Amazon Inspires Wave of Anti-DRM Sentiment Following Customer Kindle Shutdown

UPDATE: In response to the issue outlined below and a request for comment by Digital Book World, Amazon has posted the following on its customer forum:

“We would like to clarify our policy on this topic. Account status should not affect any customer’s ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help. Thank you for your interest in Kindle.”

Amazon reportedly closed a customer’s Kindle account against her will, erasing much of the contents and offering little in the way of explanation; and it’s causing a wave of anti-digital-rights-management sentiment on the Web.

After having her Kindle erased remotely and being locked out of her account, the customer, who is called “Linn” in the report but is essentially anonymous, was sent a short note by Amazon claiming that the account was, “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.”

According to Nick Harkaway at Futurebook, the digital publishing blog of UK-based The Bookseller, this incident is quickly being addressed as a “DRM issue” (something he thinks is perhaps an oversimplification). He writes, “DRM facilitates this, of course, and it turns out that a lot more of the more switched-on Amazon customers routinely strip DRM from their purchases in order to immunise themselves from this sort of incident.”

Comments in the original post reveal that at least some readers are doing this.

Yngve I. Levinsen wrote:

“I usually buy epub-books for my Kindle since I have software which removes the DRM from epub but not the Kindle format (or I buy from DRM-free stores). Even though the process is a bit tedious, I am now very happy about my procedures. At least no company can decide that I suddenly should not be allowed to keep my purchased books anymore.”

Nick Pheas wrote:

“This is exactly why my first action on buying an Amazon book is to run it through Calibre to strip out the DRM and convert it to ePub just in case.”

Orlovsky wrote:

“…there’s a very robust set of python scripts that’ll strip the DRM from purchased Amazon ebooks, which I habitually use for this very reason.”

Many subsequent comments ask how to strip DRM and store files off of Amazon’s servers.

Discussions on email lists and on Twitter are encouraging of stripping DRM from Kindle files and saving them just in case Amazon decides to do the same with your account. They are even sharing links that tells readers how to do so.


4 thoughts on “Amazon Inspires Wave of Anti-DRM Sentiment Following Customer Kindle Shutdown

  1. Andrew Engelbrecht

    This sounds like a good strategy, with at least one major flaw: Amazon could arbitrarily make their DRM neigh impenetrable, and then such a strategy would no longer work. Also, most people do not know how to go through this process, so most people do not benefit from this illegal measure.

    If you choose to read your DRM-stripped ebook on your Kindle, Amazon could easily check the ebook file and discover that it is one that they sold, by comparing it to a database of fingerprints. This can get people into a lot of trouble with Amazon and the law. Amazon could do this by checking the contents of the book, and/or other visible/hidden data in the ebook file.

    The reason such breaches of user trust can occur is because Amazon controls the software on Kindles, and they can exert whatever control over the user that they think is reasonable. As we can see from the original story, this can entail a great deal of cold calculation, at the expense of any user.

    The only solution I see is to use software the respects your freedom, software that doesn’t come with secret back doors open to the coroporation that sold you the software. You can only be sure your software is free of this if you use a fully-free software, i.e. software that respects your freedom to study it, use it as you wish, change it, and redistribute copies and changes. Without the source code, users are helpless, but that is only part of the freedom needed to empower and secure the users who wish to use free software.

  2. Ben

    This may seem crazy, but in light of the Amazon article — perhaps less so.

    I specifically bought a Nook because it would play non-DRM files. So when I want to read something, I buy the old-fashioned paper book. Then I find the ePub file online, so I can put it on my Nook.

    It seems crazy — but this way I have paid a royalty to the author and then I get to carry the ePub with me anywhere I want. And in light of behavior like this, I think it is the only practical way to go.

  3. Euniceelsie

    @ Margaret: I’m guessing it wasn’t without cause…from the portions of communication provided, it seems like the customer \linn\ had pirated some content? If she did so, it’s totally appropriate that amazon blocked her account. From a common sense perspective, amazon has too many things to do in the day to just willy-nilly choose someone to harass and block; having an account closed without good reason (and all the accompanying backlash) makes absoutely no sense, so I don’t believe the blocking was without cause.



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