Amazon Kindle DRM Strikes Again: You Don't Really Own Your eBooks

from the know-what-you're-buying dept

We've pointed out a few times that, no matter how cool a device the Amazon Kindle may be, it's got some serious DRM problems, highlighting that, unlike with a real book, you don't actually "own" the books on your Kindle. Yet another example of why is getting some attention this week. Consumerist points us to a guy who suddenly was having trouble redownloading ebooks he had bought, despite the fact that Amazon supposedly allows you to download the books again and again. At first, he was told that some publishers put a secret-hidden-nobody-can-tell-you limit on how many times you could download, but then after multiple confusing discussions with multiple different Amazon customer service reps, the guy thinks the real issue is actually that some publishers can put a secret-hidden-nobody-can-tell-you limit on how many devices you can download the books to.

While the "updated" version isn't as bad as the original, it's still pretty bad. These are secret limitations on what people bought that were not clearly laid out at all -- and, in fact, which seem to contradict what customers have been told about the ability to do multiple downloads of a purchased book. Furthermore, the fact that you would need multiple customer service reps -- many of whom provided the wrong info -- to try to figure out why you can't access a book you purchased legally means you've got a problem. Every time you think that content providers have learned that DRM is a bad thing that does nothing but harm customer value, it crops up again, with someone believing that it actually has some sort of benefit.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    "no matter how cool a device the Amazon Kindle may be"

    A hideous piece of hardware, filled to the brim with DRM, with a 1980's black and white screen, which is way too big to fit in your pocket, which costs a whopping 400 bucks, which does nothing unless you pay for it, which has a "limited" web browser, which is in search of a problem that does not exist (books are already portable and you can already read e-books on your multipurpose netbook, which costs only $250!)...

    I could go on and on. Exactly how could the Kindle be considered a "cool device"? I'm really confused on this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Nicholas Oliveira Frota, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    DRM is always a service

    DRM is a service disguised as a product.

    Since it's paid upfront, the provider has no incentives to make the service better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    jake, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    publishing

    i think this is just a temporary state of affairs. when e-ink technology improves and becomes widespread (cheap) "piracy" will take care of rest, just like it did with music. personnally, i am looking forward to being able to read every book ever published in the history of mankind for free. i just hope it wont take decades for publishers/authors to discover the old formula cwf+rtb=$$$

     

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  4.  
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    Overcast (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    No - I DO OWN my books.

    However; I don't own a Kindle. I prefer to really 'own' my books. Now and forever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    Anyone remember DivX?

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Re: publishing

    I've been doing some reading into the publishing world as I have been planning on submitting something for consideration, and I've not come across "cwf+rtb=$$$" thus far.

    What is it?

     

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  7.  
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    Yohann, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    I hear there's a new type of DRM coming to shelves. You buy the hardware, but don't actually get the hardware due to DRM. You can buy batteries but they're not included in the batteries themselves due to DRM. You can buy an adapter plug, but the copper is under DRM so you don't actually get that. You could actually take the hardware apart but then they'll get you for breaking about eighty six patent laws. You can solder wires to the recharge circuitry because of no adapter, but that breaks DMCA. If you write your own books and upload them to your hardware, you're illegally using the DRM'ed memory chips inside, so now you have to pay up. Plus, by writing your own book, you've infringed on Webster's Dictionary for using words in that...

     

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  8.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:26pm

    Re:

    I always ask the same thing about iphones, but people seem to love those too. Meanwhile, tethering, better reception, better battery life and spending about 400$ less for a G1 that has 32GB of storage has paid off a lot more.

    Kinda was a poop in a box. Some people like that, I guess.

     

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  9.  
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    JD, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 2:35pm

    No publisher DRM choices at AmazonDTP

    I used Amazon's DTP to upload a book and make it available as a Kindle edition, and there were no choices regarding any DRM.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re: publishing

    Connect with fans + reason to buy?

    At least Mike is always saying something along those lines.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    FUD Haters, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 3:22pm

    Re:

    "A hideous piece of hardware, filled to the brim with DRM, with a 1980's black and white screen, which is way too big to fit in your pocket, which costs a whopping 400 bucks, which does nothing unless you pay for it, which has a "limited" web browser, which is in search of a problem that does not exist (books are already portable and you can already read e-books on your multipurpose netbook, which costs only $250!)..."

    Unreal. Are your paperback novels in color? No? Then stfu. Can you shove a copy of harry potter into your shirt pocket? No? Then stfu. The Kindle and DX can do a shitload of things without paying a dime for a book, you moron. It's called Whispernet...which provides INTERNET ACCESS for free. You can download MILLIONS of free books over this ALWAYS-ON INTERNET CONNECTION.

    Have you tried reading a novel on your netbook for more than 15mins? That headache you start to feel is the result of staring at that shitty LCD screen. With e-ink, you can literally read for hours...days...weeks at a time.

    Slam the Kindle and DX for being expensive, for poor button placement, or other REAL issues...spreading this FUD just makes you look the fool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:06pm

    HELLO!!!!!!!!

