing is why I will never switch to digital for any media format….for any reason.

        So how in the hell did that post make it from your typewriter to the intertron?

    7. Do not listen to the salesmen, a license is not the same as ownership.
      Do not listen to the digital hipsters, a license is not the same as ownership.
      There’s nothing wrong with the idea of viewing copyright as a property right.  But all the rights granted to creators (and their assignees) by copyright law ARE rights that can be regarded as taken from the rights of COPYOWNERS, those who own an item and are not allowed to do things that they would otherwise be permitted. If you don’t own a physical copy you are at the mercy of the contract that you sign and have only those rights granted by it, and not those (first sale, fair use, etc.) preserved to a copyowner by the copyright law.

        1. Well intellectual property certainly IS an imperfect analogy.  But real property (as in real estate) is like intellectual property in that they are, at some level creations of the state.  The land isn’t created by that state any more than a book is, but the rights of ownership are.  Because land title and the ability to take somebody into court for trespassing, or using your land IS not a natural right.  Sure you can promise to commit violence upon trespassors, but the ability to use the state to enforce those rights that come with it is a product of the modern state.  In the Middle Ages, everybody but the king was a tenant of some sort, exchangeing feudal duties, money, or labor for their land.  The idea of people buying and selling land like shoes or furniture is one that they would have regarded as repugnant in the way we regard selling political offices.

        1.  Firefox, noscript, adblock.

          Whitelist any website that behaves responsibly with adverts. Assuming you remember. The obnoxious advertisers and the website hosts that inflict them on their readers only have themselves to blame.

    8. These stories get more and more frustrating. I’m reading Pirate Cinema (DRM Free on a hacked nook tablet) right now, and that book echos this situation quite strongly.

      That being said, in the book the rights-holders at least buy politicians out, rather than working outside the law like some kind of thugs.

      I’m afraid of my government pandering to corporate interests at the expense of the people. I am more afraid of my government turning a blind eye while the corporations take the law in to their own hands.

      Six strikes, remote wipes, locked down boot loaders, and monopolistic (oligopolisitic) practices, leave the average consumer without recourse, without option.

      I know enough to get away with what I do, to circumvent and to avoid. I get angry when I read something like this, but I also know that it will never happen to me. Anyone who cares enough to fight this, knows enough to circumvent it. If you’ve already taken care of you and yours, why bother protesting? If you can circumvent the crummy things that Amazon does, why not continue to buy from them?

      I’d love to have an iPhone. I think that they are remarkable pieces of technology. But, I can’t have an iPhone. Not until Apple allows me to develop my own software to use on my own device, not until apple stops restricting my access to developer’s applications that they have disproved of.

      It doesn’t seem to matter, though. People still buy iPhones. People still buy Kindles. People still buy DRM infested Bluray discs. Apple wins. Amazon wins. Sony wins. They don’t even have to buy any politicians to do it.

      1. Man after my own heart! I think the same way for iPad’s and the lot, I’d love one, they’re fantastic pieces of kit.  However I just can’t bring myself to hand over that much control of my devices to a corporation that couldn’t care a whit for me.

    9. See, paper books will never die as long as ebooks are stupid like this. Physical objects have more permanence due to existing not in the digital realm where things can appear and vanish with but a thought, but on the same physical plane humans occupy.

      1. I have a Sony eReader, and I love it. But then I’ve only downloaded free books. The Gutenberg library is lovely. And all the classics are available for free. I mean you can pay for Pride and Prejudice if you want to, but you can also download it for free. (Also the Gutenberg library has cookbooks from the 1600’s, fascinating reading).

        1. I find the Internet Archive much more useful. Gutenburg has a very limited selection of the classics. Nothing by Strabo. Only an English translation for Ammianus. Nothing by Zosimus. And so on.

      2. I’m thinking…”delete Matthew Stone’s comment on Boing Boing,” but nothing is happening.

    10. Meanwhile, UK customers have just learned that Amazon negotiates an automatic publishers’ discount on the cover price of 20% based on the fact that UK VAT (sales tax) is 20%.  Except that it turns out that they actually only pay VAT of 3% because they pretend that their sales are done through Luxembourg…  This is either an amazing scam (executed because Amazon have an effective monopoly position in the ebook market) or actual fraud.

      1. God, I hate their tax fraud and tax evasion bullshit! This is actually the most morally fucked-up and scandalous thing about Amazon in my book, not the meaningless pseudo-shitstorms like this article.

    11. Amazon can presumably pull this kind of shit with their Instant Video product as well. The only digital content items that they sell which are currently protected from subsequent clawback are MP3s. At least for now: their eagerness to push their ‘cloud player’ (which, incidentally, has turned the formerly-smooth purchase-and-download experience into a full-on pain-in-the-ass) may be part of an effort to ‘harmonize’ their capabilities across all three sectors.

    12. I’d like to find an e-book vendor that doesn’t suck. My problem (with a different e-book vendor, B&N) isn’t even over DRM, but: imagine your bookcase checking your account balance before letting you pull your own books off the shelf. In a way, that’s what happened to me.

      After the original Amazon book-erasure scandal, I thought I was being smarter by buying a Nook and some books from that ecosystem instead. But months later, when I was in a hospital’s emergency waiting room trying to download those same books to the Nook app on my phone, I discovered B&N test charges account credit cards before pushing already-paid-for books out again. Luckily I was just waiting to visit someone else, not checking into the hospital myself, because I was stuck without books until I could get home again and update my billing info (at which point I could have just used the Nook I’d left there in my haste, instead).

