Kindle’s DRM Needs Serious Work

Amazon KindleI’ve done my best to stay on top of news about Amazon’s Kindle ebook reading device. I own the first generation Kindle, and love using it along with the Kindle app on my iPhone. However, this detail about the DRM scheme that controls the books slipped past me. I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge, or if it’s just stayed under the radar for this long.

Dan Cohen over at GearDiary.com posted a story [Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly] about him activating a few new devices on his Kindle account, and then being unable to load his purchased books onto the new devices. When he called up Amazon tech support to ask why his books weren’t loading, he was told that different books only let you download a copy from the server a certain number of times. The number of downloads allowed differs from book to book and publisher to publisher, and there is no way to know what the download limit is until you reach it. In order to load a maxed-out book onto more devices you have to purchase the book again. To quote Dan from his post:

In the meantime, Amazon wants us to upgrade our Kindles every year or two. Apple wants us to upgrade our iPhone or iPod touch every year or two. This means that although the books remain in your Kindle library online you may not be able to download them once you upgrade your hardware. And there is no way to know — at least according to what the customer service rep told me.

This is extremely disconcerting. I hope this gets some public attention if it hasn’t already. Amazon needs to either change this policy to something much more consumer-friendly (like how iTunes lets you have a certain number of devices activated, but does not restrict transfer of content between those devices) or it needs to make the policies EXTREMELY clear on the product purchase pages. Then the market can decide which publishers get the most purchases, those that allow 2 downloads or 200.

Via: Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly

Chris Owens


  1. the actual policy is that the number of devices you can download it to is limited to 6.
    so if the geardiary gentleman had 2 kindles, and added it to his ipods on different OSes numerous times, he ended up with over 6 devices and it got capped.
    the customer service rep was obviously misinformed.

    however, its number of devices and not number of downloads thats limited.

  2. I hope you’re right. I’m looking forward to a clearer statement from Amazon on what the policy is. It looks like multiple people have been given the download limitation version of the policy by Amazon reps.

  3. abhi,

    The issue has come up again with the 1984 fiasco, and all sources I’m reading are stating that it is, in fact, the number of downloads of a book that is limited, not the number of devices you are using to read. Extremely disappointing and I hope it changes soon.

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