Publisher restrictions crowd out useful Kindle features

When he was reading Haruki Murakami’s new 944-page book 1Q84 on his Kindle, Gizmodo blogger Mat Honan encountered an unpleasant surprise. One of the best-known features of the Kindle is its WhisperSync, that enables readers to stop reading on one device and pick up where they left off on another. To Honan’s annoyance, when he tried to load the book into a second device he got an error message explaining that the book is only licensed to read on one device at a time. (He also found he couldn’t share passages from the book on Amazon’s social sharing service, but that was minor by comparison.)

Now, I get it. This was mostly likely a publisher restriction. Amazon has been working so hard to push features into the Kindle, it would be foolish to kill that added value. But shame on you, Amazon, for going along with this. And double super secret shame on you for not better warning me that you were quashing my ability to easily read this book on multiple devices when I bought it. Look, Amazon, if some idiot at Knopf (and make no mistake: this is idiotic) wants to shit on your customers, you have a duty to tell us there is a turd on the way.

I checked out the Kindle listing for the book myself, and there was certainly no indication that it was device-restricted. It does say “Text-to-Speech: Enabled”, which indicates Amazon does have at least some consciousness of consumers wanting to know if particular features work before they buy the book, but leaving out such an important restriction as number of devices allowed is very lame at best (and makes a great argument for cracking the DRM to read it on as many devices as you want to). When you buy an e-book, you shouldn’t be getting a pig in a poke.

Honan points out that all sorts of innovative features are possible with e-books, including applications that remix books in interesting ways. But when publishers and vendors lock the e-books down in this way, trying to force them into the mold of paper books, they deprive readers of those chances for innovation.

7 Comments on Publisher restrictions crowd out useful Kindle features

  1. Timothy Wilhoit // November 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm //

    The article is rubbish. I purchased the book and I’ve loaded it on three devices/apps already. Highlighting and public highlights works fine as well. There are two different posters on Kindleboards with pictures showing multiple copies opened on different devices/apps. They posted the photos yesterday after Honan posted his so-called story. http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,90028.0.html

  2. Hogwash. Whatever problem he was experiencing, it wasn’t due to a limit of one device on this book.

    http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,90028.0.html

  3. This:
    Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    is the line you want to see in the product details. Anything else and the publisher can have Amazon change it on the fly and it will stop working for you.

  4. Brian / AnemicOak // November 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm //

    It appears this article has caused a bunch of folks to go and post one star reviews of the book, even though the article is wrong and was proved wrong pretty quickly.

  5. It sounds like Mat Honan made a typical beginner mistake of trying to copy the FILE he got from Amazon from one device to another. That won’t work. He needs to download a different copy of the file for each device since the file is coded for a particular device.
    Typically the Amazon license covers 6 devices.

  6. This is why I never read Gizmodo. Making a big deal out of something before getting to the bottom of it…no makes the effort to check anything anymore. PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Kindle)

  7. I’ve actually taken Gizmodo out of my RSS feeds. Since Brian left they have gone downhill rapidly.

Leave a Reply

wordpress analytics