      So much for the selling point of buying something once and having it available for re-download whenever and wherever you need it. I’m not ever buying another e-book from Barnes & Noble unless they change this policy, and consider my Nook purchase to be a waste of money as a result. :(

      edit: Used Google’s Play Store to buy a bestseller, too. The formatting sucked, *and that was on their native Android app*. Whether that was just the publisher being stupid or Google not having a good app, who knows or cares; the result was something that was hard to read. So I’m still looking for a vendor. If anyone has experience with Kobo or another company, let me know if they’re better before I take another risk?

      1. I hope I’m misunderstanding you here. Are you saying that if I “buy” an ebook, and then decide that B&N doesn’t need to have a valid method of payment on file for me, that I would lose access to that purchase? The one I’ve already paid for in full? That — manages to be even more jaw-dropping than the original story, which takes quite some doing

        1. I think the problem here is the B&N DRM is based not on an authentification to an account managed by Adobe (as in Adobe DRM), but on Customer specific Data. B&N uses the Credit-Card number (and customer’s name) to create (indirectly) the key to unlock the files.

          The CC is NOT (AFAIK) charged, but its number is used to make sure you don’t give the ebook to anybody.

          1. I think you’re right about how they key that. So actually DRM *did* screw me after all, even though I had a legal right to the books, bought from them, using their app they specifically created to use that DRM, and with their servers. Ironically, I think my (first gen) Nook also supports the Adobe DRM, for compatibility with libraries; they just don’t use it for their own titles.

        2. You don’t lose access to the copy you already downloaded, at least until/unless you have to re-download the nook app/wipe your device/whatever. But otherwise, no, you understand right. You can’t download it any more without current billing info, even though you paid for it already.

      2. this doesn’t fix the bigger problems you rightfully point out, but for your own use, do what I did and root the nook with touchnooter or another ready-to-go system. The nook is a cool piece of cheap hardware running android, rooting gives you access to all sorts of extra functionality AND frees you to get your books wherever you want to. I don’t see the need to risk your cash on another gadget if you have the nook collecting dust. I’m running the Cool Reader app on it, which lets me tweak the reading experience the way I want to, and I can also read RSS feeds with my favorite RSS reader app. Best of all, I can use a real browser to go directly to the internet archive or project Gutenberg to download the books I want, and then read them immediately. And definitely I recommend managing your ebooks with Calibre, both to keep a backup copy of them on your desktop and to strip out the DRM.

    13. Obviously it’s been said here on Boing Boing (and by Cory specifically) MANY times, but all that DRM does is punish people who are trying to abide by the law and do things the “proper” way.  I’ve had a Kobo since the first day the first generation device came out, so needless to say I’ve got a few books in my Kobo library.  When Amazon announced the Kindle paperwhite, I preordered one immediately.  When it arrived, I set about to figure out how best to get my books from the Kobo to the Kindle.  I know you’re not supposed to, and to do so I’d have to break DRM, etc, but I paid for these books dammit, and I’m going to move them.  After spending two days wrestling with ADE, Kobo, calibre, and various other programs and scripts to remove the DRM from my Kobo epubs, I finally said screw it and headed over to pirate bay.  In 10 minutes I had all the books I had paid for on Kobo in a format without DRM suitable for my new Kindle.

      I didn’t want to pirate the books, I’m quite happy paying the authors for their work.  I just bought the humble bundle over the weekend that includes some of Cory’s work.  All that DRM did was make it hard for me (someone who was trying to do things the right way) to get the content I had already paid for.

      I know this story is a broken record here, but I thought I’d share.

      1. Huh, it took me at most half an hour to remove the DRM from my kindle ebooks. I’d almost say Amazon is making its DRM easy to remove on purpose :D. Maybe they know they don’t need the DRM to make you stay with their ecosystem. ^^

    14. This is why although I have a Kindle I have never purchased a single DRM ebook from Amazon. I use it exclusively for reading DRM-free books from Guttenberg and such. 

      1. All dandy, but we can’t ALL only be reading books from Gutenberg (most of which are badly formatted and not a pretty sight). So let’s talk realistic approaches on how to be free of this mess, not singular testimonials of how someone is content with Gutenberg’s catalog content.

    15. Damnit, bookstores. “The Right to Read” was a dystopian fiction written by a fringe idealist. Everyone thought we were crackpots when we worried about the issues he raised. You weren’t intended to incorporate it into your corporate strategy.

    16. Sideload, sideload, sideload. From non-Amazon providers. That you can get PDFs from. Mine are on my SDcard, which was copied from my laptop, which is backed up locally and elsewhere.

      1.  Ummm.  How do you read a PDF?  I have a nook (the one with a mono touch screen).  It does a poor job of PDF files.  In fact, the ONLY way that I know of to read a PDF decently is a computer, or a real tablet with a color screen — and for reading I much prefer eInk screens.

        1. PDF format basically sucks.  At least on the Android platform,  MantanoReaderLite (freeware) renders it pretty well.   As others have said, you can almost certainly track down an epub/mobi version on the ‘net.  Calibre does a decent job of converting PDFs, but you may find it very tedious to get rid of headers and footers.

          1. “As others have said, you can almost certainly track down an epub/mobi version on the ‘net.”

            It depends on the quality of the character recognition, among other problems. An epub may be useful for a 20th century English-language text, but it’s a pain for a 16th century Latin translation of a Greek text [I can’t read Greek] with both side-by-side, especially if it turns the Greek into gibberish for half of each line.

          2. Niche quibble: tabletop RPG material is practically ALL PDF format, with absolutely no penetration by formats designed in this century. Really annoying, because RPG texts are absolutely what needs to be kept on an e-reader unless you actually LIKE bringing a golf bag full of books to your game. 

