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Outlawed by Amazon DRM (bekkelund.net)
1445 points by paulsilver on Oct 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 479 comments

Could you ever imagine a local retailer in your area breaking and entering into your home, taking away all your books, and then not giving you a straightforward explanation as to why they did so? Me neither. Breaking and entering into someone else's physical property, and talking away their physical possessions without explanation is so obviously wrong and illegal!

Yet that's pretty much what Amazon did to this poor woman, except in the digital realm: Amazon 'broke and entered' into her Kindle, took away all her books, and then did not give her a straightforward explanation as to why they did so.

More alarmingly, Amazon did this with impunity, because this woman never really owned "her" books or, for that matter, anything else she "purchased" on "her" Kindle. In the digital realm, what Amazon did to this woman is perfectly legal.

Legal or not, this looks, smells, and feels so obviously wrong, it ought to be illegal.

It absolutely should be illegal to delete files from a device that is currently rented or owned by another party unless they give explicit permission.

It should be wire fraud, just like hacking a server and forcing it to act in a way the owner does not desire.

The problem is that Kindle users probably did give explicit permission (for some definition of explicit permission). I'm sure there's a clause in the ToS that allows Amazon to delete content that you've purchased.

I'm not the type to sound the drum saying that piracy isn't theft, but here it seems like it's trying to go both ways. It's property if you "steal" it and it isn't property if you've bought it.

Part of the problem is that the law hasn't kept up with the digital age. Lawyers/judges are notably technophobes (as a whole) which I'm sure has kept it back. Plus, generally speaking, technology enjoys a nice balance of good companies, competition, and plenty of release valves (ie, piracy). In general, these events are rare and that keeps the world from addressing the underlying issues - it just rarely comes up as an issue for someone and when it does, they could find a way (like piracy) to make themselves whole again (and I know it isn't equivalent, but piracy is often a lower barrier than legal action). There are a lot of other issues where people are more likely to become un-whole with less easy recourse.

Right now, issues of what a license to digital content offers is a bit in flux. I think a lot of us have a similar idea to what we think it should mean, but that doesn't mean that the legal system does or will acknowledge that. We sometimes get complacent because we're in a pretty positive industry and often times regulation can stifle innovation. However, this might be an area where we want a standard definition of term rental (for things like the Zune music service) and license purchase (like a Kindle Book) that would allow for things like re-selling and such. Otherwise, we'll likely continue to be beholden to the ToS that we all just click "accept" on.

You can not give explicit permissions in a ToS, and most importantly, you can not refuse or give away rights given by the law to protect the consumer.

Both has declared so by the court in both US and EU. Every single time I have seen a court rule, and the defending company is holding up the ToS as their defense, the company has lost. Every. Single. Time.

The only real difference, is that most courts do not give out punitive damages. I guess, writing in a ToS that you are going to break into folks houses and steal their books are somehow less criminal than if you did it without saying anything.

You cannot give away many rights, but what right would you be giving away? A lot of the time (and I'd assume in this case), Amazon is not selling you a copy of the book. As such, the legal rights that come with buying a copy of a book don't apply. Rather, you're purchasing something like "an indefinite, non-exclusive, non-transferrable, revokable license". As I stated in my previous comment, we might want to create a small number of allowable agreements here: purchasing a copy (with the same rights that apply to purchasing a CD, book, etc.) or paying a rental fee for a specific item or library of items. Those have direct corollaries to things already dealt with in law.

Think of it this way: let's say that you bought a Zune and paid for the Zune music service. You download unlimited music to your Zune and later stop paying for the service. You have given permission for them to remove those songs from your Zune. You didn't purchase them, you were renting access to a library. It follows that you shouldn't be outraged when they remove the content given the absence of further access rental. And we wouldn't be outraged - it was part of the agreement.

Similarly, Amazon would argue (not me, but Amazon), that you're purchasing a revokable license to content - or maybe that you're being given access to a private club where you pay for them to purchase a book that they hold exclusively for you for unlimited time. However, you can be completely removed from the club and, as such, your access to said book. Think of it this way. You join a club which houses all of your books in a building. When you want to read a book, you go to that building. You have exclusive access to your books (unlike a library) and you have them forever, but you can't remove the book (in return, they guarantee that it won't wear out or break). However, part of the terms of the club are that you won't smoke in the building. If you smoke in the building, you'll be kicked out of the club and lose access to the books you have in the club.

Where it becomes nebulous is the Kindle. The Kindle is your kindle, but is the kindle the club or the key to the club? Let's say the key is your property and they can't make you surrender it - it's your property that they have no right to. Well, they can still change the locks.

I know it feels like purchasing something, but with DRM we can already see that we don't have the same rights as with a physical copy. With a CD, I can sell that CD to a friend or a record store. With an iTunes song, I can't. One can argue that I have first-sale rights and I usually argue that it should be treated that way, but dispassionately looking at the legal situation, it's murky. Remember the rumor that some actor (Bruce Willis?) was going to sue Apple to get a judgement that he could pass on his iTunes-purchased music to his heirs? We were excited about it because it would have established first-sale - if it were already something no one questioned, the rumor wouldn't have existed. If the Kindle book was really your copy, you could sell it to a friend. Since you cannot sell it to a friend, it's unreasonable to assume that every other right you have with physical property applies. I'm not saying this is how things should work, but describing what exists.

Heck, the circuit court in the United States just ruled that if you purchase an Omega watch manufactured overseas, you cannot re-sell that watch when you don't want it anymore - Omega can block that sale via its copyright rights. Likewise, if you purchase textbooks overseas, you can't resell them in America (again, according to courts). The Supreme Court is reviewing this case right now. So, it certainly isn't so cut and dry given that the second highest court in the US isn't holding by the first-sale doctrine for these watches.

The difference between this and breaking into someone's house to steal their books is that you own the (copy of the) book. It's your property. It's irrevocable. I'm not arguing that Amazon has done something good or that this is the system we should want - it isn't. But there's a difference between how we think the law should be and how the law is. And that's an important thing to recognize if one wants to change things.

It should work like how you say. That doesn't make it so. Right now, we aren't purchasing eBooks from Amazon, we aren't purchasing songs from iTunes, etc. They're trying to maintain in control of the relationship and to make it revokable from their side. It shouldn't be. In common law jurisdictions (US, UK, Ireland, most of Canada, etc.), this may happen through court precedent, but it's hardly something that's been cast in stone right now. Personally, maybe a simple law about purchase and rental of electronic goods might be in order. Something along the lines of "you can rent or provide temporal access to content which will be removed after the access period has expired or you can sell a copy of content with the same rights that purchasing a physical copy would confer. Other arrangements are disallowed." But we don't have that today. Maybe this story will have a court case in which a court rules that you can't offer revokable access if an item has been paid for as an unlimited time purchase. But we aren't to the point where we can definitively say that Amazon acted illegally. Amazon acted immorally - that's why we're outraged. It's her content that she paid for and she should have access to it. If it were physical property, Amazon would be dealt with swiftly. However, the rules for physical and electronic content aren't the same.

If amazon is not selling me a electronic copy of the book it should be illegal for them to call the button doing this transaction "buy".

Might not be. They might just mean buy 'temporary license' or something like that.

I'm not a native English speaker, but isn't the proper term for that "rent"?

I buy an MSDN license. I buy a fishing license. The license is simply a fixed term item that you purchase.

Yes, but in this case they use the same term and button as when they sell a physical book so to me its deceptive that its not the same transaction.

I do not remember buying a William Gibson: Neuromancer License

It clearly said William Gibson: Neuromancer -> Buy

Most MSDN subscriptions come with perpetual use licenses for the content acquired during the subscription term. More to the point, Microsoft does not reserve the right to terminate their licenses without cause, and in case of alleged cause, they have dispute resolution processes in place, up to and including binding arbitration. I'm not sure about their consumer cloud services, however.

Buying a fixed-term license for a product is basically renting the product. In other words, "buying a license" is another example of replacing "rent" with "buy".

For consumer protection, companies like Amazon could be required to state "buy access to X" or "rent X" instead of "buy book X", which implies ownership of the product.

The problem is that Kindle users probably did give explicit permission (for some definition of explicit permission).

This is probably the case. Amazon would've covered their bases strongly.

What is super annoying is this - there are many many books, whose kindle editions cost more than their paperbacks. Imagine paying 13$ for a ebook (the same book in paperback costs 10$) and then losing that due to some arbitrary "rule" from Amazon.

I love my Kindle, but this is really really bad.

Electronic content doesn't face the same over-supply possibility that physical content faces. For example, let's say that you buy 1M copies of Book X for $2 each to sell. Well, a year later only 250,000 have sold at $4 and the rest are just sitting in your warehouse. You don't even care if you sell them at cost now (or maybe below cost). You've spent $2M and taken in $1M and have 750k copies left. If you sell the remaining 750k copies at $2 a piece, you make money ($2.5M with costs of $2M). In fact, you could sell them for less than $2 if that would make them move to recoup the remaining $1M. So, there are supply issues that make the price of physical items more variable. With electronic items, you just get the price. Since there isn't a limited supply, you can have unlimited copies on day 1. They don't over or under buy, they transmit exactly the number of copies purchased.

Likewise, as a physical book ages, competition goes up. You might be given it once your friend is done with it or be sold it used. That doesn't happen with Kindle books (or not as much, I know the Kindle has some limited lending capability) and so the price stays stable since the level of competition is stable.

Many prices face competition with many sources. With eBooks, the number of sources declines, but electronic resources are cheap and so it's stays at a point that we merely complain about rather than searching for alternatives. So, losing first-sale rights means losing the cheaply available second-hand books that provide competition that helps to keep prices low.

