Should Kindle updates be optional?
There are three long threads right now in the Amazon Kindle community about recent software updates for Kindles:
Each one started with an official announcement from Amazon.
They then go on from there with customer posts, and there are some things that you’ll find in all of them:
- “Thanks, Amazon!”
- “This sucks!”
- “How do I get the update?”
- “I don’t want this! I bought it, I should get to choose.”
I don’t intend any of those to be specific quotations from individuals, by the way, but just representative.
It’s that last one that prompted this post.
For me, there’s no question that each update (and I think it’s great that Amazon does this many updates) brings things that people like and things that people don’t like. Many people don’t like how the wireless on and off function has been buried deeper on the Mindle, for instance. Understood…I can find some positive elements to it, but for most people I think that’s a negative. I also think that Amazon will change it back in a future update.
Given that, it’s the concept that Amazon shouldn’t update your Kindle without asking that intrigues me.
I have a couple of comments about that.
You do own the physical Kindle, in a manner similar to owning a copy of a paperbook. If you want to use it to stick under the leg of your coffee table to keep it from wobbling, Amazon can’t stop you from doing that.
Amazon isn’t forcing you to take the software update because you own a Kindle. If you never connect to Amazon’s servers, you won’t get it. You could have a Kindle, and just sideload Project Gutenberg books on to it, with it deregistered from Amazon. You won’t get the update.
They force you to get the update if you are going to use the Kindle service.
There are some justifiable reasons for that:
- It’s much easier to provide Customer Service if people have the same version of the software. Customer Service is expensive…one of the significant ongoing expenses after someone buys a device (at least, with good companies)
- An update may fix a problem, again reducing Customer Service calls. Suppose there was something that randomly deleted a book. If Amazon didn’t do an update that would fix it, they would get tons of calls on that…and have unhappy customers to boot (even if they could fix the deleted book through a Customer Service call)
- An update may be necessary to meet some requirement of the content providers. One of the most publicly lamented updates allowed publishers to block text-to-speech access to individual e-book titles. Rightsholders were apparently threatening legal action against Amazon if they didn’t allow it, or were certainly complaining about it. Providing TTS was legal…however, my understanding is that it is also legal for the rightsholder to block it (as long as they have at least one edition of each e-book, even if it requires certification of a print disability, that allows it)
Amazon might also just want to do something…like providing a link to Twitter or add more language dictionaries.
Yes, those examples largely benefit Amazon, and if a customer wanted to skip them and still use Amazon, why can’t they?
Well, it’s in the Terms of Service to which customers hypothetically agree that Amazon can do it. In the
“Automatic Updates. In order to keep your Software up-to-date, Amazon may automatically provide your Kindle or Other Device with updates/upgrades to the Software.”
So, no question: Amazon has the right to update your Kindle.
Should they do it without asking your permission in each case, though?
Based on the threads, there are clearly people who think they shouldn’t. I wonder…what if Amazon said you don’t need to take the update, but that they won’t continue to service your Kindle if you don’t? You know, sort of like they let us put third-party apps on our Kindle Fires, but warn us that we are then responsible for any damage those apps might do?
I suspect this poll will go overwhelmingly one way, but I”m curious to see…I don’t like to assume.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.