Reminder: You Don't Own Your Ebooks; Amazon Locks Customer Out And Doesn't Respond To Help Requests

from the you-don't-own-what-you-bought dept

We've pointed out in the past that if you're "buying" ebooks on devices like the Kindle or the iPad, it's important to remember that you're not really "buying" the books, and you don't really own them. We're seeing that once again with a story on Consumerist about a woman who was locked out of the ebooks on her Kindle for a month:
A month ago I bought a kindle and was really excited to use it on vacation. I bought a few books and when I was done, I bought another. Then they froze my account, so I called in and logged a case.

Within 48 hours I got a call back, saying it was an error on their side and they'd unfreeze it for me, but I'd just need to re-order the book. I thought no problem, thanks for the help. So I bought the book a second time and it automatically freezes me out again. I call in and log another case, but get no phone call back as promised from an account specialist.
This apparently has gone on for four weeks, involving approximately 20 phone calls and emails... and still no solution from Amazon. Anyone know of any case where the same thing happened with a physical book?


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  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 7:16am

    Yes...

    "Anyone know of any case where the same thing happened with a physical book?"

    Yes, but it's not EXACTLY the same. My case involved a paperback novel, a teething dog, and a tech support muzzle....

     

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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:11am

    Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    I bought a real book once. Not wanting to peek at how it would end, I started reading the first 340 pages of the book. It was supposed to have 360 pages, though. During print, they had accidentally left out the last 20 pages...
    Had to return to the bookstore where I had to buy a second copy, this time checking if the last 20 pages were indeed in it.
    So, I was locked out of the last 20 pages of a real book I've purchased... ;-)

     

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    chester, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:26am

    My wife is in grad school. Her last class required her to purchase three e-books for $80 each. They were locked pdf files that required her to be logged in to her school account to open them. So after graduation, she can't open them anymore. Worst part is the $240 is automatically added to her tuition. We had no choice but to rent the books for $240 when I could have bought the paper version for the same price or less.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    Who made you buy it again? Bookstore I worked at would just trade out a good one for the defective one (provided you bought the book there, of course). I recall paging through dozens of unsold copies of a book that had pages missing from the middle to find one for a customer who brought it to our attention. Good thing she did - nearly all of the shipment of that one book was defective.

     

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    Paul (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Unique to Software

    If you installed a pencil sharpener in your office, you wouldn't expect even the possibility that it would break on the pens on your desk.

    On the other hand, if you install a game on your PC, you always have a non-zero chance of breaking something else on your system (though increasingly unlikely with better operating systems...).

    In this case, what you have is a "feature" where a vendor (Amazon) can punish the customer for bad behavior, but the "feature" has a bug that punishes a customer because they purchased a badly configured product.

    The customer must beware that many of the digital products we buy require a network connection to call home in order to enable this "feature" of allowing a vendor to police their behavior. I have moved my household to open source to the maximum extent possible because of this and other policies becoming common in commercial software. It isn't really about the money. I can afford to buy software.

    I am increasingly avoiding commercial software (like Windows, Office, OS-X, iTunes, Kindle, etc.) because open source software delivers the same functions WITHOUT the loss of privacy/freedom and WITHOUT the higher risk of error and and WITHOUT having to pay out money and over fist for the same products over and over.

    I am still buying paperback books because there isn't any reasonable product that gives me the same freedom and security of a bound set of pages.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Re:

    I'm willing to bet that if you open them up in Foxit and turn off scripts, you'll be able to read them anywhere.

     

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    Cowardly Annon, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Can't say I would have bought the book a second time. I probablly would have downloaded a copy of it. If it is their issue, why is she paying again?

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:45am

    New Business model?

    I see amazon is on the AyC+RtP model. (Alienate your Customers + Reason to Pirate)

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:46am

    Re: Unique to Software

    I rooted my Nook. It's much better now. :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    I had a similar problem - not missing pages, but pages printed with ink that got fainter and fainter throughout the book including a couple of blank pages. After the blank pages the ink was nice and black for the rest of the book.

     

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    Adam, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:01am

    eBooks

    I have a Kindle (a gift), and I've read exactly 3 books on it precisely because I prefer to own what I buy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    And how many weeks did that take?

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: New Business model?

    AyC+RtP isn't a new business model.

    Unfortunately when the Internet took off, most of corporate America was run by tech ignorant executives. Their knee jerk reaction was to invent the AyC part of the model. It was only supposed to apply to Internet customers, but they didn't realize that the Internhet customers were also their regular customers who were looking a different outlet. Since the traditional businesses were not meeting a market need they got RtP out of the deal.