            I loved my Kindle Fire, but it got stolen and I took the opportunity to upgrade to a Nexus 7. In both cases I make minimal use of the designer’s online store, preferring to sideload mp3s and ebooks as needed. I really appreciate the ability to increase text size; reading had shifted from something I loved to a chore until I had that capacity. I would love to be able to get the physical book to have around as an object of art and get the ebook along with it so I could actually read it. 

          3. PDF sucks because it hasn’t been designed for screen reading but for checking/ control of page layout to be printed (once on expensive photosetters, later everywhere) prior to that on a computer screen. So ebooks in PDF format suck by design regardless of whether someone and his brother-in-law thinks them adequate.

            1. If someone take the time to do the initial layout in an e-reader friendly style, then making a PDF works fine, and can actually do a metric frakton of nifty things. But people are lazy and just make a PDF out of their existing layout, making them night on impossible to use in an e-reader. Having to do two seperate layouts for one book is a PITB. :/

          4. I agree that PDF is an outdated format and lacks the conveniences of others. However, when I finally made the decision to buy an e-reader, I had to find one that was designed for PDFs (reads the format, has a 9.7” screen) because all of the scientific literature that I work with comes in this format. The e-reader saves me a lot of time and money – I don’t need to print papers anymore, nor do I have to turn on my battery-drained laptop to access some data. I’ve become used to PDF and its shortcomings and I download all of my e-books in this format from the web. And yes, I resort to piracy, mostly because books are stupidly expensive here in Mexico, and most of the books in english I read either cost twice their original price or are simply not available. I’m actually happy to pay for something I like, but I’m also very impatient. 

        2. I got an iriver to read pdfs without relying on the computer and hurting my hands. It’s not ideal, but it has a high-resolution screen so most pdfs are quite readable [even badly-scanned pdfs from the internet archive] and it has buttons instead of those maddening touch-screens I’m too clumsy to be able to use. But because of light/dark issues, a few pdfs are still unreadable.

          I don’t know what will meet your needs.

      2. I sideload everything and buy only from places that make it clear that what I’m buying is a file without DRM. I know how to remove DRM but am annoyed at the necessity of doing it in order to adequately backup and store what I paid for, so I only ever buy DRM-free.

        Personally, I’d advise buying just about anything but PDFs, because PDFs are difficult to read AND difficult to convert into other file formats. I used to love LIT files, when I couldn’t buy EPUB (I own a Nook), because they converted beautifully.

    17. I buy ebooks from Amazon, I just don’t put them onto a Kindle. I use a Kobo and then rarely buy any ebooks from Kobo themsleves.

    18. While we are discussing this topic, companies are lobbying to prevent the resale of merchandise, nibbling away at first sale doctrine starting with copyright works ( http://hammeroftruth.com/2012/supreme-court-to-decide-first-sale-doctrine/ ) , and real estate is being gobbled up by investors at low prices. The future we’re looking at is one where you own nothing, and are only a renter. The new version of feudalism, cleverly slid into being thanks to our corporate-owned government.

    19. DRM takes a government-brokered agreement and renders it void.  The idea of copyright is that a content producer is granted, for a limited time, exclusive right to profit from his or her work, in exchange for that work becoming public domain after the limited time.  Corporate content aggregators have been undermining this agreement to make it one-sided for decades: they purchased retro-active extension after extension on the “limited” time of copyright to the point that, in terms of human life-span, copyright has become *unlimited* in duration.  They have introduced the fanciful concept of “intellectual property” as a companion to this strategy, and the terminology has been accepted by the general populace because they don’t realize what they’re losing.  And these companies invented DRM.  DRM attempts to lock a copy of information to the licensee and to disallow further copying, while companion purchased legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes circumvention of such restrictions illegal…

      But to disallow copying, in perpetuity, violates the limited-time portion of the copyright concept.  Therefore, all DRMed works, by nature, are not covered by copyright.  Can they throw lawyers and purchased laws at this argument to still make someone go to jail or pay fines?  Absolutely!  They’ve gamed our system of government to its logical conclusion.  But, from a moral and ethical standpoint, every DRMed work is, by nature, free to download without a shred of concern.  Even without DRM, until term limits are returned to a sense of “limited,” this holds true, but it does not separate between offending content companies and those who operate with a sense of good will  (e.g. Baen published books avoid DRM out of respect for the people).

      So, if you own an eBook reader, and would like to enjoy the convenience of having a large library at a much lighter weight (physical books are great, but damn heavy), don’t subscribe to any concept of “moral qualms” about how you obtain your books or modify your books to make them fit.  Those who placed obstacles before you are actively violating you when it comes to information and copyright, and they are not operating in good faith.

      1. My problem is more with the complete evisceration of first sale, because I’m more likely to want to sell something that I own during my lifetime than anything to become part of the public domain.

    20. I’d like to take a moment to chime in as one of these “hopeless eretailers” ;) I’m director of Content Management at Kobo. 
      Each book file is delivered to us with an accompanying metadata record that explicitly states the rights we’re allowed to list the title for sale in. Details can be found here: http://www.editeur.org/8/ONIX/

      We’d love to have more titles communicated with full rights, but some publishers are conservative in listing the titles only in territories they are actively engaged with (and some publishers list all titles with world rights, we see a lot of different behavior). 

      We sell books worldwide, but we’re bound to the gospel of the metadata.