Now, I'm not blind to the other side: a used book is less valuable than a new book. It's creased, written in, whatnot. A used Kindle book is identical to a new Kindle book. So, it might be disastrous for publishers to have all users be able to re-sell in an unlimited fashion because there's no aging of the physical thing like there is with physical volumes. But that's something to think about for another time.

And there are many many books which are a lot cheaper on Kindle. I buy my programming and technical books almost exclusively on Kindle,since the difference is usually half the price of paperbacks.

FYI there is a calibre plugin that will strip the DRM from kindle books. I use it to read books on my Sony e-reader.

Yes, there are lots of books that are cheaper on kindle, but shouldn't all kindle books be cheaper than their dead tree brothers? May be someday.

Yes, you are absolutely right. Of course there is a clause allowing them to do whatever they feel like with the books you get from them.

I like the duality you've pointed out. They sure would love for a copy to qualify as property when determining punitive damages.

It would be great to have legislation and precise definitions for digital rentals and purchases, so that your rental term or purchased content cannot be rescinded arbitrarily. And I think it would be great to have stronger legal restrictions on removing or altering content, or running software on a device when its renter or owner does not wish for that to occur.

> The problem is that Kindle users probably did give explicit permission (for some definition of explicit permission). I'm sure there's a clause in the ToS that allows Amazon to delete content that you've purchased.

Shouldn't this be considered a contract of adhesion? At what point does a piddly subscriber have in dictating their terms of engagement with a huge DRM'd content provider? This would get real interesting if, say, you were required to buy stuff for your school on a Kindle that your tuition money paid for.

The problem is that Kindle users probably did give explicit permission (for some definition of explicit permission). I'm sure there's a clause in the ToS that allows Amazon to delete content that you've purchased.

This is why there has to be clear law that says that one owns the digital content on ones ebook reader. Courts might interpret that you already do, but clear statue law would be very clarifiying.

Remember if the law says one thing, and you agree (via a T&C or contract) to another, then the law wins. You cannot sign something away if the law says you cannot sign the thing away. No country is a pure libertarian utopia.

> Kindle users probably did give explicit permission (for some definition of explicit permission)

Isn't that implicit permission?

The issue is not the user permission, the issue is that in the physical world, the retailer would have to go through the court system to take away a right or property.

It's interesting how http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Lessig described this situation back in 2004 in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Culture_%28book%29

Until someone rich enough to fight this to the Supreme Court is screwed by these policies, they will stand, it's as simple as that. These sorts of policies are NOT new. EVERY industry has tried to rob consumers of property rights. And every other industry has a collection of case law establishing that the types of contracts digital content distributors put forward are just illegal. But, since it hasn't been established for digital property yet, we need court cases.

If Apple, Steam, and Amazon decided tomorrow that they wanted you to pay $10/item in your 'library' of things you have 'purchased' in order to be able to access it again, according to their contracts their users agreed to, they would be entirely within the contract to do that.

Expect publishers and digital content providers to wail and gnash their teeth and swear that giving consumers actual property rights will completely destroy their business. Other industries tried the same scare tactics. They're just lies. Being able to transfer your property, sell it 'used', etc actually massively boosts the success of markets and hopefully it is inevitable that this kind of thing will be extended to digital content.

I wonder what it would take to get the accounts of well known bloggers or Mr Bezos himself 'directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies'.

I've often wondered about the viability of students purchasing or renting textbooks for the Kindle. Just imagine the panic/terror that would ensue if a student's collection of textbooks just disappeared in the middle of a semester.

If my collection of novels disappears, I'm inconvenienced. If my collection of textbooks disappears, my academic progress is severely jeopardized. Both seem extremely wrong as you mention, but I see potential for situations that are life-ruiningly wrong.

When Amazon remotely deleted 1984 from people's Kindles a few years ago a student lost the digital notes he had been creating as he was reading it for a class. He ended up suing Amazon, but I have no idea if it was ever resolved or if it's still ongoing.

Amazon settled fairly quickly: http://arstechnica.com/business/2009/10/amazon-stipulates-te...

The most interesting/relevant bit from the article "In it, Amazon's attorneys agreed to legally binding terms that describe its content deletion policy. When it comes to blog and periodical content, as well as software, Amazon retains the right to perform a remote delete. But when it comes to books, deletions will only occur under a limited number of circumstances: failed credit card transactions, judicial orders, malware, or the permission of the user."

Perhaps I'm not reading this correctly, but it looks to me like Amazon does not hold the right to delete books in the case of a ToS abuse, which means that they shouldn't have deleted the books in this case.

IIRC that case was based entirely in the US. As somehow Amazon UK seem to be involved in this case too, it's possible that those agreements don't apply to this case.

I would have thought the same. Perhaps the 'Amazon' that is bound under this settlement is a different corporate entity as the 'Amazon' in this case. E.g. Amazon.com vs. Amazon.co.uk

As a tangent, I hate how trademark law protects the "Amazon" brand for book sellers, but there are 2 different companies. I think that if the company wants to keep a trademark, then any company that uses/is licenced that trademark is legally counted as the same company. This way Joe Soap, upon seeing the "Amazon" trademark, is not able to screwed around by corporate structure shenanigans. Or Amazon Ltd. have the choice of giving up the trademark.

I doubt that would matter in this case. Different laws apply to different jurisdictions. The fact that Amazon US and Amazon UK are two different companies is a red herring; a purchase in one jurisdiction may entail different rights than a purchase in other jurisdictions, even from the same company.

First think came to my mind. I am reading textbook for a course I am taking. I am not taking any paper notes as I just highlight and take online note on Kindle Reader Webapp/mobile app. I would be devastated if I lose my bookmarkings and data.

If you would be devastated, why are you relying on something you cannot backup? That's not rational.

Did you have backups of your notes in college?

This article made me aware of it. There are not many quality options. Amazon Kindle is an amazing product. For example, Neuroscience Exploring the Brain by Bear et al. is not available on Google Play and is $30 over on Barnes and Noble.

This is the thesis of RMS's The Right to Read, written over 30 years ago, and one of the few works to have passed from the genre of science fiction to historical fact, by remaining unchanged while the world changed over time.

Over 30 years ago? Best I can tell it was first published in 1997, which is only half that.

I completely agree with you, but the consumer here isn't without fault. By purchasing a Kindle and DRM'd books for it, you're agreeing to Amazon's policies. It's true that kindle books don't work like regular books, but being ignorant of that fact isn't an excuse.

This is why I categorically refuse to pay a single penny for any digital media that has DRM attached to it and might prevent me from playing it at any time in the future and that I can't back up to my own media.

Good for you. I also categorically refused to buy anything with DRM on it, until I caved and bought a Kindle last year. I figured the DRM on the Kindle was at least easy to crack, so I could make backups of my books to keep Amazon from stealing them from me. But I must confess that I haven't been diligent about backing up my ebooks.

> It's true that kindle books don't work like regular books, but being ignorant of that fact isn't an excuse.

I very much doubt there's a plain english clause that goes a little something like:

"If we think you have violated (our?) DRM policies, we will delete every book you've ever purchased, and close your current and future accounts. If you think this is done in error, you may not ask us why we closed the account. You may only sue us to get an answer"

To call out a consumer for not being prepared for a no-warning, no explanation ban (and removal of all legally purchased content) seems extreme.

Here's what the License Agreement says:


> Termination. Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software, and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without refund of any fees. Amazons failure to insist upon or enforce your strict compliance with this Agreement will not constitute a waiver of any of its rights.

Individuals have the right to see any personal data that an organisation holds about them. If automated processing of such data leads to a legal or significant effect (e.g. you've violated our contract, so we're deleting everything you've bought from us, and you can't use our services ever again.), they also have the right to know what the logic was behind that processing.

Amazon may have the right to terminate accounts and ban users, but when challenged by the user, they do not have the right to respond with "because I said so, so there!"

Individuals have the right to see any personal data that an organisation holds about them.

Depends where the individual is. In the EU this is basically true. Norway, however, is not part of the EU. as for the US, consumers here do not have such rights. It seems you are talking about how you think things should be, rather than how they actually are.

I wouldn't have posted a comment like that if the story was about someone in Somalia complaining about a US company.

Norway is part of the EEA, and has laws equivalent to the European Data Protection Directive.

Amazon.co.uk is a company operating in the UK, and is therefore subject to the UK Data Protection Act.

IANAL, but at least one of those two facts means that Linn has the rights I outlined above.

"It's true that kindle books don't work like regular books, but being ignorant of that fact isn't an excuse."

Have you tried explaining to a non-technical person about remote wipes?

I had a 20 minute discussion on this subject with a 58 year old friend of mine who has a doctorate, presents at conferences, etc.

I spent the first 15 minutes convincing him that the ebook publish had the right to do a remote wipe.

He remained unconvinced that an ebook publisher would ever do a remote wipe because it would be bad for business.

This story has hit the mainstream press and I am sure it will be bad for business...

> Legal or not, this looks, smells, and feels so obviously wrong, it ought to be illegal.

How many people, if they'd known this could happen, would have bought a Kindle in the first place? I suspect many would not. Digital rights activists need to educate the public that DRM = you have no rights.

DRM isn't exactly great for authors or artists either. Here's a Doctorow article on DRM implications for book authors:


Why use DRM? Demand an alternative, buy a physical copy, or holdout. Hopefully the ship will begin turning around soon.

Should it really be illegal? Every time legislators get involved in these Internet legalities, they don't understand what they're doing. While we (technical young folks) understand the similarities to breaking and entering, somehow they end up seeing similarities to trucks and "series of tubes." Big business can be annoying, but they are nothing like big lobbyist groups like RIAA and MPAA, and as soon as legislation comes up, these people end up being primary influencers. Or the legislators push through favorable bills for these people and immediately leave and become their chairmen (Chris Dodd/MPAA anyone?).

