Report: Amazon flipping the DRM kill-switch on customers’ Kindles

Amazon can, at its pleasure, suspend your account: for example, if you return too many books or other purchases. This also means that your Kindle can no longer get virtual books and subscriptions you already paid for. From The Consumerist:

Your Kindle still works, and the books you already bought for it will work, but you can’t download those books ever again (better have made a backup on your PC!), you can’t receive your magazine, blog, or newspaper subscriptions on it anymore, you can’t email documents to Amazon to have them converted and sent to your Kindle, and you can’t buy any new books for the device. That $360 device only works so long as Amazon decides it will work.

What better example of how DRM makes “piracy” mainstream? If it’s the only way to stop companies deleting the things we buy, otherwise law-abiding people will be happy to get their hands dirty.

Amazon Can Ban You From Your Kindle Account Whenever It Likes. [Consumerist]

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Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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12 Responses to Report: Amazon flipping the DRM kill-switch on customers’ Kindles

  1. styrofoam says:

    @ANON5-
    Yes, you lose subscriptions, and potentially the ability to browse the web. I’m not sure they woudln’t refund a prorated portion of that subscription. THey’re a monthly basis, I don’t think that they’ve got multi-year subscriptions for hundreds of dollars. Most are in the range of 10/mo.

    And converting documents from amazon is a nice convenience, but hardly a must-have to make the machine useable.

    I think it’s odd that Amazon will revoke your account for ‘too many returns’. I don’t know what constitutes that. I’m not arguing that it does reduce some of the nice functionality that is inherently part of the kindle. It can also cause some inconveniences and potential financial loss of material you had been relying upon re-downloading, as well as potential mid-stream subscriptions. But it is untrue to say that the kindle becomes a lumpish slab of lose once the ties to amazon have been severed.

  2. Bugs says:

    @Styrofoam – having re-read the other thread, I can see that you not only already knew that, but you know more detail than I do. Er, sorry about that!

  3. Anonymous says:

    You can buy DRM-free ebooks from fictionwise.com and install them on your Kindle via USB.

    So all that’s really the case is that you can’t buy ebooks from Amazon without an Amazon account, and you can’t use the wireless service and Amazon’s document conversion service.

    Since Amazon’s document conversion service appears to be just a wrapper around free software tools anyway, that’s not a big deal. Sure, it would kinda suck not having the wireless any more, but that’s a long way from a kill switch.

  4. ptrourke says:

    I agree with the underlying concept here (once you pay for a book, it should be yours), but wanted to clarify what that “you can’t return” phrase means. If your account is not closed, you can return Kindle books. I purchased what I thought was one translation of a book (because there was an editorial review that described it as such), and instead got a repackaged Gutenberg book – for $9.99. I wrote and complained (the same day, and in detail, explaining exactly what the issue was), and the book disappeared from my Kindle the same day.

  5. Rob Beschizza says:

    Clarification made!

  6. dculberson says:

    Please let the Plastic Logic eReader be good… (repeat 5 times)

    I hate ripping off books, but decision time: Do you think it’s kosher (ethically, not legally) to download (pirate) eBook versions of books you already own in print? Discuss.

  7. styrofoam says:

    This isn’t the end of the world. I’ll leave my front page comment where it stands- but you can still use the kindle to read any text file (or converted other format) you throw at it.
    You lose the ability to buy stuff from amazon, which isn’t that surprising when you lose the ability to buy things from amazon.

    The ‘loss of functionality’ is essentially the ability to purchase more books. There’s quite a bit of non-drm’d stuff out there that’s still perfectly useful.

    (I use it for tech manuals, gamefaqs references, gutenberg books, etc.)

  8. styrofoam says:

    They can’t take your friggin kindle away.

    Yes, they can strip off your access to their catalog. At that point, you might as well turn off the wireless connection and leave it off. It’ll do nothing but save you batteries, at this point.

    But once that’s done, there’s nothing they can do to destroy/warp/spindle/mutilate/fold your kindle or the bits that are left on it.

    And yes, it’d be an incredibly shitty thing to do IF they destroyed your kindle over wireless, but I don’t think that’s the intention. Maybe if it were a subsidized “buy 20 ebooks and get a kindle for $1″ maybe that would become a probability- but I’d think you’d have a case in court if they destroyed a kindle you paid full price for.

    How many people here indignant over this own an iPhone? Just curious.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “You lose the ability to buy stuff from amazon, which isn’t that surprising when you lose the ability to buy things from amazon.”

    And received subs you already paid for. And convert documents via Amazon’s service. You’re oversimplifying.

  10. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    What about that autistic guy who can remember every book he’s ever read verbatim and can recite it? Let’s lock him up. Likewise the people who walk around in the forest reciting their favorite literature in the movie version of Fahrenheit 451.

    If I own a book, I can go to a photocopier, copy it, and then email it to myself as a PDF. I do not see why you (@6 Bugs) shouldn’t ethically accept the pdfs of books you already own.

    Also, is that a real picture of a Kindle? Relative to that hand it looks to be 12 by 20 inches. That’s huge! Just put the damned book on your iPhone!

    Finally, what happens when Amazon turns off your Kindle because they don’t approve of the GLBT-themed stuff you are reading? DRM – the new book burning!

  11. Anonymous says:

    And how will it take before the ability to read non-Amazon purchased books will be taken away? If they can change some stuff, they can change other programming as well.

  12. Bugs says:

    @Styrofoam – An anonymous commenter on the main page’s version of this thread points out that it’s possible to strip the DRM from .lit books that you’ve bought – you need to know the password associated with the account or something. So if you’re willing to break DRM you can still ethically buy DRM’d books, strip them and convert them to a format that the Kindle can handle.

    @DCULBERSON

    That’s a question I’ve been pondering for a while. One of the big gripes I have is the idea of re-buying the books I’d like to take with me. For example, as a card-carrying nerd I have all of the Discworld series in hardback, many of them signed – that’s cost me a lot of money over the years. I have a friend who’s offered me a .zip file containing .pdfs of all the Discworld books if I ever get a dedicated reader. I really can’t decide whether I could ethically accept it, or if I should buy the digital version.

    I have no qualms about ripping tapes and CDs to my computer so I can listen from my hard drive or take them away on my mp3 player. I even occasionally download rips of DVDs that I already own because I’m too lazy to rip and re-encode them myself, and have no problem with that. For some reason though, doing it with books feels different somehow… possibly because it’s a conversion process that I can’t do for myself? That’s irrational, but it’s the best explanation I can come up with for my discomfort at the thouhgt. Maybe I just fetishize books too much.

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