On the Daggle blog, Danny Sullivan asks the question, “Why do Amazon & Apple hate families?” He points out that a number of the products services the companies offer are not exactly family-friendly—not in terms of inappropriate content, but because they make it harder for families to share devices.

For example, lots of children like to play games on their parents’ iPhones or iPads—but since those children can’t have iTunes accounts of their own (due to child-protection laws that place limits on what information Internet sites can collect from children under the age of 13), that leads to their games cluttering up their parents’ accounts. And even when older children get their own accounts, those games they bought earlier remain stuck to their parents’ accounts.

And as for Amazon, the combination of e-book DRM and separate accounts means that most books can’t be lent between family members without passing over the device.

Sure, some Amazon books can be lent to others. But so far, only one of the nine Kindle books I currently own have this option. As for the one that I can lend, I can do that once. After that, no more lending, to my understanding.

Lending is entirely up to the publishers, and the publishers, despite charging real book prices, aren’t providing real book benefits, such as the ability to send the book to whomever you want, much less resell the book.

Of course, a family could share an account for communal reading—but that could mean that the kids would have access to adult books.

Sullivan also points out that, though computers allow the same machine to be used by different people with different accounts, tablets and e-readers don’t. There’s no way to secure specific apps on an iPad against children, and there’s no way to share a family-owned Kindle among several Amazon accounts without deregistering it from one account to register it to another.

He concludes:

The ideal solution is that if you buy an app or an ebook, you also buy the right to permanently transfer that purchase to someone else. That’s how things work in the real world; in the digital world, where the physical costs are less, why shouldn’t the same rights apply?

At the very least, I wish Apple and Amazon would think more about the concept of family accounts, so that a purchase could be delivered or registered to one of several designated “family” devices, especially for when you’re dealing with younger children.

I find it a bit unlikely that digital transfer rights will ever happen. Among other things, it would enable a “used” goods market for digital media, and publishers already despise the one that exists for physical media. One of the “benefits” of e-books, from their point of view, is that there’s no way to resell them.

Of course, one of the commenters to the article comes up with the best solution available at the moment: “As soon as I buy a book from Amazon I strip the DRM from it. That solves all the lending problems!”


  1. I agree, this is a huge issue. I purchased a Kindle Fire for my family of 5 to share (all adults now), to see if we like it. I created a separate Amazon account for it, and Yahoo email address, and only load free content to it. I won’t let anyone purchase anything because if someone does like the device, they’ll want to register it to their own Amazon account and will lose that content.

    Although I haven’t yet, I can strip the DRM from the books, but what about apps? We get the free App A Day but those apps will forever be stuck on our ‘family’ account and whomever ends up with the device will lose that content. Music isn’t an issue because it’s already DRM-free and we can download it, then upload it again on a different Amazon cloud account. But then it doesn’t count as an Amazon purchase does it? The Prime trial is also associated with the ‘family account’. I suppose that if we like it, we can get our own 1 month trial on our own accounts.

    It would be great if our household had one content collection that we could each use anywhere at any time, filtered for each person.

    What a mess.

  2. The publishers want everyone to buy his or her own copy of an e-book They do not want people to share an e-book. As e-books are becoming more popular, this attitude becomes worse and worse.
    For most books lending is no longer enabled. More and more publishers are no longer selling to libraries.
    As long as bookstores are not powerfull enough to ignore the big (agency) publishers, we will only see more and more e-book restrictions.

  3. I wrote about this for Teleread last year. My proposal was that Amazon give people the ability to add a child to their account. They can then designate the purchase as belonging to either themselves or the child. The child will only have access to content designated to their account, and when the. Hold is old enough, they can “emancipate” their account and and anything that’s part of the child account will transfer over. I suppose there is a slim chance some parents will liberate the books and keep their own. Opines, but really, how many adults would want to re-read magic tree house books once their kids are done with them?

  4. It really is ridiculous to lump Apple and Amazon into a rant blaming them for being ‘anti family’……. come on.

    It is transparently obvious that it is publishers who set these rules. Publishers want a utopian world where everyone has to buy their own license of a title, and ideally that license would self destruct so that even if that person wanted to reread it they would have to buy another license.

    And by the way … I have basically no problem accepting that as a business model ….. IF they change the pricing structure to reflect that fundamental change !!

    In the meantime it is up to readers to make it clear to the publishers that they reject their model and do everything that can to undermine it and kill it and educate our friends and colleagues about how this new model works.

    Readers want to read at a fair price. Many big publishers only want to profiteer.

  5. Actually with both the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet you can pasword protect access to the device, you can password protect shop purchases and you can password project access to the browser.
    There is no browser on the Nook Touch (since firmware update 1.1), and you can password protect shop purchases.

  6. When did TeleRead become the Daggle Repost Blog?

    The guy’s an idiot. In the comments on Daggle it’s pointed out–several times–that he can do exactly what he wants to do. He just has to learn how. Apparently his beef is that it doesn’t work the way he would do it, and therefore this means that everyone at Amazon and Apple is wrong.

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