      1.  What happens if we take our ebook reader out of the country? Does the vendor, say, Amazon, have the right or obligation to delete the content based on the gospel of the metadata? Based on WiFi IPs and/or cellular data Kindles could be programed to do this automatically. Are you proactively obligated to make sure that the gospel is enforced?

          1. Thanks.

            Do the restrictions apply to the nationality of the purchaser, or the location of the purchase? If I’m on vacation in, say, Norway, can I buy a book from you or is the fact I”m in in Norway mean I can’t buy any books while I’m on vacation?

            1. Any sales restrictions must apply to the locality of your purchase, not nationality (no less because how could they check that?). Then there may be additional other, vendor-internal restrictions dealing with where your credit card was issued/ previously used and other such mumbojumbo.

            2. It sounds like you are guessing.

              Right now they base what you can buy based on your account registration and credit card locality, which is why I asked about whether I can buy books while I’m on vacation, where I’m in an open territory country such as Norway, but my account is based in the US. Will they send an ebook book to a Norway IP if I have a US account? Or will the gospel of the Metadata say “No Way” and I get my account closed and all of my ebooks erased because of a TOS violation?

            3. With Kobo, it is based on your residential address, not your current location. You don’t even have to attach a credit card to your Kobo account. You choose payment method at checkout OR, if you want to attach a credit card to your account for quick checkout, you can.

          2. Hegelian wwwrote: »on vacation, where I’m in an open territory country such as Norway, but my account is based in the US. Will [Kobo] send an ebook book to a Norway IP if I have a US account? Or will the gospel of the Metadata say “No Way” and I get my account closed and all of my ebooks erased because of a TOS violation?«

            Never having used it, I can’t answer for Kobo, but in case of Amazon, yes, your ebook will be WiFi-streamed to your device (Whispernet-streamed where Amazon offers it in Europe: Germany, Spain, UK, France). I live in EU, and all the ebooks purchased from either the US or UK Amazon website are auto-magically queued to my registered iDevice for downloading when I next launch Kindle app on it.

      2. Thank you. It speaks well of Kobo to actually post a response to people’s ebook questions. Some folks actually find this stuff interesting and it’s very good to get information from folks actually involved in the process. Hope you are not put off by the community’s best attempts to stress-test your answers. It’s really the best way to understand anything. 

    21. My two cents…buy paperback or hardcover books, put in a lovely bookplate, and sign your name on it.  Read and enjoy, preferably with a favorite paper bookmark.

    22. Isn’t the answer in the article though? That it was because they broke Amazon’s rules on buying books from places they shouldn’t have done by circumventing the system?
      That’s it, that is the reason their account was closed, it’s not a great conspiracy on any other subject, just simply they broke the rules they lost their account. Fair simple contract law isn’t it?

      Terrible though the idea that they can wipe what they like is but the answer is there. 

      1. That’s Cory’s speculation. Amazon refused to tell her what she’d done to violate the agreement. That type of response is becoming all too common. “You have violated the agreement but we regret that we are not authorized to give you specific information.”

        1. But Linn did it? If that’s true then Amazon were just acting on their terms and conditions and closed the account. So if it is true Amazon don’t need to say why they did it or even if it was something else entirely, Linn has admitted something that allows them to do it anyway.

        2. It’s more than mere speculation of Cory’s; it’s a comprehensive analysis of the issue. I’ve already outlined my comments on it there, so be my guest: http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/#comment-106427

      2. I think you missed the fact that we’re *guessing* what *might* have happened (which in itself was not an illegal or immoral act). The fact is, Amazon refuses to tell Linn what she’s done wrong. In fact, the way their response was written sounded to me most like this: “Someone with a similar name and email address as you broke one of our rules. We’re not going to tell you what the rule was, because if it wasn’t you that would be breaking some confidentiality rule. But we’re pretty sure it was you, even though we’re not certain, so we’re doing to delete everything you paid for and in moral terms steal everything back you bought. You know, just in case. Also, f**k you.”

        1. “(which in itself was not an illegal or immoral act).” Doesn’t matter. If something is against the terms and conditions they can act on that in the way they say in the terms and conditions.
          And how many of us ever read all of that? Who knows what we are agreeing to?

          As they won’t say what it is that caused the closure we can’t say that Linn is telling us the truth either. We are only guessing on both sides.  Although still very scary.

        2. You are attempting to debunk speculation by largely erroneous guessing of your own. Amazon, with their army of lawyers, wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake as to mix up two similar-sounding account names. In all probability, they discovered that Linn attempted to use the same credit card in two (to us syntetic; to them separate) sales regions, or knowingly gave them a false UK address to circumvent their principle of all “open territory” (i.e. here Norwegian) sales going through the US ebookstore. More here: http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/#comment-106427

      3. They wiped the content. The books he paid. 
        Close an account, no problem. But accessing, deleting password-protected data is PIRATING!!!

        1. In a way deleting is more stealing than copying* would be. It’s like someone broke in, took things, and then lost your stuff.

          * I mean modern “pirating”

    23. I am currently in the market for a dedicated ebook reader, preferably with no other functionality.
      Crap like this is why I crossed the Kindle off my list quite fast, even though the new PaperWhite looks pretty good.

      Those who want a good ebook reader at a fair price with no major restriction and want to be able to access multiple formats, then the Kobo Glo seems great. Good reviews, good hardware, good compatibility, great front light system… and looks like they have a decent attitude towards DRM as well (they let you load whatever you want into the device).
      I think the Kindle devices seem too restrictive, and that’s coming from an Apple user…

        1. Calibre is a great program. But there’s another way to read everything: jailbreak you device, then install CoolReader 3 for Kindle. CR reads most or all e-book formats (I use FictionBook2 mainly and ePUB, haven’t explored other ones).