It amazes me how the concept of "non-scarce" goods being a one-for-one substitute for physical items only seems to work in one direction in this brave new world in which we are unfortunately inhabiting, too.

If she'd been caught torrenting those same books in the US or a growing list of other countries, she'd face fines and court fees. Her Internet browser could be diverted to "anti-piracy education" sites; perhaps one day, she could be disconnected altogether.

Yet Amazon is allowed to arbitrarily remove those very same files with no explanation.

Pretty mindblowing how severely copyright has been perverted from its original intent.

The one-way nature is exactly the crux of the matter. In a purely chaotic world where people do whatever was in their best interest in the short term, everybody would infringe on copyright whenever they wanted a book (or whatever "non-scarce" commodity) and the content producers would do whatever nasty tricks they felt would stop this from happening, including distributing your book in a form that can only be accessed via computers that you don't truly control and "reserving the right" to cut you off from what you "purchased".

We, fortunately, do not live in this world. However, from the standpoint of someone that prefers to purchase books, movies, and video games to promote these arts, it seems that the entities "selling" the content to me are more eager to head down that chaotic road than I am. That's not to diminish the fact that there are many rampant copyright infringers that have already happily moved down that road and could care less about long term benefit. It's just that I am not one of those people, and I don't deserve to be hit with the crap-storm that you intend for them, particularly when there is no evidence that they feel any of that storm at all.

So I long ago decided on a solution, just do what feels right. Buy from whatever distributor you like (I tend to stay away from Amazon, competition is always good) and then circumvent whatever DRM they place on it (for instance, go to one of those places of ill repute and get the book in an accessible format). It's not perfect, but it sure as hell is better than playing the game they set up.

Companies add DRM because people pay for DRM-ed content. Stop giving them incentives* and they'll stop.

Buyers, not pirates, are doing this to themselves.

* (this doesn't mean 'pirate'. Buying physical copies or just abstaining are valid alternatives)

I'm one of the ones to leap out of the woodwork and shout that copying is not theft, so it's only fair that I point out this; torrenting is a massive copyright violation, as you are basically republishing the content. What Amazon did in this case is not against copyright, and the user had no claim to copyright of that work anyway.

Make no mistake; I disagree with the humongous damages leveled against torrenters and I would be dead set against allowing an ISP to redirect or disconnect a user.

But Amazon doing something they claimed rights to in their ToS and sharing a copyrighted work via torrent are quite different.

The user had no copyright claim on that work, but he/she did have a reasonable expectation that a "purchased" good was hers to dispose of as she saw fit after completion of the sale, within the confines of the law. What people are objecting to is Amazon's redefinition of the rights of the seller at the expense of the rights of the buyer.

It's also interesting how similar this is to the previous round, a century ago: the first-sale doctrine arose precisely to put an end to shenanigans publishers were trying to pull where they claimed they were only "licensing" a copy of the text to the person who purchased the dead tree. It reasserted the property rights of the purchaser, which companies now are trying to erode with the same "just licensing" shenanigans.

Citation needed.

On which subject in particular do you want pointers to additional reading?

(I'm going to assume that for basic background information, such as the history of the "first-sale doctrine", you're as capable of using Google and Wikipedia as anyone else.)

If you know, it's simple enough to provide a pointer.

Are you referring to Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus (1908) later codified into 17 USC 109?

I feel that I need to point out that at no point did anyone accuse the lady in question of torrenting pirated content. In fact, that's part of the problem. Amazon refuse to say anything about why they took their action.

Yes. But as an aside, it's a good thing she lives in Norway and will have easy access to the pirate bay to get her books back.

I'm not really arguing whether one action is any better or worse than the other; seeding a pile of ebooks isn't really something for which any valid defense can usually be given.

My point is that there's clearly a very large amount of effort being expended protecting the ever-expanding rights of content owners, and -- near as I can tell -- zero effort being spent protecting content purchased by honest consumers from being taken from them without justification or recourse.

"seeding a pile of ebooks isn't really something for which any valid defense can usually be given"

How come? If you seed a pile of ebooks (let's assume it's a very big pile that contains a good chunk of books humanity considers important) than you're helping our culture spread. It is in fact very important for books to be massively copied in order to survive future catastrophes: whatever they come in form of nuclear winter, totalitarian copyright regime or cultural degradation and neglect.

I have my torrent of 20G of compressed ebooks and I feel very prepared for a digital nuclear winter.

Yes, I'm sure "stockpiling against the need to re-create society" is much higher on most people's list than "I don't want to pay for the things I want".

I don't care about that. For most of that books, their authors are already dead; most of them are also forgotten to the point of being out-of-print.

Your comment will be justified if the stockpile was smaller and more hit-driven, but 20G is a nice cultural pill you will have difficulty arguing about.

Don't forget to share Hollywood blockbusters and AAA video games. The rebel alliance is counting on your support.

Hollywood blockbusters and AAA video games are disgusting as a concept; most are also lousy and boring as an implementation of that concept.

So good news, I'm not pirating blockbusters, but bad news for you, I'm not paying for these either.

No food for your thick sarcasm.

What do I do? I support independent efforts while torrenting oldies and classics. You can say that latter is piracy, but I don't care and their authors don't care either, and I could not care less about "rights holders".

I enjoy how my comments get a few upvotes and then slowly sink. It is somehow nice to "suffer" for truth.

Maybe it's because you feel the need to use holier-than-thou language like "No food for your thick sarcasm." and "It is somehow nice to "suffer" for truth."

Well, my analogy is: I made a story where I come to a forest and pick berries and mushrooms, and then the next commenter comes and tells me that he's sure I also come to private toilets and steal the precious shit to eat. First, I am not stealing shit, and second, I don't usually eat shit. This is plainly offensive so I had to "brace myself".

Seriously 20g? I bet you didn't read all of them!

Not yet. Other than reference materials and favorites "worth rereading", shouldn't most of the books in one's possession be those one hasn't yet read? When you're done with it pass it on to the next reader!

Well that's how it works for physical books; I'm not sure about electronic ones.

While I think your reasoning is noble, even commendable, I don't think it would hold up well in a civil case.

For the record, I'm in favor of this sort of "cultural hedging" as well, but I don't think it's something that most people would even think to do.

Well, so sue me.

I was just arguing with books seeding "not being really something for which any valid defense can usually be given" If I should have read it as "any valid defense IN COURT can be given", then again, so sue me. But it's pretty easy to defend the morality of this case.

I'm with you on the morality of it.

And in the times when I can torrent a whole library of culture-defining books (whose authors mostly either passed away or no longer care), the book selling industry should reconsider the question: what exactly are they selling? What is their place to contribute to the society? Is it only about pushing vampire books by living authors while withholding vampire books by deceased authors?

I mistook your comment for saying they were roughly equivalent, I didn't get that you were pointing out the expanding rights for corporations vs. contracting rights for individuals. Please accept my apologies, I do believe that what you are talking about is one of the most important problems we have to address in the coming years.

Tangentially related, I am getting very, very tired of "customer service" departments using phrases like:

"While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened."

This happens more frequently: Google says this all the time, based on posts here; Amazon now does the same thing; even apartment rental companies will say "you've been turned down on the basis of this report that we don't know the contents of."

If your company can't reveal specific reasons or steps behind why an action was taken, DON'T TAKE THAT ACTION. Even my credit card issuer will tell me exactly why my card was flagged and they deal with ACTUAL MONEY. All these statements do is infuriate customers, create bad press, and drive away other customers. Scammers will just back up, look at their entire operation, and hammer away again with 300 new accounts so all you've accomplished is pissing off customers who want to do business with you.

She should next demand a copy of all information Amazon has on her under the Data Protection Act (1998), since that's what the Act is for.

Excellent idea. Though I fear that this will be essentially ignored too (as the recent precedent with Facebook shows).

It is very unfortunate that apparently the only way to resolve such cases is to bring them to enough media spotlight, that the corporation involved has to do something to avoid damages to its image.

What Facebook precedent? I only know of the Facebook vs Ireland stuff and that works well.

Does it? They still haven't answered my request from at least a year ago (they do offer some partial data download that includes a bit more stuff than previously, but it's essentially just the stuff on your profile -- none of the interesting stuff they collect on you).

Since media shaming only solves the problem for one person, I think it makes things worse in the long term. For every customer who gets un-screwed by Amazon, how many screwed customers do we not know about?

I wouldn't say it makes things worse in the long term, but it certainly helps. I do not think that it is good that it has to be done this way, but it seems that at the moment this is often the only way to make something happen at all.

Agreed. When the first DVD burners came out HP had an exclusive period for sales of them. I really wanted one, so I ordered it online and got an email a few minutes later saying my order had been canceled. I called and ask why. The usual "we can't tell you, sorry" answer. I wouldn't let go. I asked for a manager and then spent a hour on the phone--I just wouldn't hang up--telling her I had made thousands of transactions online over the last 10 years with that credit card and this was the first problem. I hammered her for details and she never gave me one, but she did do something else: she decided to verify me via other means (I have no idea what those were) by asking me a series of questions. After which she took my order manually and I got the device I wanted.

Normally, I would have voted with my pocket book, but in this case they had the sole source of the item (for a time). I also wanted to cost them a huge amount of time for their error.

>in this case they had the sole source of the item (for a time)

And this my friends is why artificial monopolies (created by vendor lock-in, proprietary devices, patents, or other perversions of the legal system) are inherently detrimental. Adam Smith, in his foundational work on Capitalism: The Wealth of Nations, rails against the practices that make monopolies possible. This market is not a free market.

Oh, it's a free market for those small companies - if they fail, so what? But all of a sudden, you start doing $10+ million dollars in sales, you figure you need some backing by politicians...

People love the upside of capitalism. But when it comes to the self-correcting measures it brings... not so much.

