Kindle for iPad app update glitch

Kindle for iPad app update glitch

One of Amazon’s core Kindle strategies has been the ability to read Kindle store books on devices other than Amazon’s.

Jeff Bezos has said that the hardware and software businesses are separate  (although I recall that from years ago)…you could hypothetically buy a Kindle and use it with e-books from other sources, and you could buy Kindle store books and use them on things other than the Kindle.

I suspect the markets are considered to have merged much  more over time. How many people who use Kindles don’t buy any Kindle store books for them? A tiny percentage, I’m guessing.

However, the Kindle app for the iPad is undoubtedly one reason why iBooks never really dominated the market. You could read your Kindle store books on the iPad, so why split your library compatibility (you couldn’t read iBooks on your Kindle) by investing in two lines?

That’s why it is just flabbergasting that Amazon could release an update for their Kindle for iPad app with as big a flaw as the one they released (and then re-released with a fix) yesterday.

What was the flaw?

For some people, updating the app (which might have happened without their surface awareness…just tapping an “updates available” type link), it removed all of their Kindle store books from their devices.


It’s important to note that it didn’t remove them from their accounts. They (in the vast majority* of cases) didn’t lose things they bought and had to rebuy them…they could redownload them again from the archives/Cloud at no additional cost.

That’s always key, and not always understood…it’s easiest to think of it as the books belonging to the account, not a device. If one of your devices is lost/stolen/fails…or has a “glitchup” like this, your books are still yours.

That doesn’t mean this wouldn’t be highly irritating and inconvenient for certain users.

One of my readers, Pam, let me know about this (I have read about it other places), and mentioned having many cookbooks on the device, which would now need to be redownloaded one by one.

I’ve seen other people comment that they weren’t sure which books they’ve read and which they haven’t, and the Cloud doesn’t really have organization at this point, so you can’t just find them in a TBR (To Be Read) folder there.

Even Amazon warned people not to do the update yesterday (although they have since uploaded a new version (3.6.2) that has a “…Fix for Registration Issue”. If you download it today, you should be okay.

The question for me, though, is how does this happen?

It apparently got fixed in hours…that suggests that once the problem was identified, it wasn’t that complicated.

So why didn’t Amazon know about it before they released it?

This doesn’t sound like some sort of odd behavior on the part of customers (I can understand how that happens). They appear to have just done what they were supposed to do.

Can’t Amazon test that effectively? I know they want to keep updates secret, but does nobody at Amazon own an iPad? ;)

I’m exaggerating that, of course, but seriously…I’m having a hard time understanding how such a catastrophic (but recoverable) failure could be undiscovered until after release.

I mean, I don’t think there was any urgency in releasing this update. It could have waited a day while Amazon employees/friends/betatesters tried the process.

This seems different to me from the way I’ve heard that we got screensavers.

That goes back to Pong.

When we played the Ping Pong simulation at home originally, we did it by hooking a device to the TV…which is not that different from what you do now with a gaming console.

There were bright white paddles and a bright white ball.

As I’ve heard it (and I have not checked to see if this is true, but it’s a good story) ;) kids would just leave the TV and the game on, and go outside and play.

The paddles and the ball would “burn” into the TVs of the day. When an adult later turned off the TV, those images would still be there…forever. Even during Donny & Marie, you’d see those paddles.

So, later on, screensavers were invented. The defining characteristic of a screensaver? The images move, preventing burn-in. You won’t get burn-in like that on modern screens, from what I know.

The point of that story is that the engineers who made Pong never imagined somebody leaving the game on the TV for hours with no one watching.

Engineers tend to turn off unattended, unneeded devices.

That made it clear that you need to test things in real situations with real people to see how they work.

In this situation, Amazon has apologized to people, but it’s not clear to me that it couldn’t have been efficiently avoided.

This has impact beyond just the people who updated yesterday (and may be spending some time downloading again).

It points out two long-standing issues:

1. Why can’t we download more than one book at once?

2. Why isn’t there organization in the Cloud?

I understand that there are significant technical issues involved in both, and I’m not saying these are things that Amazon should have already resolved…but this other glitch does bring them to the fore in people’s minds again.

I’m actually a bit more confused about why the first issue, multiple download, is still around…for tablets. My understanding was that you couldn’t really do it with RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), because sending a thousand books at once (or even in very rapid succession) to a device like that would overwhelm it.

With a tablet, though, which can download an HD (High Definition) movie with a single command (although it takes a while), it’s hard to see how that situation is comparable.