      1. You can easily jailbreak your kindle (it’s running a customized linux install). Calling it more restrictive than an apple device is just telling us you did not do the research.

    24. It’s pretty simple: Outlaw DRM. Period, I repeat, It’s pretty simple: Make DRM illegal. Problem solved, permanently, effectively and efficiently.

      It’s one of the few really good applications of Law: Telling people what they cannot do, even if they are capable of doing it. For instance, telling companies they cannot pollute the environment with carcinogens. DRM fits all the criteria to make good law:

      1) can DRM be narrowly and well defined? Yes, it’s a mechanism that restricts what people can do with their digital media that isn’t a result of an actual technical limitation.
      2) Is the effect of this law limited? Yes, this law only affects vendors of DRM which is not used by everyday people, it would be an industry regulation.
      3) Can violation be detected easily? Yes it is easy to find out if a product contains DRM for the layman. You just have to look out for things you should be able to do, but can’t.
      4) Can the law be enforced easily and effectively? Yes. Like any consumer protection law it can be enforced by an agency that evaluates products and clears them for sale.

      1. Outlaw DRM for one-time payment for indefinite usage.  Allow it for rentals, loans, and other content available for the duration of a subscription.
        There’s nothing wrong with DRM in library ebooks, Netflix play-on-demand videos, subscription music streaming services, and the like.  In those cases, you’re *supposed* to lose access after a period of time / when you stop paying.

    25. I’ve been scared away from e-readers since they came out because of stuff like this, and what other people are discussing in the comments. I still stick to buying physical books I want to own and borrowing from the library physical books I don’t want to own, which both seem better than buying a non-physical book, at cover price, that I do not own.

      But a lot of folks here seem knowledgable about empowered ways to use e-readers that support the authors while circumventing or avoiding the most noxious DRM issues. And the prospect of not lugging around 500 lbs of books for the rest of my life makes an e-reader seem like something I would LOVE in concept. Does anyone have recommendations for a good e-reader set-up? Are there any models/brands that can read any format – or ones that are more amenable to rooting or ripping, or whatever? I’m curious, in the midst of all of this (valid) negative tearing-down of Amazon, to get some positive information. What works for you? What would you recommend for someone who has avoided ebooks because of all of this crap, and can’t afford to buy multiple platforms and see which is least awful, but is interested in a versatile, ownable e-reader?

      1. It comes down primarily (so far) to a choice of e-ink vs. LCD display.  e-ink draws far less power, is easily readable in direct sunlight; LCD is readable in the dark w/o a lamp, has an update rate compatible with movies.  I read on a 2nd-gen Nook and on an Android tablet depending on my mood and location :-) .  How you choose to buy books is up to you (DRM-ed or not;  bittorrent pirate packages or not, etc).  As others have pointed out,  30 seconds with Google will get you DRM-unlocking software.

      2. touchnooter rooting on the nook simple touch was the easiest root job I ever did. If you have a microSD card you can have a rooted nook, and at no loss of functionality–user-friendly functionality, anyway :) It’s been a while since I’ve done it–I’ve had no need to go back to factory settings–so I don’t know what the latest recommended rooting setup is nowadays, but I’m sure the folks at XDA have some thoughts.

      3. If you’re new to ebooks, there will be a learning curve. Geeks don’t write plain English instructions very well. But if you persist, you can figure out how to do it — it’s not that hard. I use a Sony Reader, Amazon’s Windows kindle app, calibre and the calibre DRM removal plug-in. I buy from amazon, download to Windows, import to calibre, convert to epub, load to the Sony Reader. Plus I keep my de-DRM’d books backed up in several places, so I’ll always have them no matter what amazon does. It works almost flawlessly for me (there are occasionally books that don’t import properly from amazon, but they’re rare). Sony Readers have no restrictions as to what you can put on them.

        It will seem complicated to get all this set up at first. I suggest installing calibre and playing around with it to see how it works, using free ebooks (gutenberg australia has some more recent classics than the regular gutenberg). Then get the Sony Reader, but don’t bother registering with Sony or installing their awful PC software. Just use calibre to send books to the Reader. Once that all makes sense, you can figure out how to add the kindle DRM removal plug-in, install the kindle PC app, and start buying books properly.

        Of course other set-ups could work just as well, but this one is good for me.

        Oh, and by the way, though I’m as ticked off as anyone by amazon’s DRM and other restrictive tactics, I just discovered recently that they’re now selling Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (in two volumes) — without DRM!! And the note states explicitly that the publisher wants readers to be able to put the book on any device they own. Cool.

        PS About formats: Sony Readers, like most non-kindle ebook devices, use mostly epub format. Calibre converts between the kindle formats (mostly mobi and azw3) and epub easily — it’s a no-brainer for calibre. About rooting: there’s no need to root a Sony Reader unless you want to turn it into a full-fledged Android tablet. For ebook reading, don’t bother. The only real downside to Sony devices is that the default font is boring: I think it’s Times New Roman. And they have several alternate fonts that are nice but don’t work properly. So you might want to root the Reader just to get another ebook application onto it. But really it’s probably not worth the trouble.

        And I should clarify, I’m talking about the Sony PRS-T1. The new PRS-T2 may work differently, and older Sony Readers don’t offer font choices. For those, you could find and install the PRS+ alternate firmware … but if you’re just beginning with ebooks, I wouldn’t recommend trying to deal with all that yet.

