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Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Did Amazon Delete a Customer's Entire Library?

Posted by on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 1:22 PM

This story is gaining quite a bit of traction in the book-o-sphere:

A couple of days a go, my friend Linn sent me an e-mail, being very frustrated: Amazon just closed her account and wiped her Kindle. Without notice. Without explanation. This is DRM at it’s worst.

Linn travels a lot and therefore has, or should I say had, a lot of books on her Kindle, purchased from Amazon. Suddenly, her Kindle was wiped and her account was closed. Being convinced that something wrong had happened, she sent an e-mail to Amazon, asking for help.

Amazon wrote back with a vague e-mail suggesting that Linn's "account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies." Linn has no idea what the hell they're talking about, but Amazon refuses to elaborate. And now all the books she bought from Amazon are gone. This is all totally legal, because you don't own the e-books you buy from They license them to you, like software, and they can end the agreement whenever they want, for no reason. This is the sort of thing that bloggers have been writing about since Amazon first started selling Kindles. It's not just alarmist propaganda. This is a real thing that can happen to anyone.


Comments (37) RSS

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monkey 1
Reason #3,618 of why I hate and won't do business with Amazon.
Posted by monkey on October 22, 2012 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
Something is a little fishy. Did she try to find out any other e-mail accounts that they have associated with the claimed abuse.

I don't doubt Amazon can be assholes but I think we are not getting the whole story.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
rob! 3
This seems a rather odd contrast to your post this morning on e-voting.
Posted by rob! on October 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM · Report this
She should call them at 1-800-201-7575; or at 1-206-266-2992 if she is not in the US.
Posted by adler on October 22, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
The Amazon cloud is having major problems. It's taken down quite a few sites, like say Crosscut, and one side effect is stuff you bought (but Amazon calls "rentals") is deleted because your Kindle thinks it must have expired, since the cloud sends no signal back.

Follow the worm to the giant fish at the end before you byte.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 22, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
@3 for the EPIC Vote win.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 22, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
@Cato, if you follow the link, you'll read several emails back and forth between the customer and Amazon.
Posted by FranFW on October 22, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
GlennFleishman 8
Better question is: Why is a friend-of-a-friend blog entry being treated like gospel truth?
Posted by GlennFleishman on October 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
Yo, Constant the douchebagger, let's not go and get all "Truther-y" about this stuff, huh?

What a douchebag.....
Posted by sgt_doom on October 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
Yeah, you don't "buy" books from Amazon, you pay for a license to read them subject to their policies. The licenses can be revoked, as we see here.

I've told people I know who own Kindles about the potential for this to happen, but they don't care. All they care about is "buying" their books on the cheap. Oh, and they tell me that "this would never happen."
Posted by rainbird on October 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
Would the Nook store have been a better option? I hate my Kindle and want a Nook HD.
Posted by TheVripper on October 22, 2012 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Just when I was starting to consider getting the Kindle app, just for throwaway bestsellers.
Posted by Prettybetsy on October 22, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
venomlash 13
See, Barnes and Noble can't come into my house and take all my books because they think I might have loaned them to a friend.
Posted by venomlash on October 22, 2012 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Meant to say, after losing 14 years' worth of emails recently when somebody hacked my Hotmail and the PTB wouldn't let me back in, this doesn't surprise me at all. That's life on the cloud.
Posted by Prettybetsy on October 22, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this
There's a reason I'm not working for Amazon and the dread pirate Bezos.
Posted by quotemstr on October 22, 2012 at 2:07 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 16
Next step is full subscription to library instead of purchases, a Netflix of books.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 22, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 17
Speaking of's a complete journey in the UK powered by hydrogen using a production fuel cell car and local stations:…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 22, 2012 at 2:11 PM · Report this
We also do this to students at certain colleges: They are forced to "buy" books for $50–$100 (there is not an option to forgo online books for hard copies), and after the license is up (1-3 years) the company closes the account. It's another depressing way corporations profit from education. What Amazon does is really no different.

