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Leasing ebooks from Amazon

June 23, 2009 – 12:26 | by Mark Urbin

I came to the conclusion a while ago that you don’t buy ebooks from Amazon, you are only leasing them.

First off, the highly restrictive Amazon DRM not only limits access to the ebook to their proprietary Kindle device, it restricts it to your specific device. Once you are done with the ebook, you can loan it to friend or sell it at used book store. If you want your friend to read the book, you have to give them your Kindle, because that is the only place that ebook will be displayed.

Second, Amazon doesn’t pay it’s associates a fee for any Kindle books “sold” through them. Why not? They pay the associates for just about everything else sold through their sites. Could it be that Kindle owners really are not “buying” the ebooks, but are just paying for a very restrictive lease in order to access the ebook?

Next, Megan McArdle just discovered a catch in the Amazon ebook fine print.

…there is always a limit to the number of times you can download a given book. Sometimes, he said, it’s five or six times but at other times it may only be once or twice. And, here’s the kicker folks, once you reach the cap you need to repurchase the book if you want to download it again.

I know people who buy paper books in both hardcover and paperback, but that is a different scenario. You have two separate versions of the book in different formats. One for the shelf and one to carry around and loan to friends. Amazon wants its customers to buy the exact same content, in the exact same format, multiple times, because their business model assumes that their paying customer are thieves.

That is not a consumer friendly business model.

Also posted at Urbin Technology.

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  1. 4 Responses to “Leasing ebooks from Amazon”

  2. By Stephen R on Jun 26, 2009 | Reply

    The more I look at the Kindle, the more I realize that Amazon is doing exactly what all the anti-SRM folks were **accusing** Apple of doing with iTunes (even when Apple wasn’t). Apple’s DRM was about as “open” as DRM could possibly be, and they fought to get rid of even that; Amazon seems to be embracing complete total lock-in.

    I recommend getting ebooks from or (actually, they’re the same company now — Fictionwise bought, and then Barnes and Noble bought Fictionwise). I’ve been buying stuff from them for years for my Palm, and now I can transfer those over to my iPhone.

    (Ironically, I can’t directly transfer the *non* DRM stuff to my iPhone because it’s a different format — but I *can* convert it to a format that can be transferred.)

    The use a pretty ingenious unlocking scheme — you have to enter your credit card #. So you can put the books on the Internet all you like, but they’re no good unless you also want to hand out your credit card number and name….

    Oh, incidentally, you can get a Kindle program for the iPhone as well, so you do *not* need a Kindle device to read Kindle books.

  3. By MarkUrbin on Jun 26, 2009 | Reply

    Ya, you can read Amazon books on your iphone using the kindle app or stanza, recently bought by Amazon. The DRM, and the download limits, still applies.

    I buy a lot of my ebooks from They sell unencrypted versions in multiple formats. My favorite ebook reader for the iphone is

    You can load your your ebooks, and supports multiple formats.

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