Amazon’s downtime: Lesson on the need for e-book and p-book industries not to rely too much on one company?

Update, about 2:32 p.m.: Amazon has returned after being offline for at least an hour, but the lessons below still apply. – D.R.

amazonhdqAnyone else having trouble reaching (old headquarters photo shown)? Neither Jon Noring (in Utah) nor I (in Northern Virginia) can get through. I’ve been trying for perhaps an hour.

All I see in Firefox is a  "Service Unavailable" message. Let’s hope this is just a maintenance issue—the most likely possibility by far—rather than a denial-of-service attack. Whatever the reason, I wouldn’t wish the TeleBlog’s downtime Hell on anyone.

Meanwhile imagine what even a few minutes of interruption will cost Jeff Bezos and friends. And what about Amazon’s cloud computing side—or what this could mean for the online approach to books, rather than locally stored files? Will customers, especially large companies, be as likely to trust the Amazon cloud?

At any rate, I’ve never run into an Amazon interruption this long. Probably it’s all a rather routine problem. But who knows? Imagine commercial ramifications if this goes on.

Of would-be monopolies and downtime

I wish Jeff Bezos all the luck in the world, but as Jon Noring has just noted to me via IM, and as I’d agree, this is one more example of the risk of the U.S. book industry relying too much on one company—whether for regular paper books, print on demand books or electronic books, especially DRMed ones that consumers don’t own for real.

CBS Marketwatch has noticed the outage (though we may well have beaten them to it). Feel free to use the comment area to share your own thoughts on this.

Mobi downtime not the only tech glitch

On the CBS site, as I’m writing this update, commenters are observing that this isn’t the first brush that Amazon has had with technical problems—and I don’t just mean the Mobi hassles. Several weeks ago, says one Amazon fan, the company was hours late in sending out e-mailed notices of book orders—important since "booksellers have two business days to fulfill orders" (read the full post for details).

Meanwhile another commenter says Amazon claimed that the site was down for "routine maintenace." Sure—in the afternoon on the U.S. East Coast? And without warning? Not the best news for company’s credibility, if others use the same excuse.

(Updated at 3:22 p.m. Eastern Daylight. I first notice the outage around 1:30 p.m.)

Related: Techmeme roundup, including items from CNet, VentureBeat and Mashable

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’s downtime: Lesson on the need for e-book and p-book industries not to rely too much on one company?

  1. I did a quick search of Amazon’s annual sales revenue, and from a number I found online which seems plausible, Amazon’s sales revenue works out to about $40 per second.

  2. Sandy (love of my life 28+ years) poo-poo’ed by Sony Reader for quite a while. I thought, “heck would freeze over before I sell her on a Kindle.”

    Lo and behold, last night she decides to make the jump to a Kindle. Great! She orders it… and Amazon crashes.

    Sorry, this is probably our fault. {grin}

    Hopefully Amazon will be up again soon.

    — Scott

  3. Amazon is down for me here in Seattle as well. I’m just a few miles away from the old headquarters building. Also like to comment on Jon Norings revenue per second quick calculation. I did with Amazon reported 2007 yearly revenue of 14,835 Million or 14,835,000,000.00 divided by the seconds in a year at 31,556,926 to get about 470.10 per second in sales lost. Reported 2007 profit of about 476 Million equals about 15.00 per second in lost revenue. I got the yearly revenue from and the yearly seconds total from From working in IT this can get some heads rolling – right out the door. I agree that no one company should control everything. People want everything to be easy but this can come at a great cost when that one thing stops working. Thanks, DWP.

  4. at 2:58 Service unavailable

  5. Thanks David P.! I did a super-quick Google search, saw a number like $1.2 billion (10 times smaller than your number) and used that. I probably should have done a little more research to get a more accurate number.

    Nevertheless, whether $40 or $400/second, any downtime more than a few seconds is major.

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