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?

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: amazon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

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

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

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… 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Eugene (profile) says:

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.

Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

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.

Ugly American says:

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.

chester says:

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.

Paul (profile) says:

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.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

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).

fogbugzd (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

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. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

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.


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.

Angry Voter says:

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.

out_of_the_blue says:

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.

jenningsthecat (profile) says:

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.

bob says:

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.

ntlgnce says:

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 era..

August West says:

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.


Jesse (profile) says:

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!


Eugene (profile) says:

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.

streetlight (profile) says:

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.

Thomas (profile) says:

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

bill says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...