    DRM - Digital RENTAL Media

    Once everyone understands this, They will stop getting RIPPED OFF!

    Not 1 cent for ANYTHING with DRM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    FUD Haters - The Sequel, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re:

    "Have you tried reading a novel on your netbook for more than 15mins? That headache you start to feel is the result of staring at that shitty LCD screen. With e-ink, you can literally read for hours...days...weeks at a time."

    Hmm. I've read several hundred ebooks between my current WinMo smartphone, my Clie, my Palm color and my Palm B&W. Oh, and one or two books on a Nokia flip-phone. Took me about 12 years. Vision's still 20/15.

    The readability of an LCD really varies a lot from one person to another. Now, I do get eye-strain when I read a CRT for 4-30 hours straight. But, thanks to cheap LCD monitors, I don't have to do that so much anymore.

    I miss the old DOS Populous. That and Civ II/III are the only games I've ever enjoyed playing straight on for more than a few hours at a stretch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    Since it's still around, and still used as a standard? Yeah, I 'remember' DivX...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:37pm

    I own a Sony E-book reader. It may not be as feature rich as a Kindle, but I love the screen, the buttons are just right for me and I can read on it for hours upon hours without any issue. The Sony reader also doesn't have any DRM issues like the Kindle does. I mostly download my books and convert them to RTF or PDF and read away.

    It's unfortunate that the Sony line of Ebook readers get so little press in the shadow of the Kindle. I'm not going to say it's a better product, but it is a hell of a lot cheaper and a much better value for people who know where to find ebooks besides through a DRM laden storefront.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Book Reader, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re:

    Wow man you sound like the idiot. Do you sell Kindles or something?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Thomas, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    Confused

    So if I buy a Kindle and then buy a download I'm still dependent upon Amazon allowing me to read the book next week? Is it checking against some database every time you open the book? agh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    How about this? DONT BUY ONE

    For other people, who are informed about the negatives of DRM and all, who like the positives, are free to buy one.

    I happen to have a Kindle, and it is great. It wont save the whales or make coffee, but for reading books, which I enjoy, it is the best thing for me. The internet connection means I can get (buy) a book when I want it, and I don't have to reconnect to my PC. The "b/w screen" uses so little power it doesnt need to be charged for weeks at a time with daily use.

    Overall, in my opinion, very useful and has already paid for itself. You don't like it? Don't buy it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    wizened (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Amen

    And I might add to this, that no one is making you buy books from Amazon. The device works just fine with any of the several million free etexts and pdf files that are already out there for free. The electronic ink screen is easy on the eye in the brightest sun and on the corner of my sofa before bed. The device and the content are 2 different things. I'm not a fan of DRM but I do enjoy the Kindle. For those of you that I just disagreed with, enjoy your tantrum.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:02pm

    Re: Re:

    "Are your paperback novels in color?"

    But why should the kindle be limited to only what a book currently does? That makes no fricken sense. A book already does what a book does, it's cheap, it's portable, and the technology has been around for centuries.

    My little discussion is about whether the kindle is cool. If you think a $400 book mimicking device is cool, you're an idiot. I think that if the Kindle is ever cool, it has to offer more than merely mimicking exactly what a book already does, at an exorbitant price.

    "Can you shove a copy of harry potter into your shirt pocket?"

    No, but I can shove it in my short's pocket. Portability problem solved. Are you a retard or what?

    "Have you tried reading a novel on your netbook for more than 15mins? That headache you start to feel is the result of staring at that shitty LCD screen."

    Have you considered those headaches might be caused by a something else, like maybe a brain tumor. That could explain your inability to make any sort of rational argument.

    "spreading this FUD just makes you look the fool."

    Exactly what fear, uncertainty, and doubt did I spread? That is what FUD stands for. Apparently you didn't know that because your accusation makes no fricken sense.

    All I did was point out that the Kindle is not cool. The only cool thing you came up with is piracy. I guess that could be considered cool, but you don't need to spend $400 bucks on a piece of crap hardware to do it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Griff, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    Re: Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    The person making the comment was actually referring to the DIVX system, which was the result of an unholy marriage between Circuit City and a law firm.

    Some would say that the current DivX MPEG-4 name is a play on the previous system's name...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 7:47pm

    Re: DRM is always a service

    This is like calling the IRS a service (the Internal Revue Service), it's more like a disservice IMO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Tagbert, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 10:27pm

    Be cool

    Ima,

    Yes, the Kindle is cool. I find that I read a lot more now that I have one. The reading experience is just so much better for me than a book. Books are heavy, bulky, clumsy, and dead.

    The price is well worth the convenience to me. On the other hand, a similarly priced xbox would be overpriced junk for which I have no need.