As soon as you give people a reason, they will argue with the specifics. The only way to get people to accept "no" and go away is to refuse to provide any additional information that they could take issue with.

This is very true. I used to work in a call centre for a large company which had all manor of silly policies.

Since we were on the "front line" we were usually the ones informing the customers of these policies. We were usually given very limited information about the hows/whys of these policies so when the customers started getting annoyed and asking questions all we could reply with was "I don't know, that is just our policy" and "I don't have the authority to do that".

Looking back on it I'm guessing we were kept in the dark on purpose since after a couple of minutes about 90% of the customers would just give up and accept it. Some asked to speak to a manager but of course we were instructed never to put a manager on the line and always to claim that the manager was unavailable or to just transfer the call to another agent who would give the same answer.

If they had given us more information about these policies then we would have ended up spending hours in discussion with the customer which is of course what the call centre managers specifically didn't want.

That might work until the class action gets filed.

You've waived your rights to a class action file suit by purchasing an Amazon product or using an Amazon service.

That might work until a judge decides that the contract was unconscionable, or contrary to public policy, or that there was no true "meeting of the minds" because the purchaser did not understand the terms of the contract, or ...

Which is a legal impossibility that sadly has not been fully tested yet.

Amazon et al. will be happy to spend quite a bit of money combating you, until you give up due to lack of funds.

Which is why I donate to the EFF.

That's the entire point of a class action.

I've come to the conclusion that a big problem with todays extremely anonymized and impersonal customer service of large corporations is that there is nobody (or at least nobody with the competence to do anything), that you can shout at till things get fixed...

Essentially, as a customer one is often limited to submitting requests through web forms and receiving boilerplate answers (if at all) that lead nowhere if the case at hand is somewhat nonstandard, or to spend endless hours circulating through similarly scripted phone support hotlines, without ever reaching somebody that can actually fix the problem.

Kafka would be hard pressed to top some of those customer support experiences.

Conversely, the internet has made the plight of the screwed-over-little-guy much easier to publicise, making results more likely.

Companies have privacy obligations. If they inaccurately link you to a fraudulent user and then tell you all the activity of that fraudulent user, they've probably just broken the law.

That's a specific example where it might not be legal but I agree that this is widespread and there are lots of things in the real world where it would be fine to tell you, but they choose not to. In my experience this is to protect internal process (so you can't cite why they're idiots) or so that they can sell you another product (credit score improvement, etc).

But I do agree, the withholding of detail is widespread to a point where it suggests people just plain don't want to tell you anything.

I'm not sure privacy obligations are really at play here. I can think of two reasons they're taking the approach they're taking:

1) They don't want to get into a discussion which is likely to be time consuming. It's not just innocent people who appeal these things, often the most guilty are those who will most actively and vocally profess their innocence (in some cases up to and including going to court over it - c.f. the UK politician Jonathan Atkin).

The minute Amazon became willing to talk about this stuff they'd need a who bunch more people to start looking into each one in detail, review every claim and counter claim and so on, and they clearly don't think that that's a good use of their money.

2) The sorts of things they'd likely have to reveal are going to be the sorts of things people who are abusing the system want to know to get round it. Doing this would make their job harder.

Not saying that it's right that they take this approach, just I can see the reasons they do.

The minute Amazon became willing to talk about this stuff they'd need a who bunch more people to start looking into each one in detail, review every claim and counter claim and so on, and they clearly don't think that that's a good use of their money.

I for one would like them to start talking about this sort of thing, and review these cases more thoroughly. After all, people paid good money to them to read books. Books which they stole away from them. It seems unlikely that Amazon provided a refund to the lady in question.

I'm sure you would, but that's not much of a reason for Amazon to do so.

It's far easier and cheaper for them to ignore most cases and instead wait for the few that blow up like this one and then look into them at that point. In those cases if they think that they're even remotely in the wrong I suspect that they'll reinstate the account, send their apologies, send the person in question a gift voucher and get on with doing exactly what they were doing before.

It's very easy to think that the sort of outcry that happens on HN, or even on Twitter, reflects public opinion, but the reality is that this audience is both far more aware of these events, and far more considered in their reaction. The sad reality is that Amazon can get away with this sort of thing because most Kindle users won't ever learn about it and even if they do won't really understand what it means or change their behaviour.

Well there's a cynical view of how to deal with the general public.

Unfortunately one that works - mainly because the general public's behaviour is driven by attention to news stories rather than informed choice.

The market is optimised for efficiency not morality.

A bit of catch 22 really. If they have inaccurately linked you with a fraudulent user and they accuse you of having committed fraud, they've just defamed your character.

If they were in the U.S. I'd be suggesting they lawyer up.

Defamy wouldn't apply as it's a private relationship.

They're not broadcasting to the world that they think you're a con, they're just telling you... Which is fine.

Depends. In the EU, companies are legally required to store personal data accurately. It doesn't matter if they don't tell anyone (in fact often they cannot tell people, privacy and all that). If you tell them that personal data they have one you is incorrect, they are legally required to correct it. So yes, if the data is wrong, they might be breaking the law.

Not just in Europe - Australia has similar privacy legislation also. If a company is storing incorrect information about you, you can request to see your record and then have them correct that record. If they won't, the Privacy Commissioner can investigate and order them to do so.

I don't know... Even in records, Amazon are allowed to inaccurately call you a filthy good-for-nothing and these would not be subject to EU Privacy requests. They're not FOIA requests. You don't get to request a copy of your whole file like you can with the FBI. Amazon is not a public body.

Its privacy requirements are limited to giving you a copy of your personal information. Name. Address. Phone number.

Anything else (including the marker labelling you as a pillaging hobo) is their proprietary business intelligence and good luck convincing them otherwise.

Where are you getting that definition from?

I have used Wikipedia for the definition of how one proves libel:

There are several ways a person must go about proving that libel has taken place. For example, in the United States, first, the person must prove that the statement was false. Second, the person must prove that the statement caused harm. Third, the person must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. These steps are for an ordinary citizen.

Of course, there is no citation. I just added the {{fact}} tag. But does anyone know if this is true or not?

The last one seems a little odd "the person must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement".

What is to stop somebody extensively researching something but then just deciding to lie anyway?

Pretty sure the actual law clarifies that the speaker must have a reason to believe the claim even after engaging in some research. And that reason to disbelieve the claim is not a defense.

On the same page, "it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed".

If I tell you I think you're lazy, that's rude but it isn't defamy. If I write you a letter and you publish it, it's still not defamy.

If I talk to your boss and tell him I think you're lazy (without evidence) that may be defamy. If I publish a letter to you telling you you're lazy, that may be defamy.

And no, this has nothing to do with the rest of the issue.

Telling her privately that her account is associated with a fraudulent account has not caused her any harm, thus its not libeled her.

Only if they published it to the world, she could claim her reputation has been harmed.

Actually, it did because she lost all her books and she isn't able to get them back.

The loss of books has nothing to do with the speech act of libel.

"Second, the person must prove that the statement caused harm."

1:00 PM -- fraud system links her account to another banned account

1:00 PM -- her account is closed

2:00 PM -- she asks Amazon why her account is closed

3:00 PM -- Amazon makes the statement you claim is libelous

The loss occurred before the statement, so you cannot claim the statement caused that loss. The alleged libel did not result in the damages you're claiming.

Libel would be if Amazon falsely accused her of fraud in public, then her employer terminating her employment as a result of that statement. That is a harm resulting from the statement.

If they are not confident enough that they've accurately linked you to a fraudulent user to tell you the details of that account, they should not feel confident enough to CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT on that basis.

"While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts" I don't think it means they don't know, I think it means they can't[1] "detail", i.e. tell you.

[1] Won't, of course.

That's exactly my point: They don't want to tell you.

If a company has such rigid internal processes that it can't come up with a way to reveal at least some information to allow a paying[0] customer to successfully defend an allegation of fraud, then that process is broken.

0 - I leave as an exercise to the reader the question of what should be done for free services.

Well, my credit card issuer (wells fargo) actually cant' tell me. They say its flagged, for a reason they don't know. (ofc, they do, they just wont tell).

Then they just unflag it after I answer 10 security questions and that's it.

Pisses me off every time.

Wow, wish my bank could tell me the reasoning for credit decisions !

Any time anyone makes a credit decision, you receive a notice in the mail informing you of this fact, and that you have the right to a free copy of the credit report they pulled on you.

The fact that Amazon can do this is obviously scary, particularly for those with extensive Kindle libraries. Personally I love the idea of ebooks but the publishers are doing their best to kill this market (eg Surface Detail in paperback is $6, as an ebook its $10 WTF?).

Now I can't speak to the truth of these claims. I have no inside knowledge but I will say this: be skeptical of such stories. I have seen other stories like this on HN where I have had some inside knowledge and I can tell you that there have definitely been cases that vary between being one side of the story to being a distortion of facts and events to being outright lies.

It's a common theme to have a post of "[BigCo] shut down my account for no reason". I describe such stories as "unverifiable stories in which the poster is a victim".

Like I said, this could all be exactly as the poster claims but it might not be as well. It could be as simple as the person having the same name as someone who got blocked in the US. Who knows? Amazon needs to be extremely careful to be right in situations like this or they risk undermining the ecosystem they've spent so long to create.

I don't mind buying Kindle novels because I tend to only ever read them once. And if they were $6 (like the paperbacks often are) I'd view them as a throwaway purchase.

But when it comes to technical books--books I'll often refer back to and that can cost much more--I'll have to make sure I either only buy the PDF version or I buy the PDF+mobi+epub upgrade from the publisher after buying the Kindle book (2 thumbs up to publishers who do this BTW).

> be skeptical of such stories

Don't be too skeptical. Most of the people on HN had some big company restrict/kill an account by some BigCo at some point.