        1.  This is super helpful (as are the other responses)! Thanks! I think the geek-speak is less an obstacle for me than navigating the sheer variety of e-readers out there, each with their own idiosyncratic formats and DRM schemes. I speak fairly fluent geek, but when there are so many different closed platforms necessitating so many different workarounds, plug-ins and tutorials, they could be written in large, monosyllabic print with colorful pictures, and it would still be hard to make sense of it all.

        2.  It’s also worth adding that the Sony Reader PRs-T1 can download directly from websites. So you can download an epub hosted at an author’s site directly onto the device and start reading. You can also back up books to Dropbox and then download from Dropbox onto the Reader without a computer intervening. This is super handy for having a backup larger than the device’s on-board memory, but with the Reader you can back up to microSD cards and load them separately as well.
          It’s a very flexible device with a pretty decent (for e-ink) web browser as well. I just wish that my local library had a better collection of ebooks to borrow since the Overdrive app is pretty good too.

          1. Thanks! I think now I know where to cloud-backup my ebooks and still be able to re-download them directly from the reader :).

      4. I have a kindle, buy the books on amazon and back-up the DRMed files as well as the de-DRMed files (you can just copy them to your PC via USB). So far I have only bought ebooks outside of amazon once, directly from the author as DRM-free EPUBs, but in case I find ebooks elsewhere or cheaper than at amazon it’ll be a breeze to buy them.

        I usually convert with calibre and in the seldom case that books don’t work on the kindle, KindleGen (Amazon’s official EPUB to MOBI conversion tool) does the trick.

        Google Apprentice Alf for the DRM removal calibre plugins. They work on Windows, OS/X and Linux. The devs over there hang out in the comments and patiently help newbies in case they don’t get it to work right away.

        I’d personally recommend you to get a kindle because of the ecosystem and the build quality of the devices. Also, the Kindle works best for me as a Linux user, because I do not have to download a windows program to authorize my ereader. Device registration works by just logging into Amazon on the kindle once. Also, the Kindle for PC app fully works via WINE.

        Ever since I’ve got my kindle, I’ve read more and discovered so many new authors! An ereader is an amazing device to own as a bookworm. :)

        The kindle can directly download mobi files from the web (even from direct links in ebook files), I use this feature for books from Project Gutenberg (see http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1030992&postcount=5 )and Mobilereads (see http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1027924&postcount=4 ) as well as fanfics on http://archiveofourown.org/

    26. You know who doesn’t have to deal with problems like this?  Pirates.

      Every time DRM screws over a consumer, it’s the artists who really lose.  Anybody who has spent a considerable amount of money on legitimately purchasing a media collection, only to have it snatched away for undisclosed reasons, won’t make the same mistake again. Every time a story like this pops up, it just reinforces the decision of pirates to not pay for “legitimate” copies.  It’s getting to the point where your only options are to be either a thief or a sucker, and nobody wants to be a sucker.

    27. A Norwegian amazon user was using amazon.co.uk to buy books? Amazon.co.uk is the most restrictive of all the Amazon sites and is limited to UK residents only – something’s fishy here

      1. amazon.nl redirects to .co.uk, they can hardly be targeting only UK residents. Also, in EU countries the ‘single market’ is enforced, so even by law they shouldn’t limit to UK citizen.

    28. I think she was using .com and Cory’s speculating she might have had a friend buy her a book that was only supposed to be sold in the uk, or something. Guess we can’t buy friends gifts anymore…

    29. I remember when Kindle first came out.  Amazon decided to delete some books they thought were naughty after people had paid for them. People were surprised to find out that they couldn’t get either the book or their money back.
      I have a Kindle for cheap murder mysteries I have no intention of reading again and out-of-copyright classics I don’t care if I lose.  If it’s a book I want to keep, I buy a hardcopy.  They will last long after all Ereaders are obsolete.

    30. “to whit” –> “to wit”

      ‘whit’ (n) a very small part or amount (not the word you’re looking for)
      ‘to wit’ (v) “that is to say…”

    31. The headline goes from “Kindle user claims” to “You have no rights”    Zero to 60 in just a few words.  Impressive.

    32. This feels like another instance of the war on general purpose computing. Where’s the open source, open hardware, eBook reader that’s as good as a Kindle? You can still just about buy a laptop or netbook and load linux on it. But a dedicated E-Reader? 

    33. I can’t help wondering: what about the books purchased on Amazon that do not have DRM?  I have two published books for the Kindle, and when I posted them for sale, I was given the option to apply DRM (for an extra 40p per book sold) or not, and I chose not to.  I can’t be the only one in all of Amazon.  So there should be no good reason for Amazon to delete those books.  Have they given an answer for that?

    34. Small correction: Mat Honan’s backups weren’t deleted, and couldn’t have been deleted through the remote-wipe mechanisms exploited against him. He just hadn’t made any backups since the birth of his daughter.

    35. It seems that Amazon has really taken some lessons from the Stalinist era Politburo. One of the cornerstones of the Stalinist regime was fear, and fear in turn was built upon uncertainty. One day, you could be a distinguished member of proletariat, the next day GRU would come and take you away for good – without explaining anything. Very similar tactics can be witnessed in this case – one day you can be a valued customer and the other day you’re banned with “confiscation of property” (hello again, Soviet jargon!). The only difference is that from Amazon, you can flee without being shot.

    36. Like others have mentioned, I buy content from amazon sometimes (because it’s convenient) but always immediately remove the DRM to read on a non-amazon device. I assume that amazon knows that I do this. I know they can if they want to anyway because they’ve published lists of most popular highlights etc so they’re definitly gathering this kind of information. It would be trivial to make a list of users who buy but never read the content (on a kindle device). I don’t know if they care, but since I use the same system when checking out library books (from overdrive) killing my account at amazon would also keep me from being able to read library ebooks.

