Book and Reading News

Kindle limits: The reality and solution

Dan Cohen of GearDiary published a clarification to his claim that Kindle titles downloads are limited in the form of An Open Letter To Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. He explains that he was told by an Amazon employee there is not a limit on the number of downloads of a title, the limit is on the number of devices to which any title can be downloaded.

Given that Amazon will only sell a two-year service agreement on Kindle, we can assume that they expect the device to have two years of useful life. You’d use five different Kindle devices over the course of a decade, which means you may find you can’t download an e-book from your library in the foreseeable future. Or if you expect to buy more than one Kindle per household and share books, it’s also likely that you’ll exceed the number of devices allowed per title sometime.

Amazon simply needs to do one of two things to make this right, probably both:

  • Follow Apple’s lead with iTunes activations and allow the customer to reset the number of active Kindles on an account to zero devices up to once a year.
  • Raise the number of Kindles allowed per title to a large enough number to avoid having a user ever reach the limit.

Raising the device limit will not encourage piracy, because account management is sufficiently complex that one user could never efficiently share titles with large numbers of people.

One family, including multiple generations, should be able to share a library. A devoted reader who happens to have a Kindle 1, Kindle for iPhone and multiple family members sharing a Kindle library should never run into a “limit exceeded” message. If families can’t share books, e-books are doomed to obscurity, as the libraries in many homes are full of titles passed along from generation to generation.

UPDATE: Let’s be sure we all understand the issue. The question is whether there are any limits on downloads of a book purchased from the Kindle store. The Amazon terms of service for Kindle do not mention “simultaneous device” limits. It does say:

Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

There’s no mention of limits and, if read literally, could be interpreted as limiting the use to one device, which is clearly not the policy. According to Amazon’s Kindle DX FAQ page, which does not qualify the number in any way, in terms of total downloads or number of simultaneous devices:

Can I read content on multiple Kindle devices? What about my iPhone?

Our Whispersync technology allows you to seamlessly switch back and forth between your Kindle devices and iPhone while keeping your reading location synchronized–now you can read a few pages on your iPhone or Kindle and pick right up where you left off on your Kindle DX.