Having your account frozen at Amazon means losing ongoing access to your ebooks

A woman who placed a big computer order at Amazon had her account frozen while they tried to verify her credit-card, a process that went horribly awry (they demanded that she fax them her bank-statement, which she did, eight times, but they never got it, and who knows where those eight copies ended up). As a result, she is no longer able to access her Amazon account, including her Kindle ebooks. She can still presumably read them on her existing devices (assuming they don't remotely wipe them), but can't activate any new devices and until and unless she resolves this bizarre situation, her books will disappear forever when her Kindle breaks or its battery wears out.

That's right: if you order too many computers from Amazon, they might take away your books.

Amazon Cancels My $6,000 Order Because It Doesn’t Know How To Use A Fax Machine


  1. That is why one should always back up one’s e-library with the appropriate liberation software…

    1. Yes one should…except for the notion that in this DRM, anti-“piracy” driven world, doing so will likely get you the firing squad.  The only way to avoid legal troubles is to get someone else to back up the files for you, then brutally murder them.

      1. At first I read your comment as a reply to anon0mouse… it was funny that way.

    2. That is why one should always download pdfs of the books you want from TPB and fuck publishers and ebook retaillers who insist on you reading the books you paid for on their shit devices for all eternity.

      If I can’t find it on teh interwebs as a pdf I’ll buy a dead tree copy until my rights to resale or transfer of digital books catch up with my rights to sell or transfer the dead tree copy.

      DRM: why I won’t buy your things and why I enjoy breaking the locks.

          1. A PDF is designed for printing, and as such pretty much “fixed” in its layout. You can zoom, but you can’t get text to reshape according to the zoom – you have to pan.

          2. If you’re reading a book on a phone you’re doing it wrong. Still haven’t seen any pdfs that don’t look fine and totally readable on my 7″ tablet.

            For reading on a phone you have a fair point but I see myself doing that exactly: never.

          3. I read using the Kindle – an old model, a 3 years old Kindle Keyboard. I insist: PDFs are only good for certain materials. Regular books made of text are not among them.

    3. Dear Calibre, I love you.  You give me a one click method of backing up my kindle books, so I can read them on my nook.
      Also that means that amazon can’t take all my books away from me.

  2. This is why torrent’s exist. She’s paid for them, they’re her’s, now just go get yourself another copy.

        1. She said; You, got. to-mix?them!up: She showd? me” how, to mix! them; up, and now! I can. mix (up all? kinds of punctuation— in, my. writing! There” are lots, of rules; to learn? but. Im’ get’ting them in my head:

      1. Hahaha! Taht’s qiute the eye you hvae theer. Ok, I’ve dnoe smoe deep raeesrch adn apprnately teh corerct way to prulalize “torrent” is ovboiusly: “torrents'”

        Tahnks for svaing my sas.

  3. Remember the quaint world of ‘1984’ where you had to go to all the trouble of incinerating something just to make it go away? Thanks to modern advances in rights-management technology, such tedious labor is a thing of the past! 

  4. If I can’t remove DRM from it, I won’t buy it.

    The fact that one can still fairly easily remove DRM from Kindle books suggests Amazon doesn’t really care as long as they can say “DRM” when negotiating contracts with evil publishers.

    Oh, and Bezos needs to come down on this kind of customer service idiocy like a pallet of unread business books.  Either that, or someone needs to remove “notorious micromanager” from his Wiki page.

    1.  Amazon owns Audible, the largest audiobook distributor in the world. They won’t allow audiobook publishers to opt out of DRM, even when they ask (we tried). I don’t think it’s credible to claim that Amazon uses DRM because the publishers want it. It’s much more likely that they use it because it makes it illegal to develop automated tools to move your ebooks from a Kindle to a competing device. The fact that these tools exist is nice, but you’ll never see (for example) BN.com offering a “Switch to the Nook and take your Kindle books with you” tool.