    37. Aside from the threat of having Amazon delete your entire library on a whim (or even by mistake), has anyone given thought to long-term storage implications of electronic books?

      I work in a library, and my experience is mainly with electronic journals. Specifically the library purchased perpetual access to some journals published by Haworth Press, which then went out of business. Most Haworth journals were then taken over by Taylor & Francis, but the library did not keep access to material we’d paid for.

      After some wrangling and showing proof of payment Taylor & Francis did restore some of the access the library had paid for, but they were under no obligation to do so. They even refused to give us anything in writing saying they would honor perpetual access agreements.

      I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite. I think there are significant advantages to electronic publishing. But there are significant risks too. Paper as a storage medium definitely has its drawbacks, but I’m not sure digital media are any better. They’re just different.

      1. Ebooks have the tiniest files size and whether they are EPUB or MOBI, inside those files they are basically HTML files. All of those things make long-term archiving way easier than any other medium, so I really don’t understand the uninformed whining everywhere. You do sound a bit like a luddite ;-P.

      2. What you mentioned is not a problem of ebooks. But a problem of DRMed ebooks. Were ebooks DRM-free, the storage would be simple and we would just need to make sure our viewer software remains backwards compatible.

    38. “It’s likely that the EU’s open market directives prohibit any kind of discrimination of sales based on national borders within the EU (though Norway isn’t technically in the EU).”

      Norway isn’t a member of the EU, but it is a member of the EEC/EEA, so the open market directives and the principle of free movement of goods, services etc apply as for any full EU member state.

      edit: Oh, and I might be mistaken here, but I think it is also illegal within the EEA to terminate access like this without a refund.

    39. This is the reason I’ll never own a Kindle or if I do, I’ll load it from my PC and turn off the WiFi. I’m not interested in “licensing” somebody’s book. It shouldn’t be very difficult to download a licensed book onto my PC and then load it onto a reading device that has a disabled WiFi. I’ve already got enough people looking over my shoulder, thank you. This is also why I avoid Facebook like the plague.

    40. The rot extends, alas, far deeper.

      Locks, they say, are for honest people. I like to pretend to be an honest person, so when I buy an ebook, I mostly leave it “as is”. There are a few exceptions to this arrangement, however.

      When I buy an ebook, I expect it to stay bought, regardless of what the bookseller or publisher thinks. It’s not like I’m seeing major price discounts on books in their e-formats. In fact, I can mention a few that cost as much or more electronically as they do in  hardcover form. If they want to get stuffy about “My Way or the Highway” licensing, I’m going to forgo electronic purchases altogether. After all, I managed to do that for years, even if the house IS about to explode as a result. Of course, I might also be sufficiently irritated to get my dead tree copies from a competitor, too.

      So periodically, I scan my downloaded books to ensure that I can still decrypt them at need. Since I’m fully aware that my bookseller may not support books punched in 80-column Hollerith cards and delivered by horse-drawn wagon when I fax them in a download request in 20 years or so and that new, incompatible formats and delivery methods may be the vogue at that time. This is, of course, assuming that the bookseller didn’t go the Borders route and turn off their servers altogether. I will NOT tolerate having my entire library evaporate overnight – especially at someone else’s whim.

      The original Barnes & Noble Nook devices kept their purchased book archives in the same filesystem as the general user files. So it was an easy task to side-unload them as local backups (still encrypted). If I lose Internet for a few days, I can always yank the local backup and read it.

      The color and tablet Nook devices changed all that. Now, if I purchase Great Expectations for 99 cents through Barnes & Noble and I download a copy straight from Gutenberg, I can still see and archive the Gutenberg copy which I got for free, but not the B&N copy, which I paid for – the purchased books are kept in an inaccessible storage area.

      With a certain amount of contorting, I can get around this at the moment. The easiest way, in fact, is to download to my pre-tablet Nook. But I’m going to seriously consider next time I buy an e-reader what it does with the things I “own”.

    41. Cory, your version of the story is the most probing I’ve found yet.  But what about the fact that she “bought a used Kindle on a Danish classifieds site”?  There’s the mysterious common “link”–Amazon, Apple, Google, they all make a record of the hardware IDs associated with each user. The previous owner could have done any number of things with the device before passing it on to Linn.  [edit: I see now that Simon asked that same question.] I’m not making excuses for Amazon–this is a chilling development.  It may be that we don’t have an inalienable right to resell even our hardware?

    42. “She’s merely violated the thousands of words of impossible fine-print that comes with your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iPad, as have all of us.”

      Not me.

      This is the sort of bullshit that makes me stick with paper.

    43. Blogger Martin Bekkelund (where Linn’s complaint originated) hasn’t approved my comment http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/#comment-106427 for over 12 hours, so I am posting it here instead.

      Regarding the true nature of Linn’s (non-)predicament outlined above, eddiedout http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/#comment-106347 already linked to Cory Doctorow’s comprehensive and so-far best explanation for what MAY have happened here: http://boingboing.net/2012/10/22/kindle-user-claims-amazon-dele.html

      Judging by AMZN’s customer rep’s fig-leaf replies, there is more to this story that Linnhas disclosed… (and I’m not saying that shehas to in order to have our sympathy forwhat befell her).

      Bear in mind however that, as we are talking of several geo-, and legal jurisdictions here, far removed from prevalent American legal frameworks, and of which some contradict, while others complement various regulations at stake, PLUS the twisted logick—no typo—of sales bound by synthetic geographical and other restrictions, most of your well-wished advice to Linn, and analysis, simply does not apply.