Microsoft, Google, eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Facebook, etc. handle millions of accounts. They have automated filters that trigger based on specified criteria that kill your account.

Their default response when this happens? Talk to legal. Well, more like write to legal. They don't want to talk to you.

The problem? Microsoft has your operating system, Google has your email, eBay has your stuff, PayPal has your money, Amazon has your books, Facebook has your social life, etc.

And they can yank all of that away.

They don't even press any button. It's triggered automatically by criteria they never disclose beyond a vague TOS.

We need to push for a universal option for arbitration by a 3rd party regarding these sorts of unilateral actions. If anything, it will probably reduce the support and legal costs for all of these companies.

"Don't be too skeptical. Most of the people on HN had some big company restrict/kill an account by some BigCo at some point."

Most? That is a pretty serious statement, and I really doubt you can back it up. I don't have statistics on this and don't know where to look for them, but I would guess that the numbers of HN'ers that have had an account closed by a BigCo is actually much less than 1%, never mind more than 50%.

Am I grossly underestimating here? Keep in mind that these stories tend to be very popular, so there could definitely be a lot more of these stories around than is statistically correct.

P.s. As for one of cletus' point above, I've also noticed a few of these kinds of points eventually bring out more details which tend not to confirm the events, as told in the original posts. Nothing specific to this case of course, I've just caught myself a few times thinking "hmmm, looks like it wasn't such a crystal-clear case of the company being wrong".

My father had a 6 year old paid flickr account with 30k photos, 2m+ views, shut down without warning or explanation.

It contained tons of original genealogical research, macro shots of plants, photographs of family-related newspaper stories... And possibly some videos with copyrighted music clips.

It's a shame how far we've fallen from traditional justice, which involves:

1. right to confront your accuser, 2. right to legal representation, 3. knowing the charges and evidence against you 4. right to call witnesses and present evidence 5. judgement by your peers

I know, flickr owns the servers, they make the rules etc.

But as human beings, and as a company, I think it's a mistake for them to behave this way.

The feeling of injustice is really powerful, and I think everyone would be better served if companies didn't disregard it.

I agree that they are making a big mistake causing those feelings of rage and helplessnes.

But the rights you list are rights we have in court. We never had any right to representation in an internal procedure of some private company.

If our access to essential digital facilities ends up being dominated by a handful of global companies, these companies will be regulated like traditional facilities if they don't start regulating themselves in a sensible way very quickly.

Resolving conflicts, finding out what the truth is in a particular case, all of that costs money. We will either pay it in taxes or as part of a purchase we make.

Flickr is yahoo's toy, if they get pissed off they can take it home and deprive everyone of the game; it's still legal to be a jerk.

The whole world used to be that way, though - kings owned everything and if you didn't like it, die - but it pissed people off so bad, they took back the rights to what really was the king's property.

The real problem seems to be how easy it is to enter into extremely unjust agreements online.

In the real world, it's not easy to sign a contract giving up all your future rights - imagine if a car company tried to slip clauses into a car purchase agreement giving them the right to take back the car without explanation at any time. People would rebel. But online, people regularly click through things just as bad as this.

People act like reputation pressure is enough to stop this - but in the real world, not everyone is informed enough to keep up to date on every entity's reputation, and in many places, communities have just taken the shortcut of making certain types of deals illegal, at the expense of the freedom of the seller to make that type of contract.

In the real world, it's not easy to sign a contract giving up all your future rights - imagine if a car company tried to slip clauses into a car purchase agreement giving them the right to take back the car without explanation at any time. People would rebel. But online, people regularly click through things just as bad as this.

In Australia, consumer law prevents unfair terms in contracts by the simple expedient of nullifying them.

In general and not just in Australia, terms in contracts that are against the law are null.

You misunderstand... This is if a contract provision that is unfair, and may not be illegal. A court can strike it down, depending on the circumstances.

In the real world, it may even be irrational for people to keep up to date on every entity's reputation. The time it takes to do that isn't exactly without a cost itself.

Not only that, but I think it would be reasonable to require by law that a service must give its users prompt notice of termination and a reasonable timeframe during which they can download the content they created. What happened to your father AFAIC was a crime.

My eBay account was closed because someone disputed a purchase from a family member, and my previous address was the same as theirs.

Now it would take 99 other HNers who haven't had accounts closed to cancel me out and keep the ratio at 1%.

On the other side of the same coin: HN gets 120k uniques per day (as of October 5, 2011 - http://ycombinator.com/newsnews.html ). So it will take another 1,199 people who've had accounts closed to put the ratio at above 1%.

Of course, this is all incredibly blatant misuse of statistics. What we really need is a poll.

Then we can argue about the biasedness of the poll

>What we really need is a poll.

Ok, /newpoll... >Sorry, polls are turned off for a while.

Now we'll never know.

I tried to make a purchase with PayPal a month or so ago and forgot I was on Tor. They blocked my account until I can verify my location. To verify my location they need to call the landline at my address. Too bad I don't have a landline at my address. There's probably another way to get my account back but I've sort of lost interest now.

You'd be much more motivated if you have thousands of dollars in your account! A similar thing happened with my business's PayPal. I tried to transfer funds, and they decided that it was a good time to re-verify our location. Since we missed the phone call, we now have to wait for them to mail a letter.

I have been (by Reddit), and had no history of spam or disallowed use. I wasted time writing and responding to comments and nobody except me could see anything I wrote. I was unknowingly talking into the void for weeks. That was 5 years ago and to this day, I've never forgiven them.

Good thing that never happens on HN

Arbitration sounds like a really good idea, but the problem is those arbitration systems are typically paid for by industry, run by industry appointees, and they don't have any incentive to see issues from a consumer point-of-view. I think the solution for books will come from lawsuits and consumer backlash - the same as it did for music.

There are still many problems with the Music industry (and RIAA), but they really are leading the curve for the other content industries. Right now you can purchase DRM-free music for relatively cheap from a number of sources. (Apple, Google, Amazon, as well as many independent publishers and artists)

Facebook most certainly does not have my social life. D:

> The problem? Microsoft has your operating system, Google has your email, eBay has your stuff, PayPal has your money, Amazon has your books, Facebook has your social life, etc. And they can yank all of that away.

There's an opportunity here to make an automated backup service for people who want to keep greedy bastards from stealing the stuff they care for.

How much someone would pay to have their emails, profiles, or content safe?

Multiple local backups?

Is there any conceivable scenario where this is in any way excusable?

Deny continued service? Sure (though hardly in the way that is portrayed in the post, you must be able to know why and contest it). Remotely brick hardware and deletion of user data? Never, ever, ever. No - don't even think about thinking about it. NO.

The only thing I can think of would be something wrong with the credit card (fake, chargeback each book), but that would be a new account thing.

For a legitimate purchase, I can think of nothing.

"It could be as simple as the person having the same name as someone who got blocked in the US."

And?! That would be a horrible reason for deleting all of a user's purchased items. More reason for these types of posts to exist. The situation itself doesn't really matter, but bringing attention to the possible dangers of DRM is important. The fact that we don't own these DRMed items is incredibly scary.

"there have definitely been cases that vary between being one side of the story to being a distortion of facts and events to being outright lies."

Okay.. but without data this is just a vague anecdote.

If all you're trying to say is "be careful", well alright. But honestly I don't care. The story itself isn't that important in these cases as long as people are thinking about what the possible dangers of DRM are. And they are really big dangers.

These types of posts are the only action an individual can take when pitted against a big company.

Here is a story from the other side. My wife writes and publishes business book summaries. She submitted about ten of those to be published on Kindle. Amazon happily published some of them in US market but decided that the content was "public domain" is other regions. Now I would have understood if they would have said "copyright violation" but "public domain"?

Our email correspondence with them was very similar to the one reported in the original post. They will repeat the original mail 2-3 times and will walk away after that leaving you with no answers.

Well, I figure when I get home, I'll rsync the kindle over to a local directory. :-)

Get rid of the DRM first. They'd be useless without an amazon account otherwise.

I do this, but not with rsync. I put PDFs and books that I want to read into my Dropbox during the day. When I get home I bidirectionally sync to my kindle dx with Unison (http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/). I wouldn't trust my books with Amazon, ever.

> I don't mind buying Kindle novels because I tend to only ever read them once. And if they were $6 (like the paperbacks often are) I'd view them as a throwaway purchase.

Hmmm, just because a $6 paperback may seem like a throwaway price to you doesn't mean they are single-use products. That's consumerism gone crazy.

I have to admit, I too have a real hard time keeping a cheap paperback presentable after its 2nd or 3rd read (or in subsequent reads, readable, for that matter). I don't know how people do it, so I just make a point to warn my friends about this habit whenever they let me lend one of theirs (and they invariably say "oh I like it when a book looks like it's been read."--sure thing, that'll be no problem!).

Still, that doesn't mean I see them as throwaways, rather I see them as fragile, and IMO the ebook form should lessen this attribute when possible, instead of mimicking (in some sense) it with DRM.

You make it sound like releasing an ebook is somehow cheaper than releasing a paperback. I think in many cases this does not hold true. As long as ebooks represent a minority of all book sales producing paperbacks will be cheaper to produce than ebooks, just by law of mass production.


Mass production has no beneficial effect when the incremental cost of each unit is indistinguishable from zero.

Volume drives the incremental cost towards marginal cost.

Yes, it might approach zero, but it never gets there. There aren't infinite trees to turn into infinite numbers of books.

I don't understand how ebooks can cost more than a mass production paper book. If you are familiar with the industry of producing paper and ebooks for books that are best sellers then I would really love hear about the cost difference in producing both.

I am, at least to some degree. My back-of-the-envelope calculations a while ago suggested that ebooks are cheaper to produce than paper books, just by not as much as people probably imagine. (My figure then was 25% less, although I confess I don't remember how I came up with that now. It may have been a cocktail napkin.)