      1. I was unaware that Amazon enforces DRM even when a publisher requests otherwise.

        Following your argument, it makes the DoJ’s lawsuit against Apple for conspiring to raise ebook prices all the more ironic:  The DoJ is focused on ebook pricing models while completely ignoring the use of DRM to create vendor lock-in.

        1. In India. Other countries still use the wire. Kindof. At least, the service is still offered.

          1. Copper is so valuable, all the other wires have already been stolen. Speaking of wires… is ‘Wired’ magazine still relevant? Maybe a name change is in order…

    1.  Oh, they’re still used. I have had conversations with people about how I can’t scan a document and email it to someone for them to print out, as that wouldn’t be an ‘official piece of paperwork’, whereas a fax would. I think she thought the paper got teleported to the other end, or something
      (in fact, I have been told this more than once. By different people).

      1. I used to fax things to a company in another country that would insist on sending their replies to me by mail, so instead of being able to get a reply within one or two business days I’d have to wait weeks.

        Then they finally got email. I sent them an email query, and a couple of weeks later a printout of my email with their reply very nicely typed below arrived in the regular mail.

        Some people are very slow to adapt to new technology.

      2. It’s kinda hilarious that some people think that a low-resolution fax is more real than a high-resolution pdf.  If the company you’re dealing with is in the US, clue them in to the ESIGN Act of 2000.  

  5. Wish I had known it was a Consumerist link, so I could’ve found the story elsewhere.

  6. So, how long before the Strisand effect kicks in and Amazon realizes that this is giving them a black eye, and they fix the problem and claim that if the user had just contacted customer support (which she did) this could have all been cleared up a lot earlier?

    1. If 1984 didn’t do it, this won’t either.   In the meantime, just help all your friends install the appropriate plugins in Calibre.

  7. We elderly don’t have this problem with our books made of papyrus. For ten years I have been wondering why I would want a Kindle or whatever. Several times a year we get stories of DRM going haywire and Amazon or somebody refusing to give a damn. Thank you, papyrus!

    That said, I wonder why somebody doesn’t set up a competitor that only offers DRM-free medial. They could take a good-size chunk of Amazon’s market.

  8. Meanwhile, Adobe thinks “renting” all your applications is a fantastic idea to fleece its customers.

    The customers, on the udder hand, seem to want Adobe to go to hell…

    Survey: Creative Suite users loathe Adobe’s subscriptions

    (Now pushing 33,000 signatures already, please add yours)


    Go figure? People want to own perpetual licenses for products they purchase (to resell or keep indefinitely after purchase)…? Ridiculous!

    And, here’s Adobe… yet another corporation that would prefer that Americans don’t own anything.  Like usual, this isn’t hurting pirates, it’s hurting legitimate customers.

    1.  Maybe it is so… But on the other hand, it is a sweet, sweet deal for startups short on cash. The devil’s tongue speaks oh so, so sweetly…

      1. it is a sweet, sweet deal for startups short on cash.

        In which universe?

        You can purchase Adobe CS6 Design Standard (includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, etc.) from Staples right now with a perpetual license for $450.00 with free shipping on the startup’s credit card and make monthly payments on the card.

        With that option you can pay less during lean months and pay more as the business grows to pay off the balance before the interest raises the price significantly.

        Meanwhile… with Creative Cloud, for those same apps you pay 50 dollars a month no matter what or you lose access to the apps. And, well before a year is up you’ve already paid more (and that’s including avg. credit card interest on the Staple’s purchase).

        Also, if the startup does fail, the Staple’s Design Standard is an asset and can be sold. With Creative Cloud, you have… nothing. You have to factor that in for a VC, by the way.

        Sounds like a startup that likes to waste money and take unnecessary risks. No VC money for you.

        Also, what is your cash-strapped startup going to do when Adobe decides to double the rent on your ass and you have to pay up the ransom or lose access to all your hostage apps and (by proxy) your proprietary format files?

