How to Turn a Kindle Into a Brick

A poster named "Ian" in a forum on the website MobileRead (a website for people who read books on mobile devices) has made the following claims about Amazon's Kindle in a posting entitled "Amazon has banned my account – my Kindle is now a (partial) brick":

I have been a loyal Amazon.com customer for many years, but today, I received an email stating that I have been banned from the site and my account has been closed, because I apparently have an extraordinary rate of requesting refunds due to a variety of factors. . . .

I have now discovered that I cannot manage my Kindle2 account (I can't log into Amazon) or purchase any new content.

In effect, I now have a $359 brick, not covered under any warranty, not able to be used the way it was meant to be, not able to be returned (not that I even want to, I just want to keep reading!)

I called customer service several times today; the supervisors there explained that I cannot use the Kindle store but "I can get content onto the machine different ways."

While I can't speak to the fairness of Ian's banning from Amazon's site, his story does bring up some important issues about consumers' rights in the age of electronic texts that we are slowly but surely entering. This is something that I touched on briefly in my interview with Ted Striphas and something that Striphas goes into in considerable detail in his book, The Late Age of Print.

Whether or not Ian is making truthful claims, his story highlights the fact that consumer rights and concepts of copyright are changing as we move more and more into electronic media. One poster to the forum suggests that in banning Ian, Amazon is attempting to protect its rights as a bookseller:

Sorry, Ian. I think you appear to Amazon to fit the profile of someone who buys books and holds them long enough to strip the DRM and then return the book.

Amazon does have every right to protect itself, just as Ian has every right to demand fair treatment. These are boundaries that are currently being negotiated, but make no mistake: when you buy an ebook, you are not buying a book. You are getting a different concept of fair use.

Consumers should be aware that just because a Kindle or a Sony Reader attempts to recreate the experience of reading a book, it doesn't mean that Amazon or Sony consider themselves to be selling you the same rights that you purchase when you buy a book.

I haven't yet bought an e-reader, and I don't plan to anytime soon, but people who embrace this medium should do so knowing that they're getting a different set of consumer rights. If you don't like what you're getting, demand more.

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I don’t know what embracing the medium entails (does one have to get rid of all ones print books?) but I’ve had an e-reader since last year, use it every day to read things I wouldn’t be able to read in comfort otherwise (PDFs from Princeton UP’s website is one small example) and have yet to buy one ebook.
In Ian’s case, perhaps the problem is that he is “a consumer” rather than a reader.

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