There are certain fixed costs which remain the same no matter the format: you have to (or at least should!) pay the authors, editors, proofreaders, artists, and cover designers the same amount no matter the form because they're doing pretty much the same work. And while ebooks don't have typesetting/layout processes identical to physical books, they still have them. And if you don't want the ebooks to look like ass -- something that a lot of big publishers clearly don't care about yet, unfortunately -- it's not going to take all that much less time, particularly if you have to prepare them in multiple formats; you have to do a "final proof," ideally on the actual devices you're targeting.

In practice, all of the costs above are generally much more of the production cost than the actual printing is. The biggest savings you have with an ebook isn't from not paying the printer, it's from not paying the distributor. But there's still a catch there: while you're not giving 50% or more of the cover price to the distributor the way you would if you were trying to get the book into Barnes & Noble or what have you, you're still giving 30% or more of the cover price to the retailer. (And you have to pay attention to the "or more"; you may be paying a middleman like Lulu to get you into some of the online stores, or you may be paying Amazon's bogus "download charges" in addition to their stated 30% cut. Assuming your sale qualifies for their 30% cut bracket, rather than one of the higher ones.)

25% sounds a little high to me. The figure I normally hear is that paper is about 10-15% of the cost of a book (I'm not directly in the publishing industry, but I've been a technical reviewer on several books and have a fair number of friends who are author/editors - mostly in the non-fiction market which is a little different from the fiction world).

See http://journal.bookfinder.com/2009/03/breakdown-of-book-cost... for some vague evidence

(The slice taken by marketing in the above seems high from what others have told me. Its also a somewhat simplistic breakdown since it ignores some of the long-term costs from publishers that aren't related to "books" directly. e.g. the advances to authors who never get published, etc. - so the potential publisher profits aren't quite as large as they appear here - there's other overhead outside the printing/distributing/selling books bit)

Also see http://ireaderreview.com/2009/05/03/book-cost-analysis-cost-...

It's also something Charlie Stross has posted about a fair bit see this collection of posts http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-m...

TL;DR - people think about book prices being related to cost of producing media. That's like thinking software costs are mostly about the price of printing DVDs or shifting bits. It's mostly about book development costs - not media costs.

I have no idea about this.. but I can speculate that maintaining the DRM system indefinitely after the initial sale represents an ongoing cost whose net present value needs to be considered in contrast with a DRM-free book.

The DRM system is completely decentralized and doesn't cost anything to uphold.

Hello! I am unfamiliar with the details of the Kindle DRM implementation. Would you mind explaining at least the degree to which you are familiar with it, if not providing some background and/or links so that I can verify this statement for myself instead of just taking your word for it? Thanks!

(I haven't borrowed any e-books from amazon so maybe they have a different scheme for those)

It has to be decentralized because you don't have to connect your kindle to amazon at any point in order to purchase and read a book.

You can choose to download the book manually from amazon when purchasing and move the file directly to the kindle over USB and be done.

The book is encrypted with your device serial number (or something similar), which is also why, if you would want to strip the DRM from the file (which might be illegal, depending on where you live), you have to supply your kindle serial number to be able to decrypt it.

Well if you ask the publishing a few people they cost more to make, and most say the costs are almost the same. seriously I kid you not. This of course is why they need new accounting departments and financial analysts and are highly prone to being broken apart like crab legs at a vegas buffet.

I can't believe cost would be the dominant factor in the price difference.

More likely, someone who has invested in a kindle will pay a higher price to obtain the convenience of the ebook and justify that investment. Publisher is just maximizing profit by setting price higher.

I am finding myself buying more and more remaindered hardbacks because they are cheaper than the kindle version.

But ebooks don't represent a minority of book sales. On the contrary, Amazon sells more ebooks than print books (both hardbacks and paperbacks combined).


This post really brings into focus just how right Richard Stallman was when he penned "The Right to Read":


Indeed. But don't expect the sort of person whose battle cry w/re to RS is "But he's so unkempt!" to acknowledge that he tends to be correct.

The main reason Stallman isn't mainstream is not his physical appearance, but his refusal to compromise with potential allies on even minor details. Not to mention a truckload of NIH on the part of the FSF, although you could argue this is another side of the same coin.

If I look at the sky and it's blue and I tell you that it's blue but you're convinced that it's yellow, should I compromise and agree henceforth to tell people that the sky is green or some shade of yellow?

If the cost of winning certain potential allies to your cause would amount to the complete subversion and hollowing out of your cause, maybe it's better to forge ahead without those allies. If your vision is correct, some of them may come around to the correct position, your position, as time goes on. Or maybe not.

Do you think that if stallman cut his hair and put on a suit his message would be better received?

Yes, no question about it.

(I used to think this didn't matter, either. Turns out that I'm far more pleasant to be around if I don't have a beard. So I haven't had one in 20 years).

Welcome to the world of effective interpersonal interaction. We're primates, get used to it :-)

No. Well dressed and much more groomed people has warned about obvious threat in similar areas, and has also been equally ignored.

Its the problem of the frog and the slowly heating pot. The changes a just slow enough that one can get used to the abuse. It will get worse. There is a ton of stuff companies could be doing to increase revenue by abusing their customers. When companies can view sold units as "theirs" to control, there is little limit.

Car manufacturers really are the next area where I expect to see some heavy changes really soon. Insurance companies really want data, and the manufactures can easy supply it like how fast someone drives, and where they go. In Sweden, this already almost happen in the form of an "voluntary" app. Driving in privacy mode will soon include a heavty cost depending on which insurance company you buy from. On the monopolistic side, there is nothing really stopping car manufacturers to put DRM into the gas tank, so to only "approved" gas sellers (those that pay the car manufacture) that has the right to sell gas. DRM is already in place for parts, so its not that a big step.

The U.S. has pretty decent laws surrounding car parts. The manufacturers are adding custom data to their vehicles, but the whole right to repair battle was already fought back in the 90s, the independents won (with odb ii coming out of it).

Yes. At the very least he would be less easily dismissed.

I very much agree with his ideals, but his insistence on living completely outside the system diminishes his effectiveness in changing it.

I e-mailed amazon using a feedback form[1]. following is what I wrote. I appreciate if other kindle owners can do the same to help Linn and for the greater good.

Dear Amazon,

Your service was really nice to me so far. But I happened to read a news that was not comforting. Following is a link to the story. http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/

This makes me hesitant about making any future purchases. I understand your right to act against any abuse but I also believe that users have a right know what was really going on, especially when they are being totally banished.

This email is to direct your attention towards the problem so you can have another chance of finishing things in a nicer way. I strongly believe DRM sucks but I also believe there are valid reasons for it to be there. The problem is not black or white. I'd like to see a solution that is acceptable for both parties (Amazon and the customer).

Thank you

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/kindle-help.html/r...

One data point: I work on the Kindle and have a pretty good understanding of how the device works. I'm not aware of how to wipe the device remotely. It's possible to revoke licenses for DRM content, but I have no idea how to remove all books. I can't explain how to reproduce what the blog describes happened.

If this person did in fact purchase DRM content and Amazon revoked it, then at a minimum the person should get a refund. There are ways that happens automatically (because it's the right thing for the customer -- Amazon doesn't want to take sides in the bigger debate). Since I don't see the refund mentioned I think there is more going on than "your account is connected to a flagged account."

Edit: SeanDav@ Deleting Amazon Account != wiping content from the device. They're different. It sounds like the person's account was deleted, but it shouldn't impact what's on the device save the revoked DRM licenses.

Edit 2: randartie@ I'm not blaming the victim, but refunds happen automatically if the customer originally paid for the content. There's a whole bunch of safeguards we have in place to protect customers and their content; this kind of sensational FUD continues to annoy me.

at a minimum the person should get a refund. There are ways that happens automatically (because it's the right thing for the customer -- Amazon doesn't want to take sides in the bigger debate)

Minor quibble. Yes deleting & giving a refund is more moral than deleting without a refund. But deleting someone else's property without their consent is very unethical, and is not "the right thing to do".

I think DRM revocation was a side effect of the fact that they closed her entire Amazon account for possibly violating an Amazon policy. That's why there is no refund.

As well, I don't see any reason why Amazon would not state what policy the 'linked' offending account was in violation of. It's easy to just blame this lady by saying more is going on that we don't know about.

You can tell yajoe is an Amazon employee by his use of "SeanDav@" and "randartie@".

Interesting. Do you know why is that? Does it have anything to do with the Lisp roots of Amazon technical might?

Any time you access Amazon from your Kindle they have the ability to delete content on that Kindle, in fact just being online with your Kindle is likely sufficient to have Amazon delete your content

I vaguely remember reading somewhere a long time ago that on books that show "Delete" they can't do anything, but on the ones that show "Remove from device" they can control your access to the book.

This would mean, the only way to save your investment on the Kindle would be to strip DRM using calibre (or the unswindle tool) and transfer those copies to your Kindle. Well, obviously this negates the entire point if you have 3G but maybe you'd have to host stuff on your own private server if you want all your books available all the time.

Thanks for the link! Just sent this:

Dear Amazon, Your Kindle service has been fantastic so far. I've only purchased a few books but my experience with your content and apps has been great, and I appreciate what you provide.

However I just read the account of one of your users who claims her account was closed, all of her content remotely erased from her device, and she was given no information or recourse regarding the reason for these actions: http://www.bekkelund.net/2012/10/22/outlawed-by-amazon-drm/

I have no idea if this account is true, but if so it would be utterly appalling. The thought of such awful customer service is disturbing, and the idea that content I paid for could simply be revoked (as it was in the case of Orwell's work "1984") is chilling. Tales like this make me worry about purchasing Kindle content because of the risks involved.