Anyway, I feel for people who had this happen. Amazon has told people they can keep their libraries on their devices. I don’t do it that way myself…I usually only have about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a given time. Amazon says you can do it, though, so releasing an update that causes a big problem for people who do seems a bit…careless, I suppose.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Amazon…is just a case of “these things happen”? Shouldn’t I just give Amazon props for fixing it so quickly? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* My understanding is that if a book has been removed from the Kindle store for legal reasons (such as it was infringing), Amazon can’t allow you to download it again from your archives. In those very rare cases, losing a local copy could mean losing access to the book. I’ve had people tell me that isn’t true any more, but my guess is that it is…haven’t tested it, so I can’t say for sure

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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9 Responses to “Kindle for iPad app update glitch”

  1. Wildsubnet Says:

    Whenever human beings are involved, mistakes will happen. What is more important is the frequency of incidents (low for Amazon) and the response to them (turn around a fix in less than day – that’s great). Kudos for Amazon for rectifying the mistake quickly.

  2. jjhitt Says:

    I think it says a lot about the importance of the iOS market. Fixing known software problems has been one of Amazon’s weaker points.
    * K2 issue with large libraries — never fixed.
    * K4PC had a installation problem that spanned several versions.
    * Manage Your Kindle — performance issues never fixed; loads libraries one slow page at a time.

    iOS problem? Yes, sir, right away, sir!

  3. tellthetruth1 Says:

    You’ve just given me reason enough to do the job I should have done yonks ago! If this ever happened to me with all my latest downloads, it would be a real humdinger to have to back up all my books again. Way out? Make a copy of everything on the Kindle to a spare hard drive. If all goes haywire with an update, link the Kindle to the spare drive and upload again from there, rather than the cloud. Much faster! I’d better get stuck in!

    Love the blog, and I also love my Kindle. ;-)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

      I have recommended backing up a Kindle before, but that’s largely for personal documents.

      If you do what what you are suggesting, and you are talking about an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle), only reload them on to the device in fairly small batches. Those Kindles appear not to be able to handle a lot of files at once (it might have to do with the indexing process), and I’ve heard many times about people having problems if they threw, say, a 1,000 books on there at one time.

      I’m not as bothered by it, just because I don’t keep very many Kindle store books on a device at a time (that’s my solution) ;), but you are supposed to be able to do that.

      Oh, and you might also run into problems with your “associated information files”…your annotations, where you were in the book, that sort of thing. It certainly could work, but it may not be quite as seamless as you expect.

      I appreciate the kind words…thanks again!

  4. tellthetruth1 Says:

    Thanks Bufo Calvin. I shouldn’t have any hassles as I work mainly with my Kindle Fire HD now, although I also have the lovely Kindle Keyboard; my fave white screen Kindle. The Fire is so quick with everything that I don’t foresee hassles over cable. I only hope I can back up and restore the apps in the same way!

    Do you have a page as to why the Kindle Fire HD might sometimes give screen flicker? Would love to read your comments if so. Thanks again. :)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

      Can you describe the “flicker” a bit more? Does the image go away for a noticeable time and come back, or is the image on the screen the whole time, but “shimmering” or “strobing”?

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        Yeah, course I can. Was playing Bejeweled a couple of nights ago and the screen was shimmering, if you like. Dark-light-dark-light due to the flashing of the ‘jewels’ cubes. I’d only just charged the Fire. I know it hates cold weather. Things tend to freeze up after I’ve been out waiting for my train and reading or playing, for instance. It REALLY doesn’t like the cold!

        So anyway, I stuck it back on charge, warmed it up to room temp and had another play of Bejeweled. Took off auto-bright for a bit, then put it back on a few hours later. All went back to normal. Perhaps the poor thing was shivering! ;-) But it would be nice if someone had written something on this. That’s why I asked. :)

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

        The description helps. If it had been going all the way to dark and back again, my experience is that it can be opening an app in the background (it happens with Magic Jack for me, for example).

        There is an operating temperature for a Kindle Fire, and if you are outside of that, I would assume it could have power difficulties with the battery, which might (I suppose) produce screen flickering such as you describe.

        Operating temperature — 32°F to 95°F (0°C to 35°C).
        Storage temperature — 14°F to 113°F (-10°C to 45°C).

        Do you think you were below 32? There might be performance degradation before that point, of course…that’s presumably the point it stops working and/or could take damage.

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        Well, 2C equates to 35.6 F so no, not quite, but not far off! It’s starting to warm up beyond the 4C mark now, so things are definitely improving. I haven’t, thankfully, had any more of the screen issue since that first time, so I’ve passed that nightmare. Only had the Kindle Fire since last November so I’m not ready to part with it yet!

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