Digital Drawbacks: Why WC Still Buys Printed Books
Linn Nygaard is an Amazon UK customer. Or at least she was. She travels a lot and had a lot of books on her Kindle, purchased from Amazon. Suddenly, her Kindle was wiped and her account was closed. She sent an e-mail to Amazon, asking for help. This was the answer:
Dear Linn Nygaard,
My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.
We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.
Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.
Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.
You may direct any questions to me at email@example.com.
Thank you for your attention to this email.
Executive Customer Relations
But Nygaard only had one account at Amazon. Surely there was some mistake. Amazon simply refused to explain. Her purchased digital books were gone. Her Amazon account was closed. And she could not get any explanation.
WC has a substantial number of books in his home. Some few have purchased from Amazon. Can you imagine Amazon breaking into WC’s house to “repossess” books because WC broke some rule in Amazon’s pages-long contract? Neither can WC. But Amazon feels free to reach into your home and erase books you have purchased from your Kindle. Without warning. Refusing to explain why.
Suddenly, those old-fashioned paper-based books are looking a lot more attractive.
Now Nygaard may or may not have broken Amazon’s rules. There may or may not have been an “abuse of policies.” There’s so much fine print in the average End User license Agreement (“EULA) that it’s impossible not to violate some clause or other, as Cory Doctorow notes. Or it might be that Nygaard has done nothing at all. We don’t know because Amazon won’t say. WC joins other bloggers in inviting Amazon to explain. But so far it hasn’t.
The blogosphere has been all over this issue. There’s been considerable backlash against Amazon.
Which may be why suddenly, without notice, Ms. Nygaard’s books were restored to her Kindle. Afterwards, Ms. Nygaard received a telephone call, purportedly from Amazon. “I hadn’t heard anything from Amazon about this, except that I got a very strange phone earlier from someone with a hidden number,” she said. “They claimed that they worked in Amazon.co.uk and would give me a new Kindle, but they would not talk to me about my account.”
And no apology.
So WC will stay with his old-fashioned, clunky books. WC’s technogeek friends mock him for being old fashioned. But at least the books won’t vanish at some giant corporation’s whim. Without notice or explanation. With no right to appeal.
NB. WC sent an email to Amazon asking for comment on this post. There’s been no response.