Is there any reassurance you can give me regarding: 1. Your content deletion policy 2. Your policies towards giving fair warning and a chance to defend themselves to users before condemning them as some sort of malicious users? 3. Your policies regarding disclosure of the reasons for suspending someone's account? Is it within your policy to refuse to give users information?

Thank you

Its getting to the point where I am seriously considering closing my Amazon account. I just don't like the way it does business any more. Can anyone recommend a good online bookseller in the UK? Is Waterstones any good?

The Guardian is running a story [1] today about how Amazon forces publishers to cover the cost of 20% VAT (sales tax) on ebook sales, even though it only pays 3% to the Luxembourg government (where it is based for tax purposes). It also insists that if a publisher offers a better price to another retailer then it must offer the same price to Amazon.

They also pay no corporation tax in the UK, despite sales of more than £3.3bn/yr [2], through being based in Luxembourg.

I was going to jump ship to The Book Depository, but Amazon bought them last year. Its hard to understand why this was allowed by the competition regulator, and it doesn't give me much confidence that the UK government has much interest in limiting their control of multiple markets.

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/oct/21/amazon-forc...

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/04/amazon-brit...

They have certainly lost me as a potential Kindle user. I was considering buying myself a Kindle for Christmas, but that's not going to happen now. I thought Amazon could be trusted with my money, but it's clear that it's too risky.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone higher up sees her issues and activates her account. But I can't trust my money to a company where you could lose access to books worth thousands if you talk with the wrong person.

> I was considering buying myself a Kindle for Christmas, but that's not going to happen now.

You can still treat yourself with one of the many currently sold ebook readers out there: http://www.the-ebook-reader.com/ebook-reader-comparison.html . There is a world out there of (electronic) books that is not controlled by Amazon.

It's not like they don't have form. In 2009 they erased all the versions of 1984 from all Kindles, to massive uproar.

Back then, they said "We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances". Looks like 3 years later they've decided to go back to what they were doing and promised not to do.

And THIS is why I won't buy a Kindle.


At least they gave these people their money back..

Ironic that it was 1984.

Fahrenheit 451 would have been better.

Haven't read that one yet. Damn you for putting it on my list.

Every week there is a story in the UK press about how company A is not paying tax in the UK. This is not unique to Amazon.

Vodafone, Amazon, Starbucks, Google, Apple, ...

Most are setup to use a double irish scheme, and usually throw in the dutch sandwich: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_sandwich

These schemes are relevant to corporate income tax, which can be manipulated and avoided. VAT applies to pretty much all revenue regardless of how you structure your company ownership structure.

Reminds me of the nice Starbucks joke from last week:

I like my women like I like my coffee - paying tax on their income in the UK.

There's a twist in asking customers to pay 20%, and taking that from the authors, and then (according to GP) not paying the 20% in England but paying just 3% in some other country.

VAT is not the same as corporation tax.

In the UK, Amazon is being accused of not paying the full amount of corporation tax they ought to be paying.

This sounds fraudulent.

You can be quite sure that the contract is not phrased in such a way that Amazon is required to pay 20% VAT on the ebooks in question to the UK government.

Is it sleazy as all getout? Yup, absolutely: but it's not illegal. Companies pull this kind of bait and switch all the time when they think they can get away with it. Remember when Microsoft bought the original Internet Explorer codebase in return for the company in question receiving a cut of the profits and then gave it away for free? How they must have laughed about that one back at MS HQ...

In reality, the publishers handed Amazon a near monopoly on ebook sales by their own short-sightedness and now Amazon is turning the thumbscrews to see how much they're actually prepared to cough up. The games with VAT in the contract are just part and parcel of that.

> How they must have laughed about that one back at MS HQ...

Until they lost the lawsuit...


Vodaphone's shenanigans so they only paid £1.2bn of the estimated £6bn total tax bill also sounds well dodgy.

It's funny that then people give out about small countries that have lower coporation tax (e.g. Ireland). If companies in "non-low-tax" countries like UK don't pay any tax, why give out to low-tax countries?

Not that taxes are out of control in the UK or anything...

Elaborate please?

http://www.betterworldbooks.com/ Used and new books. Free Shipping Worldwide.

"Better World Books is a self-sustaining, for-profit social venture whose mission is to capitalize on the value of the book to fund literacy initiatives locally, nationally and around the world. We partner with nearly 1400 libraries and over 1800 college campuses across the U.S. and Canada, collecting unwanted textbooks and library discards in support of non-profit literacy programs. We have raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills, created jobs for hundreds of people, and provided wonderful books to millions of readers worldwide."

Waterstones used to use Amazon to sell books (presumably they couldn't make any money any other way). Not sure if they still do.

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/ is pretty good, particularly for difficult to find and second hand books. I've found more and more recently that play.com does almost as well as (and often better than) Amazon in terms of price, although I don't know much about their business tactics.

AbeBooks is actually owned by Amazon now.

Seriously? Wow. Amazon really are dominating that particular market.

From AbeBooks' web site:

AbeBooks Inc. is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. AbeBooks, an online bookselling pioneer, was acquired in December 2008 and remains a stand-alone operation with headquarters in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a European office in Dusseldorf, Germany.


I'm a fan of foyles[1] and their selection and prices are quite good.


Thanks for the suggestion! I'll do some price/terms comparisons. I don't mind paying a small premium to support an independent. Or I may try just ordering books at the Waterstones near where I work, and having them delivered there. The current owner of Waterstones seems to actually like and value books [1].

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/james-daun...

I find The Book Depository good, but I don't really know if they're good or evil. They're very pleasant doing business with, though.

The Book Depository is owned by Amazon too :)

Ugh, I had no idea. Thanks for informing me!

I treat all E-books purchased with DRM as rentals.

When making a decision whether to buy or not, I look at the price and consider whether I'm willing to pay this much to rent the book for an indeterminate amount of time, possibly as little as 3 months. Quite often it turns out that the price is too high. But I never delude myself that I actually "own" any of the DRM-restricted content that I paid for.

> I treat all E-books purchased with DRM as rentals.

Good for you. Nobody else outside of HN does.

> > I treat all E-books purchased with DRM as rentals.

>Good for you. Nobody else outside of HN does.

Lawyers and librarians also do. There are big discussions in those circles about the meaning of the verbs "to buy" and "to possess" as used by Amazon, Apple and other big DRM "retailers". It is not only about DRM. Libraries are realising that paying for access to a website of a publishing house is not exactly like paying to receive a copy of a published journal or magazine. Have a look at all the dark archives and to who is financing them.

First it was an hacker problem, now it has spread to humanities, in five years the DRM will finally become a layperson problem. The first signs surfaced some years ago, when kids started complaining about the fact that their iPod could not be used to pass or share music while a cheaper Creative MP3 player could without a problem.

I had never heard of "dark archives." Is this what you mean?

(from: http://www.osti.gov/ostiblog/dark-archives)

So, what is a dark archive? It is, simply put, an archive of information that is not used for public access. Most often it serves as a failsafe copy of a light archive, i.e. a publicly available version of the information, for use in disaster recovery operations. Dark archives need not be a fully operational copy of an information system, rather just the content behind the information system.

A dark archive is an archive that is not meant to be publicly accessible. As you said it is used to store information that must survive in case of disaster.

But what is a disaster for a library? Yesterday it was a fire, today is a publisher going bankrupt and dismissing its online (paywalled) archive. A dark archive pays the fee to access various online resources and store them indefinitely, but without letting anyone access that information (well, except the archive admins). The legality of this? Dubious. The usefulness of this? High.

As Portico.com puts it, «We chose to create a “dark” archive to focus our efforts on securing and preserving large volumes of content important to libraries and their users; however, it is not exclusively dark. Participating libraries experience the archive as a “light” or accessible archive in two ways: auditing the archive to ensure we are prepared to support eventual use and accessing of content that has been made available as the result of a “trigger event” or post-cancellation access claim. Unlike many ongoing preservation initiatives, Portico participants and their users experience direct customer support, should they ever need it.»

But the devil is in the details. Who pays the fee for these dark archives? Do we trust them? Who is auditing what is happening behind the doors of the dark archives? Luckily there are FLOSS systems like LOCKSS and CLOCKSS that allow you to create your own dark archive.

Few links:

* http://news.jstor.org/news/2004.12/repositories.html

* http://hul.harvard.edu/publications/ln1356/03.html

* http://www.clockss.org/clockss/FAQ

* http://www.clockss.org/clockss/How_CLOCKSS_Works

* http://www.portico.org/digital-preservation/the-archive-cont...

Could you spell out what a "dark archive" is? The top few Google hits don't give me a precise sense of the thing.

> Nobody else outside of HN does

I agree with this, provided that we adopt Joel Spolsky's definition of "Nobody:"

  Please understand that I'm talking about large trends
  here, and therefore when I say things like "nobody" I
  really mean "fewer than 10,000,000 people," and so on
  and so forth.

That's the meaningful definition of nobody, and while it's entertaining for me to quibble that my ex-mother-in-law only "buys" light novels that she doesn't plan to re-read, your point is cogent.

I tend to use the phrase "Of course there are some people who do X, but we don't care about either of them."

Nobody else outside of HN [treats DRM'd e-book purchases as rentals].

Which is why the court hearing in cases like this should be short, and brutal to Amazon.

Of course, they know that by being based in a different jurisdiction from the person they're screwing, such a case is unlikely to materialise. This is a problem with legal systems generally: low-value cases are rarely worth pushing through if you're not a lawyer, because it takes so long to figure out how to do it without that legal education that you've lost more than you ever stood to recover anyway. This is why consumer protection organisations with the weight of national governments behind them are necessary, but the idea hasn't caught up with the Internet yet.