    Corporate America will continue to follow the AYC+RtP model as long as executives need to blame someone for their failures in other areas.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:05am

    Not for the iPad

    The iPad does not get ebook push updates the way the kindle does. That means: it downloads the book, and will work! Apple cannot remove it from your device the way Kindle does.

    Also: the books purchased via the iBook store are non-drmed! So I don't see how you could include the iPad in that claim.

    I would edit it to say Nook instead since barnes and noble ever so sneakily slipped the DRM back into their ebooks.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:07am

    Your question there de-railed this from Amazon...

    Long before the 20th call, the customer should have demanded her money back for the Kindle and the unusable ebooks. If they balk, a curt note saying your next move is small claims court will usually suffice to change their mind, and if forced into court, I've no doubt that it's an automatic win.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:09am

    I dont buy ebooks, but if I did, you can bet that I would spend some time exporting it into a pdf.

     

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    TPBer, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:15am

    Re: New Business model?

    Everything is a RtP :D

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Re: Not for the iPad

    The iPad does not get ebook push updates the way the kindle does. That means: it downloads the book, and will work! Apple cannot remove it from your device the way Kindle does.

    Want to bet Apple fanboi?

    Apple has a kill switch on EVERYTHING. Don't fool yourself. They've already used it on apps and don't deceive yourself into believing that the next time you connect your iPad to iTunes to sync that Apple can't have that removed from your iPad.

     

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    interval (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Easy solution

    Don't buy a kindle or any other reader where this is possible. I use an off-brand ereader that I found at my local supermarket for $150. Very happy with it, not possible for amazon to lock it up.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    I dunno, Peppermint Swirl AC, I think it's a bit harsh to refer to Minty Snowflake AC as a fanboi-- since Apple isn't exactly forthcoming with the knowledge that they can remotely mess with your device, your average user may not even know about it.

    If the part about DRM free books are true, I may actually buy ebooks from Apple one day. Okay, maybe not, but I *considered* it. Which is more than Amazon or B&N got from me. :)

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    WRONGO! Apple has removed apps from their store, NOT from devices. Apple can't delete files from your computer!

     

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    jenningsthecat (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:24am

    The defference between a defective bound book...

    ...and a defective eBook, is that the bound book's defect was an ACCIDENT, whereas the eBook's defect is BY DESIGN.

    Publishing/studio/recording industry wonks keep whining loudly about theft. But what about the theft THEY commit when, via DRM, they effectively steal a book/movie/song which a customer has legitimately and legally purchased? I guess that doesn't count as theft...

    If people would just stop buying DRM-damaged content, (yes, I know the student in this case had no choice), then the damaged content would disappear from the market. It's long past time that we, as consumers, put our collective foot down and let these presumptuous dictators know who REALLY holds their purse strings.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:25am

    This is not an eBook problem, this is a DRM problem. I buy lots of eBooks (~400 on my phone right now) and will never suffer from this problem because I vote with my dollars and will not vote for a broken (DRMed) book.

    If it wasn't tied to iTunes I would take a look at iBooks to see if they are actually DRM free.

     

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    jenningsthecat (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:26am

    Re: The defference between a defective bound book...

    Oops! That should have been 'difference! Sorry about that!

     

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    Finnius J. Whoopie, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:38am

    No problem here

    I buy my books from Barnes & Noble, then the first thing I do is strip the DRM off of them. Now I can use the same book on my ipad as well as my nook, and I am able to use the same books on anything that reads epub format. A quick google search will tell you how to do this.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Re: Easy solution

    I bought a sony pocket reader from woot and use calibre to manage the library. The ebooks I buy online get unlocked using various tools. Not (much of) a hassle :)

     

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    william (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:53am

    bah, damn those stinking DRMs.

    I have a kindle3 on order so I can do some reading until either new Sony reader is out or Nook 2 is out.

    But I am just going to side-load whatever Project Gutenburg books I want with Calibre. Amazon can take their proprietary format and their stinking account management to hell with it.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:57am

    I never buy ebooks. I buy a used paperback, download the ebook off irc and put it on my Chinese 7" PMP that has a great ebook reader on it. No DRM and no BS.

     

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    Kenny, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 9:58am

    "Anyone know of any case where the same thing happened with a physical book?"

    My physical books glue themselves shut when I violate the EULA..

     

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    johnny canada, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Think Android

    Very soon there will be adroid based tablets, nice open source, I may even consider getting one.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:28am

    and once more the illegal torrent copies of books are better than the ones you buy.
    just like videos...
    just like music...

