Amazon Kindle outage: The perils of cloud computing for e-book-lovers

kindle2aI love the idea of cloud computing—which, as applied to e-books, means you would have the option of reading them off the Web via WiFi or other forms of wireless.

But let’s not make this the only choice, as envisioned by some. The latest evidence of the risks is a  Kindle-related outage at Amazon last week. Reassuringly Amazon has focused on selling files of e-books, and, yes, Sprint and Amazon fixed the wireless-net problem quickly.

image But in the future? Who knows, given Amazon’s emphasis on cloud computing as a back-office service and Google’s main focus so far on making books available on the Web—rather than as ownable files? Just what happens if systems go down for a long time due to to massive technical failure or a sophisticated hack?

I myself want to own e-books for real, not just be promised access. This is also, of course, what drives me and others, such as Simon Haynes, to carry on against DRM at Amazon and elsewhere. We are authors. But we are also readers.

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About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

6 Comments on Amazon Kindle outage: The perils of cloud computing for e-book-lovers

  1. Roland Dobbins // March 8, 2009 at 11:22 am //

    What hyperbole, heh. If the Sprint wireless is down, you can still read your books – and you can still purchase books from Amazon, download them to your computer, then copy them over to your Kindle via USB.

    I spend 100% of my time outside the Sprint coverage area, and buy all my Kindle (and other, compatible) ebooks in this fashion – except when I use Mobile Safari to buy them and then download them via my non-Sprint iPhone 3G connection.

    Amazon have a very robust infrastructure, and their entire business is at risk if they have a massive outage, so they spend a lot of time and money working to ensure its resiliency. Nothing and no one is perfect, but having owned my Kindle since November 18th, 2007, I’ve never been unable to purchase a Kindle book at whim, nor have I been unable to read my purchased Kindle (or compatible) ebooks at any time.

  2. Thanks, Roland, but the warning isn’t so against the CURRENT Amazon arrangement, under which the damage was limited because of the emphasis on books on files.

    No, I’m looking ahead to the time when damages from outages could be much greater because of a heavy reliance on cloud computing.

    Meanwhile your current references to USB, etc., reinforce what I’ve said about the advantages of files at the owners’ end.


  3. Roland Dobbins // March 8, 2009 at 11:43 am //

    The big boys tend to follow the well-accepted BCPs which mitigate the risk of DDoS, avoid single points of failure, fate-sharing, and so forth. When they don’t, it becomes readily apparent, and they fix it.

    Most SP infrastructures are vastly more secure and resilient than most enterprise and individually-owned/operated infrastructures, and cloud computing will only accelerate this trend. Indeed, one of the prime motivators behind cloud computing is that the complexity, expense, and skillsets required to maximize uptime and minimize service disruptions, as well as protect against penetration attempts and other forms of compromise, is simply beyond the grasp of most enterprise organizations, and so they’re far better off turning those worries over to SMEs who can do a much better job at it, while focusing on their own internal core competencies and actual businesses.

  4. Roland, I couldn’t agree more that the big boys are doing many good things. But what’s wrong with both approaches–remote and local storage? People want control over their own books. If nothing else, they worry that the government could do some nasty things in the future in the name of fighting terrorism or child porn.


  5. Roland Dobbins // March 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm //

    Nothing’s wrong with it – I was just providing a balanced counter-argument to your totally negative take on the cloud, heh.

    And by the bye, the government will do whatever they want, on whatever pretext, with regards to self-owned/operated infrastructure, as well. This risk isn’t cloud-specific.

  6. 1. Heck, Roland, my viewpoint is far from “totally negative.” The first words in the post were, “I love the idea of cloud computing…” And the practice. I just don’t want it to be the only choice for regular books. I’m willing to be more flexible in the case of networked books.

    2. It’s a lot easier for an arrogant government to take down a cloud computing arrangement than to send cops into millions of our homes to seize our books.


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