    The Kindle can be filled up with lots of non-DRM books both free and commercial as well as your own documents. Yes, the publisher demand DRM. Most ebook publishers do. This is the same for most ebook readers, not just Amazon's. I hope that eventually, this phase will pass. If not, I won't cry over it. There are very few books that I care enough about worry about whether I own it or not. Most of those I still buy in dead tree editions. I don't know the particulars about the original story here. Like many such stories, the full truth can be a tricky thing.

    There are upsides to books and downsides. Same with an ebook. For many of us, the ebook upsides outweigh the downsides. For you, the opposite. That's OK with me if its OK with you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 10:46pm

    Re: Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    I think you're thinking of the wrong DivX. Here's a link to the DivX the OP was talking about.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIVX_(Digital_Video_Express)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    pleasedontreadthis (profile), Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 10:48pm

    Re: Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    I think you're remembering the wrong DivX.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIVX_(Digital_Video_Express)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    DJ Science (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:32am

    Reasons....

    Reason #256 why I don't own a Kindle. I have enough trouble finding time to read books, nevermind trying to circumvent DRM and breaking a federal law (DMCA) just to read something I've paid decent money for. Feh - I'll just pay the extra $3.00 and have a paperback I can lend to my friends or donate once I'm done with it.

    Has anyone ever actually made the argument that DRM hurts the public because something purchased with DRM can't be DONATED? I know that when I first starting sampling, I would go to the goodwill and pick up vinyl albums for $1.00 a pop. I felt a little better knowing that my $20.00 here and $10.00 there was going to a good cause. I'm sure book readers who scour the thrift stores of the country know what I'm talking about. However, you can't donate a Kindle book to charity, afaik....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Bill in NC, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:35am

    Kindle is...OK

    I have the Kindle 2.

    It is very convenient if you buy a lot books on impulse, or are addicted to NY Times bestsellers ($9.99 each), or must have a major daily newspaper that is not sold locally (e.g. NY Times, LA Times, Financial Times)

    For just reading books it's a very expensive platform.

    The contrast of the e-ink display is nowhere near that of a printed page, and needs a strong light source (ideal outdoors, even in full sun)

    Graphics are...very muddy and essentially worthless on the display as it is now.

    In summary, a convenient platform to hold hundreds of books, but you pay a heck of a price for that convenience.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    hegemon13, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    To be fair, though, the OP misspelled the name. Circuit City's system was DIVX. The modern codec is DivX.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Ann, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    No device limit

    I work for a publisher and provide our products to Amazon for use on the Kindle and can definitively say that there is nothing in the contract about limiting the number of devices to which a user can download their Kindle titles. This is just not an option and I'm surprised only one other person has chimed in to this effect. Perfect example of the internet acting as a rumor-monger.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Joe Schmoe, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    "I work for a publisher and provide our products to Amazon for use on the Kindle and can definitively say that there is nothing in the contract about limiting the number of devices to which a user can download their Kindle titles..."

    Many, I'm sure, would like to believe you [and that is not to say you are lying], it's just that DRM exists to do exactly just the opposite.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Diane K., Jun 24th, 2009 @ 7:46pm

    Kindle and DRM

    I read Kindle books on my iPhone. If the publishers are building in DRM - they will have to do it cross-device and quite frankly, I don't think they're that smart. Some of them don't even have computers in their offices yet!

    As an author, I'm using Publish and Market to prepare my book in paper, Kindle, multi-media ebook and .pdf. I plan to have all platforms covered and may the best man win!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Jake, Jul 14th, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Re:

    I've read entire novels on my computer in one sitting, and I've never gotten a headache doing it. In fact, I prefer LCDs to paper, paper does not have a backlight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Bryan, Sep 5th, 2009 @ 3:05am

    There's an easy way to handle these kinds of problems

    Charge it back to Amazon through your credit card for their product not meeting fitness of purpose. You get a full refund, and Amazon gets zinged with a penalty from their bank.

    If it happens enough, they'll change their policies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Kindling, Sep 26th, 2009 @ 12:06am

    TMI - get a life

     

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  35.  
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    Kindle 3 Case Guy, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 3:38am

    I don't agree

    Yes - amazons drm is restrictive but so is itunes but does that mean you just ignore itunes? The fact is that - amazon is the one company that will be pushing publishers to convert to e-book format and they need paying for that. I think the vast majority of anti-drm people just don't want to pay a fair price.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    No fool, Sep 4th, 2010 @ 11:35pm

    DRM is broken

    The solution for me is simple.
    Purchase a book, run unswindle to remove the DRM and then backup the file. It's fair use!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Didn't we already learn this doesn't work?

    Not that DivX. The old one, where you bought a movie on what looked like a DVD or CD, and it would only play for a limited time (or number of plays, I don't know), after which, it was a coaster... That DivX. It's not around any more. The DivX encoder / video format is different, and unrelated, except for the name.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Laraine, Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    Re: publishing

    Do you know what will happen if this state of affairs comes about? Well, authors will stop writing and publishers will stop publishing. People deserve to get paid for their work. How would you like it if somebody dipped into your pay packet and took what they wanted? That is exactly what piracy does to authors, musicians, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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