I'm such a bookworm I can't fathom why anyone would want to curl up with a Kindle. My husband once bought me one and I returned it same day.
Posted by mitten on October 22, 2012 at 2:14 PM · Report this
MarkyMark 19
Off-topic, but my brother's entire extensive Wish List disappeared 2 months ago, which he did not realize immediately. It took quite a bit of back-and-forth with Amazon before it got restored - presumably a manual operation performed in some obscure tech center using backups.
Posted by MarkyMark on October 22, 2012 at 2:17 PM · Report this
@18 Don't get me wrong, I still love paper books, but I commute by bicycle and ferry every day and e-readers are great for having access to numerous books, documents etc without having to haul a bag full of them around at all times or the weight of a full laptop.
Posted by lone locust on October 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 21

Give it some time.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on October 22, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 22
@2 So... instead of clicking on the link, or googling the story yourself and finding out what you can, you go to Slog & whine about not being spoon-fed information.

That's just grayyyyt...
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on October 22, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 23
The thing is, after I read a book, I rarely pick it up again.

The big advantage of eBooks to me is the online hyperlink-a-fication of text, being able to quote, Tweet and Facebook post besides integrating into comments and blogs from books.

Amazon makes this easy -- for its own books. However, for library books, for example, it removes any highlights once the subscription ends.

This is why we need to embrace this ebook thing fully and get with a monthly subscription to all the world's literature, same as we can with music and film.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 22, 2012 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 24
Via BoingBoing, the rest (more) of the story:…
Posted by Josh Bis on October 22, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 25
(It seems like the source of this problem is that she bought a used kindle that may have had its serial number attached to someone else's account?)
Posted by Josh Bis on October 22, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
And this is why I back up all my Kindle files. It's really not hard to connect your Kindle (and I assume most other e-readers) to your computer and copy the ebook files onto your computer or an external harddrive. I've paid money for those books, and even own a good number of them in physical copy, I'm not going to let Amazon arbitrarily wipe my Kindle without having the money I've spent backed up.
Posted by aequitassaint on October 22, 2012 at 3:04 PM · Report this
This is why I still buy physical books instead of fawning over technology.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on October 22, 2012 at 3:05 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 28
@22, maybe you should read the link provided by #24?

Yeah, I question what I read in Slog...I wish you would learn to be skeptical instead of another kool aid news drinker.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
Pmasp 29
I sell paper books for a living, and all I can say is Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Posted by Pmasp on October 22, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this

I'll see you soon Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Posted by E-Books on October 22, 2012 at 4:53 PM · Report this
wingedkat 31
I wouldn't buy a book I actually want to own and re-read on a kindle. I don't mind buying pulp stuff for it though, something I'm going to skim and throw away.

I do love paper books, but I've decided I love having them on my phone or kindle more, because I don't have to carry them around with me. Yes, this may be bad for paper books in the long run.... but the value of books is in the words, not the paper.
Posted by wingedkat on October 22, 2012 at 7:06 PM · Report this
yucca flower 32
e-readers are just tablet computers. Buy a tablet and download books from project Guttenberg or Calibre or a similar place.…
Posted by yucca flower on October 22, 2012 at 7:09 PM · Report this
Whew - thanks for this story. I just archived all my Kindle books and converted them to pdfs with Calibre. Now amazon will have to pry them from my cold dead computer.

Sheesh - Kindle books cost close to the same price as hardcopies - if they can take them back. I see this as a problem. I bet iTunes can probably take all your "stuff" too if they want. All this "syncing" with iTunes has me worried.
Posted by whew on October 22, 2012 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Paxlotl 34
This is the reason I won't buy Amazon movies on my Roku. If you don't own a hardcopy, you don't really own it.
Posted by Paxlotl on October 23, 2012 at 12:28 AM · Report this
@18, @20 I don't have any particular feelings about dead-tree books. I've read some of my favorite books in e-format, from Jane Eyre to a friend's unpublished manuscript. But if I buy something, I want it to be mine, and I want to be able give it away when I'm done with it. I pass a lot of my books on to friends when I'm done, and sometimes if it's a new hardcover I paid a lot for and didn't like I resell it. There's no way I trust Amazon to keep my stuff safe for me. 

Now I just need to figure out how to take full advantage of Calibre. So far I've just been using it for books that are out of copyright.
Posted by Prettybetsy on October 23, 2012 at 4:49 AM · Report this
Looks like public pressure got to Amazon. They've let her access her books.
Posted by clashfan on October 23, 2012 at 8:42 AM · Report this
amyl 37
Seattle Public Library has a pretty extensive collection of books for "check out", all already paid for by your taxes.…
Posted by amyl on October 24, 2012 at 8:07 AM · Report this

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