      Amazon is in it for the money, so treating a valuable customer like shit, wiping out her paid-for media collection, can not have been done willy-nilly, but as a result of some (acc. to their terms of sale) SERIOUS breach of those… in all probability what Cory D. says, attempts to bypass Amazon’s internal sales structure that directs all “open territory” customers to the American ebookstore. Linn says have had an account there, but that Michael fella, Customer Relations exec speaks directly of closing her Amazon.CO.UK one. So either Linn used a non-existent, or false UK address, which Amazon (now) checks against some master British zipcode DB, or she attempted a buy with the same credit card that she already used in other AMZN location (or a combination of the above and other… vectors?) Or something entirely different but—DO OBSERVE—still within legal rights of the Luxembourg-based bookdealer AS IT SEES IT – and, believe me, it can afford lawyers well vested in cross-national laws and jurisdictions, eagle-eyed parasites who, unlike Lynn and the rest of us, also have read and memorized the entire—as Cory said it —”thousands of words of impossible fine-print that came with [Linn’s] Kindle” (we’ve all been there).

      Observe that I am not defending Amazon, but it’s a complex world we live in, and Linn, who I take it is all grown-up and of sound mind, has entered into this loopsided “relationship” with an ebook hegemon of her own free will—and wallet.

      1.  Some pretty unfounded speculation you’ve got going there. Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk might technically be two different stores, but they use the same account database. If you’re shut from one you’re shut from them all. That UK customer support contacted her is reasonable since that’s who she had recently been dealing with due to a hardware fault on her Kindle, plus it seems likely that the office in Ireland deals with all accounts in Europe.

        It’s common practice for norwegians to use the UK store for hardware and paper books since it’s favourable for shipping and sometimes prices, while they force you to use amazon.com for ebooks. There’s no rule against using the same credit card between several stores, it’s actively encouraged by amazon.

        In any case, the issue here is as much about the manner in which the account is closed as the fact that it was. I’m sure there are many accounts that get closed for legitimate reasons, but mistakes happen and then you’re apparently screwed. Potentially facing significant losses, with no chance of appeal.

        Besides that, I’m curious about what legal footing amazon.co.uk uses to prohibit non-UK european citizens to freely purchase a good within the internal market (especially considering the ebooks “ship” from Luxembourg and not UK).

    44. I own worldwide rights to all my books, and set them as DRM free on Amazon. I sell my ebooks DRM free direct. The problem I see here is that Amazon thinks it is entitled to ownership of the content and sees itself as judge, jury and executioner when it comes to its customers. If you don’t like what Amazon is doing, stop buying from it, and I have always sold more ebooks through Apple’s devices than through the Kindle. This is probably due to so many pissed off customers going elsewhere. When you are dealing with proprietary software like on an ereader, you get what you pay for. The device makers are in deep competition for your buying dollars and will do anything to attract more customers. The problem is with keeping the ones they’ve got; and Amazon is batting 0 for 6.

    45. Let me be pragmatic here. Removing the DRM from Amazon Books is so ridiculously simple that anyone not backing up DRM-stripped copies of their ebooks is just bringing it onto themselves. Seriously guys, there is a calibre plugin for it. The backed-up files are tiny. You have no excuse,

      Of course it is illegal, but no one ever was and no one ever will be sued for breaking the DRM of their ebooks to back them up. Amazon are also way less aggressive than Apple in protecting their DRM. The tools to remove Apple’s DRM are quite hard to find, while the ones to remove the Amazon DRM are on a easily googled wordpress blog that Amazon has not taken down for years and also wildly distributed elsewhere. They are frequently mentioned on the amazon.de kindle forums without those mentions being deleted.

      You don’t even need to extract keys, the serial number of your kindle is enough to decrypt your ebooks. You could almost think Amazon was doing it on purpose. I think they know exactly what they are doing. They are making they DRM easy to strip with easily accessible tools on purpose. Because once ebook DRM falls in a few years, they will probably get more customers through it and just offer them to upload their other ebooks into the Cloud, thus servicing the ebooks better than some competitors without cloud storage,

      I am anti-DRM, but at least I’m pragmatic about it. You sound about as pragmatic as Richard Stallman is about using proprietary software. The Kindle DRM is about as scary and hindering as CSS on DVDs.

    46. As a Kindle author, I always put DRM on my offerings, because I like to think I will get paid for each copy. Unlike my physical books which can be shared with a handful of people; digital books can be shared with thousands at the click of a mouse. However I am horrified at the injustice of Amazon ‘wiping’ content after it has been sold..

      Also the ease with which DRM can apparently be circumvented, leads me to the conclusion that in future my books will be DRM free. I just hope that someone is kind enough to make the odd donation, so that me and my family can continue to eat..

    47. If publishers sell their books without DRM (as many small publishers do on Amazon, including Eltanin Publishing, of which I am a part), then all of this is a moot point. You can download the ebook file, back it up as you see fit, and load it onto any ereader you choose. Readers should push for this, and publishers should seriously consider this. Tor, a division of Macmillan, has gone DRM-free. I am sure more will follow, just as music downloads now have fewer restrictions than then once did.

      DRM only annoys the law-abiding folks. Pirates know how to strip it easily.

      Also, I want to point out that although initial reports said her kindle was wiped of content, she later said something like it didn’t help her if the books were still on that kindle – she couldn’t read them because the screen was broken, and she was upset that she could access her books from other devices. An understandable complaint – but the “remote wiping of a device” might never have happened.

      Cathy Ryan
      Editor-in-Chief, Eltanin Publishing

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