    Apparently we live in a world where the only things you really own are the things you steal.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:29am

    "I'm willing to bet that if you open them up in Foxit and turn off scripts, you'll be able to read them anywhere."

    thanks for the idea, just tried it, didn't work

     

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    bob, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:29am

    I had a problem

    It was when the R. A. Heinlein trade paperback "The Number of The Beast" first came out. Part way through the book it repeated about a hundred or so pages. The story sort of flattened near the end. This is when he was suffering from a blockage of his carotid. After he had surgery to open it up, he want on to write a couple of books with a much better story telling arc.

    With all the stories about people not being able to read books that they paid for, why would anyone want a Kindle.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:48am

    With all the stories about people not being able to read books that they paid for, why would anyone want a Kindle.

    Physical Book + a Scanner is probably cheaper.

     

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    Eugene (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    Comic book shops are also really good about trading in defective copies. Granted, that's an especially big deal for them, since printing is such a vital aspect of the business. Especially now that graphic novels are taking off, and a lot of indie creators are using smaller upstart publishers to get their books printed. Printing defects, though still uncommon, are practically an inevitability anymore.

     

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  36.  
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    JC, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    But they can come out with a new version of iOS which requires you to upgrade an App which is no longer available. I've already lost one App this way.

     

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    ntlgnce, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:10am

    We dont own digital copies anymore?? WTF.

    I guess its time we start going back to the book store, and music store to buy our belongings,, (key word there belong!!) means belongs to US. NOT YOU. NOTE to companies, We OWN YOU, you do not own us, The consumer is ALWAYS RIGHT. Because its the consumer that will bring you business to its knees, and then burry it in the past like the dot.com era..

     

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  38.  
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    Comboman, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Not for the iPad

    eBooks purchased from iBook store use Apple's FairPlay DRM (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/02/apple-ibooks-drm-fairplay.html). The iBook reader will also read DRM-free ebooks in the ePub format which may have confused you.

     

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    Eugene (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    Sir, I like your naming conventions!

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re:

     

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  41.  
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    August West, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 11:56am

    I wonder

    I wonder how many people debated moving from stone to paper?

    "I won't ever use paper! I like my solid stone chiseled book! Only certain people can make paper, and I can get stone all over the place. Crazy paper people! Why would anyone want to change from stone?"

    I buy lifelong books in paper format. I buy novels and books I'll never again read in electronic format.

    ;-)

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    WRONGO! Apple has removed apps from their store, NOT from devices. Apple can't delete files from your computer!

    No, you're wrong, and the other poster was right. Apple can remotely disable applications you've purchased for your iPhone/iTouch/iPad. This is built in functionality. Now, I'm not sure they can kill DATA, but they certainly can kill apps... but I expect if it's data you've purchased, they can kill it.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re:

    Or just screenshot the text and run them through some OCR.

     

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    Arfnotz, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    kafka

    I once bought a book on Kafka, the one illustrated by bob crumb. As I'm plowing throught it, stuff starts seeming familiar - they had bound in an extra set of the last 40 pages.

    I love that book.

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:17pm

    Re: New Business model?

    or Annoy your Customers + Ruin the Product

     

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    chris (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    or "print" them to another PDF.

     

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  47.  
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    Jesse (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    Re: e-books vs physical books

    It's so much easier (& cheaper) to just buy a physical book used or go to [gasp!] the library.

    If I drop a paperback in the tub, I'm not out hundreds of dollars.

    I'm sure at some point I'll get an e-book reader of some sort for specific uses, kind of like how I buy both physical & digital music & video media, but right now the ratio of pros & cons is firmly on the book side!

    -J

     

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    Eugene (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Eerily reminds me of Jasper Fforde's concept of the UltraWord upgrade, from his Thursday Next series. It's a pseudo-magical/high tech upgrade that's going to be automatically applied to regular books for a higher quality reading experience; featuring night-glow print, real-time post-publication corrections, a massively overhauled story engine and...oh yeah...horrible, crippling DRM that makes it impossible to read a single book more than three times, among other things.

     

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    streetlight (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 4:14pm

    I don't buy book - I use the library

    The subject line says it all. I live in a city with a fantastic library system with a sufficiently good web site that I can reserve books and have them shipped to a branch which is about two blocks from my house. They will order via inter library loan and have purchased books on my recommendation. Ya, it takes a little longer than an instant download from the 'net, but I have a sufficient queue that I'm never out of reading material.