        And, how long will your startup survive when there’s an inevitable bug, glitch or hack with the subscription server and all your apps go bye-bye when they phone home and it errantly shows your subscription is invalid? All this right in the middle of a critical project your business depends on for survival?

        You don’t have to worry about any of that with a perpetual license and if your business is short on cash, you can use a credit card for the purchase.

        Creative Cloud only benefits Adobe. Don’t be fooled.

        1.  I’m an illustrator, so I’ve seen a lot of discussion on this.

          The consensus among most artists/designers I’ve seen (many of whom are still using CS4 or even CS2) is “buy CS6 for when I’m forced to upgrade, use that until it absolutely doesn’t work at all. Then switch to an alternative program if Adobe has not abandoned this terrible model.”

          Right now there’s not really one program that does everything Photoshop does (except maybe GIMP, which has interface issues) but there are a lot of programs that do some of the tasks of Photoshop, many of them cheap or free. If Adobe sticks with this, I guarantee that somebody will come along and code a viable alternative that doesn’t break the bank to buy.

          1. I would like to see that!

            We’re owning a multiple-copies CS4, which we never upgraded (because, money).  After upgrading to Win7 and setting some machines to a UK locale, I can’t get the software to work on those. It won’t accept our key. Help from Adobe: 0. Since it’s CS4, who would give a fuck there.
            But ‘please buy our latest program’.
            Sure, I did so with lightroom 3.2 – just to be stuck on the Adobe DL page. Could not get my file with the links provided, for several months, on multiple machines. Mailing back and forth did not bring me any solution – but after several months, they fixed it. Just before the next version came out…

            Screw them.

          2. The consensus among most artists/designers I’ve seen (many of whom are still using CS4 or even CS2) is “buy CS6 for when I’m forced to upgrade, use that until it absolutely doesn’t work at all. Then switch to an alternative program if Adobe has not abandoned this terrible model.”

            It’s really, really bad… (graph below from my former link in my previous post)

            I’ve been seeing where Adobe and the mass financial media are trying to polish this turd with bloated figures.  Sales are already declining and net income for Adobe has declined 66 percent.  Granted the net income also went down because they are collecting “rent” instead of selling entire perpetual licenses at once, but that doesn’t explain the drop in sales.

            I think Adobe has been using weasel wording to inflate perceived sales by saying things like, “12.8 million people are using its desktop creative products.”

            That’s NOT Creative Cloud purchasers.   That’s CS6, etc.  They’ve also been sketchy in describing how many actual Creative Cloud purchasers there has been as well.

            They say there’s now, “… 700,000 users of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software …”

            Notice they don’t say “customers”?  Do these 700,000 users (nice round number) include everyone that’s only using the TRIALS and haven’t paid for Creative Cloud?

            Adobe investors should demand more transparency from Adobe on this.

            I think Creative Cloud has been a flop and Adobe is trying to hide it with deceptive weasel wording.  Look at everyone who’s giving the stock a “hold rating” while they wait and see if this bullshit floats.

            It’s time for the CEO, Shantanu Narayen, to step down and for Adobe to apologize for this blunder.  They need to offer a perpetual license again along with a discount to show some respect and humility towards all the longterm customers they’ve alienated at this point.

            Even then, I think a lot of damage has been done to Adobe’s reputation and people are still going to push for better alternatives they’ll switch to once it’s practical.

          3. I’m in the print business, this issue is discussed a lot on the print forums. Most users hate it.  Unnecessary expensive upgrades just because your customers now have the latest creative suite.

  9. Amazon should not have asked for her to fax a bank statement.   There must be some other means to verify a credit card, say by…. contacting the credit card company (with her on the line at the same time). 

  10. Ah yes, I love Boing Boing criticising capricious accounts management. Reminds me of when I had my account entirely deleted because I criticised Douglas Rushkoff. 

    The argument BB used – via the social manager was – this is our space, if we don’t like you, go away. Why is Amazon different? 

    1.  Because you weren’t spending six grand for the privilege of criticising Douglas Rushkoff?
      (I think he can be rather silly myself, but I ain’t paying either).

