Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Why E-book Distribution Is Completely and Utterly Broken (and How to Fix It)

Photo via iStockphoto

A recent incident involving Amazon and a Norwegian reader has highlighted the sad state of e-book distribution on many levels. For those new to the story, which was broken on Martin Bekkelund’s blog late last month, a Norwegian woman named Linn (described as a friend of Bekkelund’s) reportedly found her Amazon account closed and all the e-books she had purchased via Amazon wiped from her Kindle with no explanation. Bekkelund further documents on his blog an email exchange that he says took place between Amazon and Linn, who sensibly inquired as to what exactly was going on. The series of exchanges is a surreal back and forth communication with Amazon that Cory Doctorow has since characterized as “a sort of Kafkaesque dumbshow of bureaucratic non-answering” in which Amazon provides no substantive explanation beyond a vague abuse of Amazon polices – without naming which policies or what the nature of the abuse entailed.
Some additional sleuthing by Simon Phipps turned up a bit more context. And indeed, it is a more complex story than it appeared at first blush, as these things usually are. Phipps reports that Linn lives in Norway but bought her Kindle in the UK. And then, being a good daughter, gave that Kindle to her mother and bought another one. Which subsequently broke. Twice. Amazon agreed to ship her a replacement, but insisted on sending it to address in the UK, as opposed to where Linn resides in Norway. All of this maternal gifting, device replacement, and international back-and-forthing apparently kicked up some sort of flag in Amazon’s systems resulting in the account shut down.
After the story appeared on Doctorow’s and Phipp’s blogs and was written up in the Guardian, Phipps reports that Linn’s account and e-books were just as mysteriously restored. Hooray. Case closed? Not so fast.
While in one sense this may be a minor customer service snafu on the part of the Amazon brought on by an admittedly complex (but in no way unusual) chain of events, it serves as a useful lens into the train wreck that is e-book distribution today:
Full report at Scholarly Kitchen

1 comment:

Iola said...

Sorry, but what's odd about a retailer insisting on shipping a product to the registered address for the customer? It's to protect the customer from fraud - so that other people who have somehow come into possession of the account details can't benefit.

If you order a book from Whitcoulls or Noel Leeming (or any other online retailer), they insist on shipping it to the address on your account. Unless you specify that the product is a gift, and provide an alternate address.

Equally, I'm quite sure that if you requested a replacement under warranty, they would want to ship it to the same address as the original product.

What's odd is that this story has got so much international attention with so few facts.