     

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    Thomas (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:12pm

    Corporations clearly don't understan..

    technology. Amazon usually has great customer service, but that's for books and such. They clearly don't know how to support things such as the Kindle and probably will hurt themselves in the long run; why buy books if they can suddenly be locked out? I'll stick to paper books. You can easily flip back a few pages and then return without a lot of hassle. I expected better from Amazon's tech support

     

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  51.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 1:07am

    Re: Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    Well, I bought the book in January, but started to read during the summer holidays. When I was nearly finished, it was Juli. When returning to the shop, asking for the last 20 pages, they told me it was my fault that those pages were missing. The book had some travel-damage so they claimed it was my fault those pages were missing. (Even though no traces of ripped-out pages were visible.) So they refused to replace the book. Since the book was only EUR 7.50, I couldn't be bothered to just continue my claim and just bought a new one.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 3:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Won't necessarily work. FreePDF printer driver e.g. adheres to the restrictions set in the PDF. Of course if you don't need a password to view the PDF you can easily remove any restrictions with Advanced PDF password recovery or something.

     

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    ethorad (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    Comic book shops might be glad of getting the misprints back - after all they might be worth more than the normal copies in future. Don't know many people who'd pay for a misprinted copy of Harry Potter

     

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  54.  
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    Danny, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Meanwhile....

    the paper copy of the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books I bought work just fine...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 7:34am

    I don't think taking a story from a site that thinks goatse is funny, is a very reputable idea.

    http://consumerist.com/2010/07/this-modern-claddagh-ring-looks-strangely-familiar.html

     

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  56.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    > WRONGO! Apple has removed apps from their store, NOT from
    > devices. Apple can't delete files from your computer!

    Actually we have seen apps mysteriously disappear from our iDevices. So this stuff does happen.

    If you don't have root on your device then you are at the mercy of whomever does. Anything you can't copy freely is just a glorified rental. The seller can revoke permission any time they like or simply go out of business.

    If you can't copy it or resell it, then you don't really own it.

     

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    vivaelamor (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Unique to Software

    "I rooted my Nook. It's much better now. :)"

    I'm looking forward to some Meego tablet action myself. Maemo on the N900 has whetted my appetite (and I intend to try Meego on that too as soon as it's released).

    It would be great if someone did a low end Meego device aimed at the nook/kindle market (or installed it on an existing device).

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 4:54pm

    Re:

    physical book + torrent is cheaper and faster

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 4:56pm

    Re: We dont own digital copies anymore?? WTF.

    yes we do own them much like a parent is the boss of a spoiled child

    the child crys till it gets what it want
    and lies it way out of any trouble

     

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  60.  
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    bill, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 7:20pm

    Same thing with me

    Reported suspicious activity on account they deleted due to suspicious activity and sent e-mail from amazon. (not a phishing mail got after I reported the activity and account had been deleted.

    Followed the directions to make new account but No response to e-mails set to the link they sent to get items transferred to new account.

    No response to e-mails to customer service.
    Hit the link for phone calls got a call (Indian off-shore person) that said sorry a lot and promised a follow up e-mail and correction of problem - no follow up - no items restored on new account.

    3 weeks for me so far.

     

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  61.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Sep 4th, 2010 @ 12:35am

    Re: I wonder

    I'm sorry... The advantages of paper over stone are huge compared to the advantages of digital on a specific reader device over paper.

    Regardless, only a very limited amount of people debated stone vs. paper.

     

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  62.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Sep 4th, 2010 @ 12:36am

    Re:

    Whatever your opinion on goatse, Consumerist rocks.

     

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  63.  
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    Ugly American, Sep 7th, 2010 @ 8:53pm

    Re: Yeah, I recognize the problem...

    I've had a few books over the years with printing or binding errors.

    Amazon shipped me replacements and pre-paid boxes to return the bad ones.

    The brick and mortar chain kept insisting that I must have bought the defective book someplace else and wouldn't exchange it so I left the defective book there, had my bank reverse charges and never shopped there again even though it's right by where I work.

     

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

  64.  
    identicon
    Angry Voter, Sep 7th, 2010 @ 9:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not for the iPad

    You've been sold down river and don't even know it.

    All the new Apple computing devices have hardware TCM built in. So do Intel based HPs, Dells and AMDs with on board ethernet chips.

    I know for a fact it's possible to power on, read the drive and even flash the BIOS on those machines over the net. Even when it's turned off. I've seen it done in person.

    Google TPM, MAC, ISO/IEC 11889 and if you have access read the extended PATRIOT and PATRIOT II acts. Read the part that expands the secret executive orders from Reagan that put serial numbers in everything from fax machines to children's walky-talkies in the 80s.

    By the way, copy machines keep a copy of everything you copy on them and printers put secret yellow dots that look like mistakes but really show the serial number. Even your cameras put fingerprints in your pictures and have for years.

     

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


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