    2.  Because you didn’t buy ebooks from Boing Boing? I mean, I’m just guessing, but I really think I’m on to something, there. But yeah. Same. Exact. Thing.

    3. Besides the fact that your sad, sad tale has no actual parallel to the subject of this post, bitter much?

      1. So you are seriously deleting comments selectively and repeatedly to put yourself in a better light? [context for anyone reading this, in case is stays up – Antinous is deleting specific comments that reply to the larger point and his previous inputs]. You suck major ass. 

        The idea that this site lectures the world on etiquette for online communities and free expression when it has you as a moderator is just absurd. I detect that you follow no obvious rules of conduct other ‘whatever you like’, which is no model for anything. 

  11. Well that’s just bad business, and is a whole other point.

    My point – hardly a serious one – is just to note that everyone Cory D opines on the injustice meeted out by all these privatised and co-opted net spaces, I find a pointed irony in how I was treated by his own fiefdom, and it reminds to look askance at the credibility of those that challenge the reasonableness of these private actors. 

    Past a certain point, it seems like everyone will protect their turf in a crude way, Boing Boing no less than Amazon. Sucks when it happens to you, but they have their own reasons to. 

    I just find the hypocrisy gives me wry smile, that’s all. 

      1. Ah the sound of someone reaching for irrelevant authority – Zen koan?  – who is incapable of observing his/her own peccadilloes  nor the modestly reasonable final whinge  of a mildly wronged fellow-traveller and cannot resist trying to get the final word. 

        So great to be back on a true interwebz site, where nothing – even irrelevancies – is left unsaid. 

        1.  Oh, don’t be such a tool. I think I remember the article your whinge was on, as it goes. Seeing as Rushkoff is a personal friend of the owners of the site, what the fuck do you expect?

  12. That is why you liberate your Amazon books with Calibre and the fitting plugin. So the book you purchased actually stats your book.

  13. Honestly, this post makes me wonder if Cory actually read the article he linked to. The situation was resolved, and the woman got a $100.00 credit to her account and an e-mail saying they’ll fix the problem with their procedure.

    I used to work for a credit card provider and it sounds like what kicked this off was someone at the customer’s bank not knowing what they were doing. And, they do legally need faxes. The law is silly but it does exist. And, faxes sometimes just fail to come through (sometimes repeatedly) for no apparent reason. Amazon should have tried again with the bank again and talked to a manager.

    Also, Amazon really needs a way to freeze ordering without freezing the rest of the account. And, they should stop with the transparent lie about the department authorizing the cards not having phones.

    1. What is this “toner” you speak of? And who are phones?

      Would you have clicked on an article that said …happily ever after?

      Amazon implemented the total shut-down protocol to cut off people who used Amazon as their personal rent-a-center and dressing room. They probably just never got around to a more graduated approach.

      I support Amazon nixing customers who drive up costs for the rest of us with excessive returns, but, as a customer, it would be a lot more reassuring if they were more transparent about it, particularly given their colossal market-share. Yes, I understand that they want to avoid people abusing the system by staying just under whatever the offending limit and/or cost ratio is. But, as someone who does a lot of shopping on Amazon and rarely returns anything, I’d be fine with a low limit that was clearly indicated, thereby removing the possibility of them using it as a cover to nix customers for other stuff. Opacity undermines trust.

  14. The more I learn about ebooks the more I don’t like them.  It’s nice to have a digital reader, but all the aspects of *renting* content, and so forth seem a bit much.

    1. As a printer, I love books. But I have to say I love my e-reader (kobo), I am doing more reading than ever.  There are countless public domain books, classics etc., as well as library e-books.  As far as Christmas gifts, I usually ask for a kobo gift card for the odd e-book that I do buy.  

      1.  Kobo sounds interesting.  Old-style easy to read screen.  Is it compatible with kindle & nook books?  What about PDFs?  Does it dispense with internet browsing?

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