Yesterday, the internet was ablaze with a 2nd party testimony from Norwegian tech blogger Martin Bekkelund about an incident his friend Linn had with her Kindle and, ultimately, her entire Amazon account.
In a nutshell, Linn had awoke one morning to find that all of the books she had purchased for her Kindle had disappeared. Wiped. Gone.
Confused, she tried contacting Amazon’s customer service team for an explanation. Frustratingly, Linn only received a lame, yet vague apology and the insistence that they were unable to provide a detailed explanation on why her account had been blocked. Aside from the statement “…we have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies…”, details were few.
Linn claimed she had no other account and couldn’t fathom why her account had been flagged as suspicious. Further pressing for information was only met with more canned answers from customer service. As of the publication date of this post, Linn’s account had been reinstated with, again, no explanation as to why the whole incident transpired in the first place.
Granted, this is Amazon’s typical policy for users. And you’d be none-the-wiser, too unless something similar happened to you or someone close to you. Wouldn’t you be angry knowing that the hundreds or thousands of pounds you’d spent on Amazon content just suddenly vanished with no recourse to appeal, no explanations as to how, what, when, why, where?
Linn is lucky. The bad press Amazon has received since the story broke has been overwhelming causing them to repeal their initial decision. But others haven’t been so lucky. Stories rolled in about the same thing happening to users who weren’t so fortunate or willing to fight the Amazon juggernaut.
This incident has forced users to re-examine the difference between buying content outright and renting it. In the case of the Kindle, you essentially are renting content for a pre-determined amount of time. Unlike a hard copy of a book, Amazon can go back into your digital library and snatch back what you’ve bought if they suspect you of illicit activity. You can’t do that with a book, a real and tangible item you can hold on your hand. To do so would be stealing and that’s not ok.
So why is it ok to do so with the Kindle?
Regardless of if you think it’s right or wrong, you agree to Amazon’s Terms and Conditions when you purchase and download items to your Kindle. The content is never really “yours” forever.
Of course, digital cowboys have found a way to remove the proverbial shackles from DRM (digital rights management) books with a handy little plug-in called Calibre. It’s the best way to protect your purchases by converting your books to ePubs which reside on the device. The files can then be shared between computers, devices and friends as you so please.
While we can appreciate the lengths rogue developers have taken to release the chokehold Amazon has on their content, we see the battle getting more and more contentious. Will Amazon take court action against those who have installed Calibre? Would this stop you from purchasing or upgrading a Kindle?