What's funny is this:

Fine let's say it's not a rental, and forget about the DRM issue for a second.

But what's your cost in keeping the data "alive"? I could copy it from machine to machine, maybe backup it on S3 (or similars), but all that has a cost (time, money, new reading devices, etc).

A physical book has a cost as well: space, weight, etc.

At some point, abandoning the book may be more cost effective, and even if digital books have a 'expire date' it looks like they may be cheaper in the long term

You should talk to more librarians. They're acutely aware of the problem and a number of people view public education on the subject as a professional obligation.

> I treat all E-books purchased with DRM as rentals.

I don't buy e-books. It would annoy me to be locked out of e.g. a steam account or a Google Play account or an AppStore account or whatever, but I'd manage. Not having access to my books, that is something which wouldn't fly, books have been close friends for all my life, so I will remain physical-only until and unless DRMs are dropped from ebooks, as I did with music. I just don't see the benefits as worth the risk.

Seeing DRM'd ebooks as short-term rental is an interesting idea though. I would see myself "renting" an ebook for a buck. For the same price as the mass-market paperback it still makes no sense.

I treat all digital (-ly distributed) content as "rental."

Most of the people I know do too... more or less. I treat all digital (-ly distributed) content as "rental." The reality is that "ownership" of digital property is different from ownership of physical property emotionally, legally and practically.

Even DRM-less? That makes no sense.

I agree on the DRM content though.. The problem is that most people will probably not.

You still don't necessarily own a DRM-free copy of something. DRM is simply a technical method of enforcing a legal license.

Just because you can use a DRM free file in more ways (for example copy and share it) doesn't mean that the license grants you the rights to do so.

One example I remember from the early 90s was "shareware" where you could send off for a free or low cost copy of a software program. These programs were sometimes just demo versions but often actually provided the entire program for free.

However the license stated that you must either delete the program from your computer after some period (usually 30 days) or you must pay a "registration fee" to the developer. Of course without DRM they had no actual way of enforcing this so plenty of people kept shareware versions of programs long after the 30 days which lead to developers releasing only versions with limited functionality for free.

Sme shareware would stop working after the trial period, and if you played it by the book or didn't know the workarounds, you would have to make the purchase.

That seemed to come later, a lot of DOS programs would let you keep using them with just a reminder screen on startup.

mIRC is one program that was free to use for a long time.

I'm talking about the feeling more than anything else. Having a song or a book on my computer/device doesn't feel like ownership to me so I don't treat it like ownership. A book on my kobo feels no different to a podcast on my phone. I don't think about my relationship with it.

Part of that is probably because I already treat physical copies of music/books as temporary things. I abandoned all my CDs & books during my last move. I don't really care about owning this stuff. I just want to listen to music read books and watch shows.

Another part is probably because I think whatever the system is now for owning, distributing & acculating digital property will be moot anyway within the next 10-20 years.

Basically, I don't expect my grandchildren to inherit my "cloud." They'll have access to all that stuff one way or another anyway.

Uhm, what? The button name is "Buy now with 1-click", not "Rent now with 1-click". If I buy something, I own it. Period.

May be you consider it a rental, but most consider it a purchase. That's why throwing out DRM and making a backup should be expected the moment you buy some ebook.

The lack of transparency from Amazon here is worrying.

Because it appears to be Amazon UK dealing with the account holder I'd be interested to know if she would get anywhere by submitting a Subject Information Request [1].

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 an individual can submit a request for personal information held by an organization and they must comply within 40 days.

Whether she would get the information she is interested in, i.e. which account she is linked to, is another question.

[1] http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_the_public/personal_information/ho...

Yes I was also thinking of the Data Protection Acts here aswell.

Whether she would get the information she is interested in, i.e. which account she is linked to, is another question.

Well if they don't provide it, they are breaking the law, so you can complain about them again that way.

Unfortunately there are a number of circumstances where they are within their rights to withhold information. One of these situations is where the information relates to another individual.

If information is withheld she my be able to infer that the offending account to which she is linked is held by someone else - though the identity of the account holder would understandably not be given.

This logic doesn't hold. Either Amazon is certain her account is operated by the same character guilty of whatever violations of policy behind the "linked account", in which case they're not disclosing any additional information, or they're not, in which case they know they might be punishing somebody innocent (the "Let God sort'em out" customer policy).

In any case, it sounds straight out of Kafka: you're punished, but you don't know what crime you are supposed to have committed.

And that's exactly what drives me bonkers about the current wave of "too big to care" web services, like GMail, Amazon or perhaps even Steam. Average consumer has absolutely no way of pushing back or even getting any information. It really feels like there needs to be some kind of law in place that requires some form of repayment if an account is closed. The problem there, I suppose, is potential for abuse -- buy a thousand books over a decade, then at the end "sacrifice" the account to get it closed, and try to get the money back.

There's irony: Amazon would try to stop information that would prove that her account is linked to another account by arguing that it would infringe a completely different person's privacy if it disclosed any information about the linked account that caused the original notification.

That's quite an interesting legal tactic they've got going there!

I wonder whether this is related to Linn living in Norway, purchasing from Amazon.com and somehow Amazon.co.uk are getting in the middle, perhaps because they run Europe from there.

It's the game that many people play - trying to find the best Amazon (or Apple) store when they live and travel between countries. This means a constant struggle to find a combination of credit card, store with enough content (The US is best) and a local address (virtual and actual) to satisfy arcane internal rules.

Please Amazon - please move to one global store where any credit card from any country can purchase any edition of any book. Please Amazon and Apple, let us combine content from multiple stores into one account, and let us have a global price based on the best market. Yo usell more stuff, we but more as well.

Meanwhile take the chance to collect, and pay to the local authorities, consumption/sales tax based on the location of the IP address, not the credit card or address of the buyer. That way if someone is standing in the UK, buying content from the USA, then they pay UK tax (VAT), making it fairer versus the physical and local virtual alternatives.

I live in Norway, and I've always ordered books from Amazon.com with my Norwegian address and credit card. I bought my Kindle the same way and have been buying Kindle e-books without any problems. Thus it appears that Amazon.com is fully willing and able to handle Norwegian customers.

> Please Amazon - please move to one global store where any credit card from any country can purchase any edition of any book.

Not gonna happen without a huge change in international copyright law, probably only possible if the Pirate Party gets constitution-changing majority in all of the key countries at the same time :)

Currently, for the most books there is no such thing as the right to publish a book globally, the existing deals are limited to geographic regions.

PhantomLobe replied to this comment:

Wat? I've bought in .com, .ca, .co.uk, .fr and .es with (both) France and Spain based credit cards with no problems whatsoever.

PhantomLobe, you were hellbanned* for making a comment that didn't fit the the community guidelines:


Looking at your comment history, you don't seem to be a spammer or a troll, I think it is more that your second comment didn't fit the guidelines and because you didn't have enough karma your account went under water, never to be seen again.

I don't know if it was by a mod, or by a robot, but to keep commenting with our PhantomLobe account is an effort in futility and a waste of your time.

I recommend that you review the guidelines doc above and avoid making comments that may be seen as not adding to the discussion. Also, start spelling words correctly. Wot is not a word and won't win you friends here.

On a related note: I wish HN would would stop hellbanning users for making comments that are not constructive. That's what downvotes are for! I have been seeing far too many people wasting so much time because they don't know they are hellbanned. Hellbanning should be reserved to obvious trolls and spammers, not people getting used to the standards of these discussions.


Hear, hear. I've been watching for hell-banned users for a few weeks now and from a random sample, some of the bannings are a little harsh.

Maybe there should be a stage before hell-banning?

Maybe HN should reveal who the hell banners are?

I think it's the computers. Most of the ghosts I see weren't trolls, just young accounts going far enough against the grain to get downvotes. If it's humans doing it, they are absurdly harsh.

That certainly fits the bill for PhantomLobe. Her/his second comment wasn't flamebait or spam, more just an slang laden "me too" style comment. With no karma the account submerged and now PhantomLobe is commenting into the ether with no one listening. I just can't stand to see people was their time like that (unless they are trolls/spammers).

How do you see them? I thought a hellbanned user couldn't be seen by anyone?

Set [showdead] to on in your preferences.

Why would Amazon.co.uk run "europe"? The europeans outside UK, FR or DE are forced to buy the international kindle from the US.

I assume for tax and logistics reasons. A search for "Amazon Europe" delivers an http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/gateway-eu. I'm making assumptions after that.

all international kindles are shipped from the US. ebooks must be bought from US too. the UK ebooks rights are ONLY for the UK, same with FR and DE. the US store handles american and international rights. other markets not quite big enough yet.

if you're thinking about physical books, that's wrong too. a book sold in both the US and UK shop will usually have a different publisher, so which one you get depends on where you ordered it, not where you live.

Seconded. I have a Kindle, I'm in Ireland. I have to use Amazon.com, not Amazon.co.uk. Amazon don't let you choose (unless you were to do fradulent things like use a fake address / credit card with other address etc.)

> Please Amazon - please move to one global store

Aren't they stuck by territorial rights deals? It's weird that books have region lock out.

In my experience the Kindle store is typically only available at Amazon.com when buying from most other countries.

For instance in South Africa while I can buy physical items from both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, if I try to buy anything from the Kindle store on Amazon.co.uk I get told to go to Amazon.com instead.

And it's more complicated than just which store you use. I'm an Australian and I have to use the amazon.com store. But even though I use that store, I can't buy "active content"/applications, which AFAIK is limited to US customers only.

At least there's the book depository for paper books!

I discovered when I was in China that Amazon will not sell music to you there (interestingly, iTunes will). I don't remember whether or not I had the same problem with ebooks. However, solving the problem was as simple as visiting them from a US-based IP address. (Granted, my credit card was based in the US, so that's a hurdle I cleared implicitly.)


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