Amazon and the erotica debacle

I’m coming in late on this topic, I know.  But bear with me.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a personal account from an author that had her books pulled.  Although I’m a bit late to the game, Amazon has stood their ground as evidenced by the fact that her books still aren’t back up.

I don’t want to get into the arbitrary decision process they have adopted as to why certain erotica books are removed and others aren’t or why they accepted them in the first place.  The mechanics of this particular business choice is, fortunately for them, theirs to make.  Not so fortunate for authors, since now they really have no idea what they can publish with them or distribute through them.  Even traditionally published books are being sent to the trash bin.  Customers are again complaining about their books being pulled from their archives without any notice or refund.  But there’s plenty being said on this already.

The one thing I’ve found interesting in reading all the uproar about this is that no one has mentioned that this practice of removing purchased items from archives isn’t just ebooks and it isn’t something they’ve only done once or twice before.  Amazon has been doing this regularly since it started selling digital content.

I ordered the movie “Coraline” (because who doesn’t love Neil Gaiman?) when it first became available for purchase – tells you how long ago this happened.  I purchased it, not rented it.  When I went back several months later to watch it again, it was removed.  I have no idea when they removed it and I had to call and ask for a refund.  I was told it was removed because they lost the license.  Well, great.  Why didn’t you offer me a refund when you took it back?  I don’t recall any vocal outcry like there was for 1984.

Which leaves me to believe books are pulled from Kindles all the time.  Movies are pulled all the time.  Music probably isn’t affected nearly as much because the music is usually transferred to iTunes or something similar so they have no direct access.  I’m praying they don’t come out with some crazy MP3 player that will only play music from them because you know it will lead to some new proprietary format that won’t let you play it anywhere else.  And if that wouldn’t be crazy enough, people will buy it.

All their digital content is open to removal from your archives at any time.  Last time I checked, even the periodical subscriptions that you may have purchased are going to be tied to the serial number of your Kindle, not you – so hope you never have to get your Kindle fixed if you have periodicals because you won’t get yours back.  I don’t know if the periodical thing is still the case but at the time I was finally jumping on the ereader bandwagon, it was.

And there have been complaints to Amazon about this very practice forever and yet it hasn’t changed. People still shop there and people will still continue to shop there.  It’s unfortunate but true.  They will continue to take back what they bought and hope you never notice so they can keep their money.

I would like to see an accounting of how much money they’ve chosen not to return to people who have no clue they are missing purchased items.  I bet it’s fairly substantial.

I no longer purchase anything digital from them.  If I ever purchase an ebook from them again, I will download it to my hard drive.  I can’t do that with movies (because you’re forced to watch online through any player that will connect to Amazon) unless I get software that allows me to record my computer screen, so I won’t be buying movies at all.

The moral of this blog is that when dealing with Amazon and any digital content, buyer beware.  This isn’t an anomoly.  It didn’t only happen with 1984 or erotica.  Amazon does this all the time with everything digital.  They simply have a very poor business model when it comes to digital content and it’s not stopping anyone from shopping there.

I tend to think that the backlash just isn’t going to mean much to them or their bottom line.  It hasn’t before and it probably won’t ever.

And that’s why I went with a Nook.


Anne R. Allen
January 9, 2011 10:07 pm

Wow. This is scary stuff. I didn't have a clue. Thanks for spreading the word.

January 9, 2011 10:58 pm

I know, crazy right? And it just keeps happening.

January 10, 2011 9:10 am

This is a great post because i buy a bunch from amazon and didn't know any of this…okay, I don't hav a kindle, but if I did, and suddenly had something I had paid for just disappear, I would be peeved. Very peeved. I haven't had any trouble with other kinds of orders from Amazon…I actually had a book order from them that got lost in the mail so then sent me a new one…when that original lost book showed up in my mail a week later, I could either send it back, or keep it, no questions asked…so, cause I am lazy I know have two copies of that book.

January 10, 2011 4:18 pm

Since you don't actually have to have a Kindle to be a victim of this (Kindle apps are on many mobile devices), the best advice that I can think of for anyone is to remember to download book purchases to harddrive. It's really the only complaint I have with Amazon. Direct purchases of physical items, I've never had an issue with, either.

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