This is a story about a woman named Linn, who travels a lot and reads most of her books on Kindle (much like me). Some time ago, as she loaded up her Kindle app, she found out to her surprise that Amazon have destroyed her account and erased its contents (i.e. her books), with no notice what-so-ever.
You think that when you buy a book on Amazon Kindle you actually own it? Hell no, you are just paying for the (temporary) right to consume it digitally.
This story (which already unfolded and has been remedied) is quite scary, and is an eye opener to all these “Terms & Conditions” that we’re so eager to agree to, just so we can put our hands on the next ‘Hunger Games’ book (I prefer this one though).
Being locked out of her Amazon account wasn’t the worst part. The worst and most scary part is the response Linn received from Amazon when she contacted their support, as described on Martin Bekkelund‘s blog, who was the first to feature this story:
Dear Linn [last name],
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your attention to this email.
Executive Customer Relations
So, as Amazon’s Michael offered, Linn sent him some questions, such as – what the hell was Amazon accusing her of?
The emails went back and forth, but the answers repeated themselves: Amazon wouldn’t tell Linn what she did, or even if she actually did something. They wouldn’t tell her which account (allegedly) related to hers was violating their terms either.
They just shut her account down, told her to never try to open a new one, and called it a day.
The good news is that after this story got some media coverage (somebody said NBC?), Linn’s account was restored.
The bad news on the other hand, is that for better or worse – you can’t just march on to “the other Amazon store”. There is no other Amazon. In this day and age, as world’s authors are publishing more and more books solely on the Kindle platform, this is a disturbing thought.
P.S. Please don’t tell me that there’s always the iTunes book store. Not the same reach, and it’s limited in sooo many countries, that it ain’t relevant for now.