Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Reason Not To Buy Kindle UPDATE

Before you go looking, no, I haven't published any of my reasons for not buying a Kindle yet, so this isn't a subsequent posting. But, since you're probably curious...

1. Price: It's still a bit cost-prohibitive for me at this point, both for the reader and for the books/subscriptions I'd download.

2. No Backup: As far as I know, there's no way to back up the books you've purchased. Yes, I know Amazon saves your purchases so you can re-download if necessary, but I'd rather have a copy stored on my PC or on a CD. Because what if, heaven forbid, Amazon should go under? What happens to your purchase?

3. No Sharing: It's impossible to share a downloaded Kindle book. If I read a great book and wanted to share it with my friends, there'd be no way to just hand them a copy. We do it all the time with real books, but can't with Kindle (another reason to have my own copy on PC or CD). I suspect this is an issue that may eventually work itself out, in twenty years or so.

4. No Importing: I know I can e-mail pdf files to the Kindle, but I don't know if I can e-mail an e-book that already exists on my PC to the Kindle. I read the on-line guide and I can't see where this functionality exists...if it does. I have a small library of books on my PC and I'd love to be able to send them to an e-reader, but if I can't send them to a Kindle and read them just like I'd read something I downloaded from Amazon, then what's the point?


Amazon remotely deletes Orwell e-books from Kindles, unpersons reportedly unhappy (update)

If you're into keeping tabs on irony, check this out. Amazon apparently sent out its robotic droogs last night, deleting copies of the George Orwell novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four from Kindles without explanation, then refunding the purchase price. As you can imagine, a lot of people caught in the thick of Winston and Julia's love story aren't very happy -- and rightfully so -- the idea that we "own" the things we buy is pretty fundamental to... ownership. We're not sure exactly what happened, but it seems that the publisher of said novels, MobileReference, has changed its mind about selling content on the Kindle, and poof! Amazon remotely deleted all previously purchased copies. It's all a bit Orwellian, is it not? Good thing we "permanently borrowed" hard copies of both from our middle school library, huh? Let Hate Week commence.

Update: According to commenters on Amazon, this message was sent out from the company's customer service department:

The Kindle edition books Animal Farm by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) & Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell. Published by MobileReference (mobi) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase. When this occurred, your purchases were automatically refunded. You can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although a rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store.

While that publisher's version of the book may have been removed, it appears other versions of the novels are still available.

Update 2: Drew Herdener,'s Director of Communications, pinged us directly with the following comment, and now things are starting to make a lot more sense. Seems as if the books were added initially by an outfit that didn't have the rights to the material.

These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances.

Still, what's upsetting is the idea that something you've purchased can be quietly taken back by Amazon with no explanation and no advance notice. It's a rotten policy, regardless of the motivations behind this particular move.

I can understand Amazon's reasons for doing this but the last paragraph sums up my feelings. How can they take back a purchase without notice and without giving a clear reason at the time of "takeback"? If I had purchased a novel at a bookstore and they were recalled for some reason, it would be up to me to return my copy. Big Brother wouldn't come banging on my door and demand I turn over my copy.

If a book was ordered recalled from the stores, they would be removed from the shelves and be no longer available for sale and those that purchased the book could keep theirs--oops, you bought yours on Kindle, we're just going to take that back now, okay, there's a good little customer, oh don't cry, see, we're giving you your money back so everything's even now, okay?

Amazon says they're going to change their systems so that in the future they will not remove books from customers' devices. Do we really believe that? I mean, sure, we WANT to believe that, but who's to say they'll actually do it? And what does this say for the future of e-books and e-readers and all sorts of other e-transactions?

If Amazon wants to GIVE me a Kindle, thus saving myself the cost of one, I'd take it in a heartbeat because I'd love to explore its functionality and it would make taking books on vacation so much easier. But I'd be careful about what I'd put on it, knowing that they're out there, watching me.

Here's more on the topic from Slate magazine.

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