Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Disappointed Kindle Lover and Amazon Customer from Boston

Dear Mr Bezos,

I am sending this in response to Amazon's DMCA take-down notice to Alexander Turcic, the owner of dated March 9th.

Your growth has been based on customers seeing Amazon as a trusted partner. A relationship that is deteriorating as a result of Amazon using clout, not customer/community relations, to corner a market. For me, the take-down notice is one that I cannot justify despite my desire to defend Amazon.

First, I am not here to debate the need for or effectiveness of DRM. I understand that, despite its flaws, the existence of DRM has helped eBook adoption by the commercial publishing community. I am here to express dismay and concern at Amazon flexing its muscle in a move that effectively keeps its customers captive.

Whether intentional or not, it seems to me that in Amazon both misused the intent of DMCA and targeted its own customer base. The allegations in the notice (that Mobileread distributed/hosted information designed to circumvent the copy protection of Kindle 2 books) were false. The scripts/instructions targeted did not remove DRM (or its intended effect) but merely allowed Kindle owners to read non-Amazon purchases that were legally obtained. So rather than block illegal distribution of books, the net effect of your actions is to block your own customers from maximizing the use of their Kindles.

I'll give Amazon the benefit of the doubt and suggest your actions were the result of concerns that the PID could be used with other programs to circumvent eBook DRM. However, not only is that information available elsewhere, these methods were not promoted or supported by Mobileread. In fact, posts on how-to and links for these other uses were blatantly prohibited. My guess is that anyone intent on removing DRM would just as easily find other ways to identify the PID which is the only piece of information provided by the Mobileread scripts. If your goal was to prevent DRM removal from books, why insist on the removal of programs designed to help those Kindle owners who did not want to remove DRM? Your action makes no sense unless your goal is to lock Kindle owners to the Amazon store.

The added ability to borrow books from the library or purchase from others (through kindlefix) was a deciding factor in selecting/promoting the Kindle. Not just for myself, but many others as this is a key advantage of the Sony eReaders. While my personal preference would be for the Kindle to do this natively by reading other DRM'd formats (my understanding is that mobi should not require much effort), the Mobileread scripts provided Kindle customers with a small degree of this functionality (Sony supports drm'd pdf and epub formats which are more prevalent than .mobi).

Even with the scripts, over ninety-percent of my books came from the Amazon store because of competitive pricing/availability. And that is how you should compete as opposed to using monopolistic practices.

While other eReaders are becoming increasingly open to different drm formats to increase usability, it appears Amazon has taken the reverse course using the Kindle popularity to corner the eBook market. I own two Kindles but, as a consumer, I cannot support any vendor that takes aggressive measures to restrict who I buy from.

My hope is that this misfire is a wake-up call for Amazon. Open communications and partnerships with the communities that are your current and intended customer base (Mobileread is good place to start) instead of sending out legal notices with false allegations and restricting use will make you more competitive in the long run.

A Disappointed Kindle Lover and Amazon Customer from Boston

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