ImagesI keep seeing the Gizmodo article picked up around the web – that is the one that incorrectly says that you will lose your Kindle back issues of a magazine if you cancel your subscription. This is just wrong and is an example of one of the downsides of the web – it perpetuates and spreads misinformation.

Andrys Basten commented on our article on this subject and, therein, explains the facts. Her original comment is here. In light of the continuing spread of misinformation I thought I should publish this edited version on our front page:

… BEFORE, 2007-2010, a Kindle-edition periodical was keyed to only one Kindle, and NO other Kindle on your account could read that newspaper or magazine. This was a publisher restriction, they said.

Two people on the same account in a household could not share a periodical on two Kindles the way that they can with books.

WORSE, one person using a larger Kindle at home could not download that newspaper to that person’s smaller Kindle used for commuting (as an example). The restriction was ridiculous.

Example: New Yorker
To compound it all, if you found you had a defective Kindle and got a replacement OR if you upgraded to a -later- Kindle, you could not move your older editions of the New Yorker to the new Kindle.
You essentially no longer had them.
The keying was for one Kindle and old issues cannot be kept on the server for more than 7 regular issues – so those could not be re-downloaded for your newly purchased Kindle, which was absolutely maddening.
If you used the issues as a database to search and read topics of interest -later- you lost that database (unless you removed the DRM). Print editions can be kept on shelves and browsed but you lost old issues if you had to change Kindles for any reason.

That was BEFORE. Here’s my blog article from May 2009 explaining the problem back then and complaining about it, with links to forum complaints.

The problem probably did not get much attention at Amazon, relatively speaking, because there don’t seem to be a great many customers who care about back issues. But there was a way that Amazon could have taken care of this, by retroactively replacing the old-Kindle-key with a key for the new Kindle’s data field. There could be ways to batch-replace.

NEVER, though, have back-issues on a Kindle been deleted in my experience due to cancellation of a subscription.

I subscribe to a few periodicals and still have old issues I wanted to keep although I cancelled the subscriptions. They remain on that Kindle after cancellation. Mine go back to 2008. ‘Gaby’ or someone relaying bad information to her is probably confusing inability to GET back issues onto another Kindle or doesn’t understand you need to opt to “keep” very old ones as they pile up.

TODAY (ever since the Kindle app for Android), each of my Kindles on the same account has access to each current issue, and the main Kindle designated gets the current issue on the Home screen while the other Kindles have the most recent issue-titles in their Archived-Items folder. You click to download them if you want.

With old issues (beyond the last 7 issues released) not kept on Amazon servers, you can’t (re)download old ones to any Kindle. So if you want to keep these nowadays, on each of your Kindles, you should download current ones to each Kindle that you want used to read them. They’ll remain there, with one exception that’s part of the periodicals process.

If the Kindle owner reads the User’s Guide, the owner will know that to keep your Kindle free of massive daily-newspaper build-up, on a device with a folder for ALL subscriptions, Amazon gives you a warning when a very-old issue is about to be auto-deleted from the Kindle. It’s marked like this: “(!)” and you get a few days to click to KEEP the issue forever.
These older ones are kept in “Periodicals” folder for awhile, as I said. You have to look in there to ‘manage’ your subscriptions.

If Kindle owners don’t read the manual and don’t know this, they will think the old issues just disappeared. Most don’t actually want to keep older editions of newspapers. But I do want to keep the New Yorker magazines. So I do. I also keep many NYTimes so I can search the Kindle for articles on a given news topic.

I subscribed to a new 60-day trial for the NY Times this last year but cancelled it because the price was too high. I still have all the old issues because I chose to keep them. I looked in the Periodical folder the other day, to find several warnings for some daily periodicals on my Kindle from months ago for my local paper that I might want to ‘keep’ rather than delete or have deleted for me.
Normally they’d be auto-deleted but the Kindle has not been doing the actual deletions lately.


  1. L.A. Times picked up Gizmodo, and their explanation is really strange about Gizmodo’s “account” being “atypical.” HUGE story that is wholly incorrect followed by a couple of short sentences .

    Worse, they use Gizmodo’s interpretation or half-quoting (one quotemark so I can’t tell if it’s what Amazon said or whether it’s paraphrasing) which is incorrect. FAR more than the last 7 issues remain on your Kindle. However, you do have to click on “Keep” to keep them there.

  2. It’s worth adding that even though you don’t lose access immediately, with the DRM and inability to download older issues, you /will/ lose access to your own back-issues when you move onto new devices/reinstall software.

    Unless you remove the DRM and archive your own copies, of course….

  3. Paul,
    Yes, that problem is actually spelled out in the “Example: New Yorker” above.
    And I linked to my 2009 post complaining about this situation and described it,

    The only difference today is that we can now keep back-issues on up to 6 Kindles on an account if we have add’l models of the Kindle, which ups our chances of being able to access them if one of the Kindles becomes defective and has to be replaced or if we upgrade to another Kindle.
    Not much of an improvement but I do like being able to read these on more than one of my Kindles (DX, K3).

    I also said, as you did, “…unless you removed the DRM…”

    So, I totally agree with you.

    But I still think Amazon should find a way to fix the situation when replacing a defective Kindle and we had bought the issues or when we upgrade. Our books are always transferrable and the periodical back-issues should be also.

  4. While a valid correction, it’s still a problem (so, in that regard, I suppose Gizmodo is closer to the ‘spirit’ of the issue). After you stop the subscription, (or even if you don’t?) it seems you lose access to back-issues you purchased if you delete them from your device. In other words, it doesn’t work anything like it does with books were Amazon acts as your storage archives.

    If it weren’t for DRM, and we could just back them up ourselves, I could even understand Amazon not wanting to store the back-issues of everything long-term. But, I doubt that is the issue. It’s probably some kind of crazy agreement between Amazon and the periodical publishers. Let’s hope they enter the digital age soon in policy, not just content.

  5. Caitlin,
    I keep backup directories on my PC, which contain the files on my various Kindles and NookColor (when B&N used to allow us to see the ones purchased at B&N before the repartitioning of the NookColor and now Nook Tablet), and the folders identify which device has whatever contents.

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