Kindle-for-PCDo you have to update your Kindle PC software or else have it stop working? It’s a good question, and I’ve been trying to determine the answer. So far, the results seem to be inconclusive.

The only place I’m finding the outright claim that Kindle for PC will outright stop working if not updated is in a comment to a story on The Digital Reader. User “Fbone” said he or she had just been notified that Kindle for PC needed to be updated to version 1.14.1 by April 1, 2016 or it would become inoperable. But Google doesn’t turn up any other articles to that effect besides one Nate Hoffelder himself wrote based on it, and there doesn’t seem to be any mention of it on KBoards or Amazon’s Kindle for PC forum, either. (Update: According to a commenter below, it was listed in the update notification. Which…I didn’t see, because my copy of the app was set to update itself automatically.)

Meanwhile, Amazon has been promoting some new capabilities of its e-readers via its Twitter account. It recently added the ability to read children’s books and comic books sold by Amazon via the Kindle PC app. Since Amazon bought ComiXology in 2014, it’s been integrating ComiXology comics into the Amazon store, so it’s not surprising it would add the ability to read them to its Kindle PC app in an update. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that it would require the app be updated or else render it inoperable just for that, though.

However, this comes in the wake of a similar requirement that older Kindles needed to have their firmware updated or else they would stop being able to connect to Amazon.

What’s the rationale for these updates? At first I was concerned the required patch for the oldest Kindles might have something to do with disabling the always-on 3G web browsing connectivity older models of Kindle got.  However, according to a user on Mobileread, the update for the original Kindle only changes the file “/opt/usr/java/lib/security/cacerts”—effectively dropping in a new pack of SSL certificates. Amazon Web Services has been moving away from the weaker SHA-1 encryption in favor of SHA-256, and has apparently reached the point where it would be ready to phase out the older certificates altogether. Thus, without newer replacements, the older readers would no longer be able to connect to Amazon’s servers.

If the PC app will, likewise, stop working without the update, my suspicion is that something similar might be involved. Perhaps it, too, uses the older, less-secure SSL certificates, and the update swaps new ones in. It stands to reason that deprecating an older connection method would require software and devices be upgraded to use the new one—because the older one simply wouldn’t work anymore.

Many Kindle for PC users won’t need to worry about applying the update, however. An option in the Kindle PC app’s settings permits the app to install updates without asking permission first, and it appears to be enabled by default.

Meanwhile, others report that the recent update to the Kindle Paperwhite closes a security loophole that had been used for jailbreaking the devices. Devices that had been jailbroken prior to updating would remain jailbroken, but would lose that access if factory reset. However, there is no indication that any of the updates affect the ability to crack DRM on Kindle e-books.

These aren’t the only Kindle software updates to come out recently. Last night, my Android phone updated its Kindle software to 4.21. The stated reason for that one was “bug fixes.”

In any event, it’s not at all uncommon for cloud-connected software applications to require updates to continue working with their cloud-based service. The only thing unusual about this one is that it’s hitting so many platforms at once—even older ones that almost never get updated anymore. But if the connection method to the cloud-based service is changing fundamentally, it seems like a reasonable explanation for such a requirement.

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TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I just checked the Kindle app on my Mac. I couldn’t even find a way to tell it to update. Will it auto-update too? I don’t know. Since I hardly ever use it, preferring my Kindle 3, I don’t care.

    I grow tired of all the tight-lips in the entire tech industry. Apple, Amazon and a host of others act like they were an army marching through hostile territory—meaning us—and don’t want to let us know what their plans are. We should get heads up about these sorts of things, clear and unambiguous, months in advance.