Buying A Book For The Kindle Is Digital Russian RouletteJun 22nd, 2009 | By James Lewin | Category: Featured Story, General, iPhone
The Amazon Kindle may be a failure as a new media platform, but it’s great for reading books, right?
According to Gear Diary’s Dan Cohen, DRM is the Kindle’s Achilles heal.
Cohen upgraded his iPod touch and bought a new iPhone 3GS recently, and found that he couldn’t download much of his substantial Kindle library to the supported devices:
When I got the Amazon Kindle app I knew there was one particular book I needed to download to both devices immediately. Itâ€™s a reference book that I wanted to make sure that I had on my device as the weekend began. But when I opened the app it only showed me a small subset of my books.
So he called customer service and got a shock:
â€œOh thatâ€™s the problem,â€ he said. â€œIf some of the books will download and the others wonâ€™t it means that youâ€™ve reached the maximum number of times you can download the book.â€
I asked him what that meant since the books I needed to download werenâ€™t currently on any device because I had wiped those devices clean and simply wanted to reinstall. He proceeded to tell me that there is always a limit to the number of times you can download a given book. Sometimes, he said, itâ€™s five or six times but at other times it may only be once or twice.
And, hereâ€™s the kicker folks, once you reach the cap you need to repurchase the book if you want to download it again.
Worse yet – when you buy a book for the Kindle, there’s no way of knowing how many times you can download it:
â€œHow do I find out how many times I can download any given book?â€ I asked. He replied, â€œI donâ€™t think you can. Thatâ€™s entirely up to the publisher and I donâ€™t think we always know.â€
I pressed â€” â€œYou mean when you go to buy the book it doesnâ€™t say â€˜this book can be downloaded this number of timesâ€™ even though that limitation is there?â€ To which he replied, â€œNo, Iâ€™m very sorry it doesnâ€™t.â€
In other words, buying a book on the Kindle platform is digital Russian roulette. You never know when the DRM is going to go off and the book that you paid for will be “dead”.
Cohen’s experience has soured him on the Kindle and changed his perspective on DRM:
This entire episode makes me question whether or not I will purchase any additional books from Amazon.
I never wanted to get on the â€œDRM-Complaint Bandwagonâ€.
Tonight Iâ€™m not just riding the wagon,Â Iâ€™m driving the damn thing.
E-readers could be the next big platform for new media. They will never become a new media platform, though, if e-readers continue to be hamstrung by their focus on old media.