Here’s another story of Amazon malfeasance, from the Consumerist. Writer Laura Northrup tells the story of a Kindle owner named Ryan who discovered in October that he could not log onto his account, containing over $1,000 worth of e-content for his Kindle. He contacted Amazon representatives, and they explained that his account was “on hold” but they could not tell him why. Now it’s the end of November, and he still can’t access the content he paid for.

Ryan writes:

I have filed a complaint with the BBB, emailed everyone I could at Amazon, called the Customer Service Line, the Kindle "Executive" support line, and Corporate. I have been apologized to by everyone I have spoken to and been told that they have never seen this situation before.

None of them can tell me if I will ever receive the content I have paid for.

The Consumerist also links to two earlier stories of people who also lost access to their Amazon accounts for no really clear reason.

The comments on the article are also instructive: one person advises use of “Calibre, mythical drm-remover plugin, local storage.” Another writes:

Man this really scared me about my collection. So I went and checked. I opened a couple books on my shelf and they all worked as expected. Even the signed autographed editions were still present. Best part: Not one ever has a battery go bad where I cannot read it where and when I want it.

Another writes, of the Nook Color she was given by her sister who no longer wanted it:

I rooted it, installed Cyanogen Mod, and it’s a pretty badass little tablet now. I’ve got about 200 books & magazines on it, a whopping *two* of which I have actually paid for because of shit like this. I don’t MIND paying for my 2600 magazine every quarter, but this whole "we own it, you’re just borrowing it" attitude really makes me nervous.

Amazon (and others), listen up- give us DRM-free media. Let us actually save a copy of the media we purchase. I promise I’ll start paying for a lot more stuff if I’m assured that you won’t just take it back from me on a whim.

And yet content publishers continue to think piracy is thriving because people just don’t want to pay for stuff, and to think that there’s no legitimate reason for people to want to crack DRM.


  1. Sorry, I’m not buying this guy’s story that he doesn’t know why they put his account on hold. Nor do I believe that his alleged ebooks are all locked away from him. If indeed he purchased them, one would think that a majority of them would have been downloaded to his device(s).

  2. Fascinating article – illustrating how insane the pricing policy of some arrogant publishers is. They want to charge prices for eBooks that compare or exceed those of paper books, yet they claim they are only selling a license, they restrict our use of the product, they lock it out from other devices and they can stop us accessing our own product on a whim.

  3. @pidgeon92: Why would you think the person would have all the books he bought on his Kindle? I don’t. I’ve had Kindles since they were first released and dislike having a lot of Home pages so I delete books as soon as I read them and don’t even have all my unread books on the device. Lots of others do the same. It makes for a much neater interface, in my opinion. So not having all or most of his books on his Kindle would not be a reason to disbelieve his story. The whole thing is puzzling, however.

  4. These types of stories are becoming more common. And not just in regard to ebooks.

    Steam is a service that allows people to buy and download games. You log into your account and then you can play any Steam based game you purchased. There have been a number of cases where there is a problem with a particular purchase and Steam just locks the whole account. But when the account is locked people lose access to ALL the content they previously paid for.

    This is probably the same thing. There was a problem with a purchase or a problem with a credit card or a problem with an attempt to hack the account or one of any dozen other things and the company responds by simply locking the account because it is the easiest thing for them.

    People are buying into a structure where they have absolutely no rights over the media they purchase. 99.99% of the time all goes well and you can access the media you paid for. But if anything at all goes bad you can lose it all at the drop of a hat and you have no recourse.

    Consumers are unwittingly accepting the “you don’t own it, you are just renting access rights” model of digital distribution. As time passes I expect we’ll see a lot more horror stories of people losing access rights to thousands of dollars worth of media.

  5. My wife and I love our new Kindle Fire. It’s lightweight, easy to use and has a great interface. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions from through google.

    It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. I am one very happy Kindle owner!

  6. @Frank Lowney — The DRM remover you link to is (a) not for Kindle DRM but for DRM on ePub books, like B&N’s DRM and (b) is not a Calibre plug in but a standalone program.

    * * * *
    Now, as to the being locked out of paid-for content, if true, I think the person should print out copies of his receipts showing he paid for the content and file a theft report with the police. Amazon may have a right to not sell a person anything for whatever reason, but I do not think it has the right to block access to already paid-for items. I think its choice is to provide the access or refund the money. Not having doen either, then I think Amazon is guilty of theft, regardless of the validity of the reason why it chooses not to sell further merchandise to this person. A criminal complaint would grab Amazon’s attention and would probably quickly end no one at Amazon knowing why the account was locked.

  7. I would have thought that everyone reading this blog would already know, but for those new to this:

    Free DRM removal tools for ePub (Adobe and B&N varieties) and Kindle (Mobipocket, Topaz and Print Replica) ebooks, including stand-alone tools and calibre plug-ins.

    All free, with informative posts and community support.

    Any commercial ebook DRM removal software will be using the underlying programs that are available from Apprentice Alf’s blog, but probably not the very latest versions.

  8. I have trouble believing this guy’s story. What I do believe is that he is one of the Kindle owners who removes DRM and uses every program he can find to get around Amazon’s built in restrictions. I wonder how much of his content he actually has receipts for? Amazon picked up on “something” and shut him down.

    If I’m correct: Should Amazon return all his PURCHASED content? Absolutely. But they should also stop him from purchasing anything else from the Amazon Kindle bookstore.

    An afterthought: Amazon customer service is the best in the business. I find it nearly impossible to believe that someone at Amazon hasn’t found a way around this problem, if it is indeed a glitch and not a blatant customer violation.

  9. The lesson of this story is simple:

    a) Strip DRM from EVERY DRM’d eBook you buy and do NOT accept this licensing scam nonsense.
    b) Keep backup copies of every eBook on your PC.

    Binko is absolutely right: “People are buying into a structure where they have absolutely no rights over the media they purchase.” “Consumers are unwittingly accepting the “you don’t own it, you are just renting access rights” model of digital distribution. As time passes I expect we’ll see a lot more horror stories of people losing access rights to thousands of dollars worth of media.”

    The only way to fight this larceny of our rights is to take those rights back and refuse to play their game.

  10. @ Mary. Did I say all? I said a majority. When you purchase a Kindle book, you must choose a device to download it to. While this person may well be deleting books after reading (which I do as well), I simply don’t believe they delete them immediately from their device after purchase.

    This is just *one* of the things that I find hinky about this story.

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