Got a new Kindle? Here’s the most important thing to know
Important note: in 2014, this situation changed on some models with the Kindle “Family Library” feature. For more information, see About Family Library help page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
You may be one of literally millions of people who are the proud owners of a new Kindle today. 🙂
If you’re like me, you’ll come to love your Kindle…and you’ll have questions about it, too.
In this post, I’m going to to talk about the key point to understanding ownnig any Kindle.
For more information for new owners from previous years, see this category.
There’s No Accounting for…Accounts
I get lots of questions (which I love, by the way) and see even more other places, and the idea of how your Kindle relates to an Amazon account may be one of the biggest sources of confusion.
When you buy (or are given) a Kindle, that’s a piece of hardware. It’s kind of cool even by itself. However, it’s using it with Amazon that really makes it come alive. You can think of it like…sitting in a new car in the dealer’s showroom, or taking it out on the road.
In this case, an Amazon account is the road…it’s that whole wide world of experiences you can have with your Kindle. Now, to be clear, it’s hypothetically possible to use a Kindle without an Amazon account…you can get and use books (and music and such) from other sources, but I would guess it’s a tiny, tiny amount of people that do it that way. A Kindle is designed to be used with Amazon.
So, the first thing is to get your Kindle registered to an Amazon account, and to understand that it’s really that account that’s important. Oh, I get attached to my individual Kindles (after all, this blog isn’t called, “I Love My Kindle Account”) ;)…giving them what I think are clever names, for example, and referring to them that way (“I’m taking Schwinn with me today.”) However, intellectually I know that my Kindle is lost/stolen/fails, I can replace it…and have access to pretty much everything I did on the old one.
Getting an Amazon account is easy (and your Kindle will help you do it if you don’t have one). Essentially, you give them an e-mail address that they use to identify the account. You pick a password, and you (usually) set up some kind of payment method.
That’s about it.
That account is your identity with Amazon.
That’s really key.
It doesn’t matter to Amazon if one person is using the account or a hundred people are.
When you buy Kindle store books, think of it as the account owning the books.
Not an individual person…not an individual Kindle.
Let’s say you are a family of four…however you define family. Amazon doesn’t check that: you could be four friends who meet at Starbucks once a week, doesn’t matter. For convenience sake, though, I’m going to say Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother. Each one of the owns a Kindle. They are all on the same Amazon account, which I’m going to call the “family account”.
Dad buys a Kindle book using the account. That book is available to all four of them. Dad’s Kindle accidentally goes through the washing machine and is destroyed.
Makes no difference to the ownership of that book. Sister, Brother, and Mom can all still read it..and so can Dad, when the Kindle is replaced (or using another Kindle or reader app registered to that account).
Sister goes away to college in another state. Still makes no difference: Sister can read books that Brother buys, and vice versa…as long as they are using the same old account.
What happens if Mother and Father eventually pass on?
Makes no difference. As long as Brother and Sister have the e-mail address and password for the account, they still have access to the books. The payment method can be changed, the e-mail address can be changed…the account goes on, with all the books in it available to all the devices registered to that account.
Now, to be clear, a person using an account is responsible for it. When you set one up, Amazon says:
If you use this site, you are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your account and password and for restricting access to your computer, and you agree to accept responsibility for all activities that occur under your account or password. Amazon does sell products for children, but it sells them to adults, who can purchase with a credit card or other permitted payment method. If you are under 18, you may use Amazon.com only with involvement of a parent or guardian. Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in their sole discretion.”
Adults, you are responsible for minors using your account.
However, if you think of it as the Kindle store books belonging to the account, it will make the most sense to you.
What happens if you deregister a Kindle from that account?
It no longer has access to the Amazon storage of those books you bought. A Kindle can only be registered to one account at a time.
If you downloaded the books to your Kindle first, they’ll only disappear when you deregister the Kindle Fire . On the other Kindles, they’ll stay there. Importantly, though, they’ll only work on that one Kindle…you won’t be able to download them again to a new Kindle if you get one (more on that below).
Let’s say you have bought a thousand books on your account. A relative gets a new Kindle, and you let them register that Kindle to your account.
Boom! They have a thousand books they can read at no cost.
What if that relative buys a book on the account?
You also have access to it…and it’s already paid for.
What if, instead, that relative opens a brand new Amazon account? There won’t be any books in it, and when your relative buys a book on that account, you won’t have access to it (although there is some limited lending possible).
Different scenario: you and your Significant Other are on an Amazon account together. You pay for a hundred Kindle store books on that account with your own money. The relationship, sadly, ends. You deregister the Kindle from that account and register it to a new one.
Bye-bye, hundred books.
Even if your Significant Other wants to give them to you on that new account, it can’t be done. You either have to be registered to the old account, or lose access.
Update: Let’s go through this account thing and deregistering a little more clearly.
Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother were all on the same account, the “family account”. All of their Kindles had access to all of the books on that account, regardless of who paid for them. You can’t restrict which books are accessible by which Kindle…”the account owns the books”, not the individual devices. I think we may see that change in the future, but that’s how it works now.
Sister left the family account when she decided to deregister her Kindle from that one, and to start her own account (we’ll call it “sister’s account”). She might have done that because she wants to assert her financial independence…or maybe she wants to buy Kindle store books she doesn’t want her family to know about. 😉
When Sister deregistered, she already had books downloaded to her Kindle. Those books stay on that Kindle (unless it’s a Kindle Fire…then, they get removed), until she deletes them.
Sister later buys a new Kindle…her old one failed. She registers it to Sister’s account.
That new Kindle doesn’t have access to the books she brought with her from the family account. Those belong to the old account.
Even if she’d made copies of the files on her old Kindle before it died, they still won’t work on the new one.
Usually, Kindle store book files are keyed to work on a single device…they have code in the file that limits it to, say, “Sister’s Kindle”.
Now, let’s say Brother gets married later, but is still using the family account. Brother’s new spouse (let’s call the spouse “Sweetheart”) gets a Kindle as a wedding gift. Sweetheard already had a Kindle when they met, and it is registered to the Sweetheart’s family’s account.
Registering the new Kindle to Brother’s family account means that the new Kindle has access to all of the books bought by Brother’s family on that account…at no charge. Sweetheart can access the books on Sweetheart’s family’s account only on the old Kindle…and to Brother’s family’s account only on the new one.
Obviously, deciding to which account you are going to register your Kindle is the most important decision you can make about it…even before you get your first book.
What if two of you start out with separate accounts, and then want to merge them…combine the libraries? Officially, there isn’t a policy for that…but I’ve heard of it happening when Amazon has made an exception.
Don’t count on that, though.
Should you have more than one account if you have multiple Kindles in your house?
My feeling is that the default should be one account. The more people you have on it, the more buying power you have. Pay for a book once, everybody has access to it (although not necessarily all at once…the publishers limit how many devices on an account can have the book licensed at the same time. Unless it says otherwise on the book’s Amazon product page, that number is six). Everybody can share in each other’s purchases.
However, if you want to limit somebody’s access to an account, the most effective way is…another account. If you have books you don’t want your ten-year old to see, you might want to open a separate account for the kid. Yes, you’ll be responsible for that account. No, you won’t be able to share books.
I know, I know…I sort of feel like I should have hit the fun parts in this post first, like how to get free books. I get that enthusiasm. I was thinking, though, that if you get the free books on the “wrong account”, you are going to regret it. I’m going to give you information in future posts about having fun with the Kindle…I just don’t want what happens the first day to mess you up later.
Settled on which account? Got your Kindle all registered? If you are having trouble with it, Amazon can help you here: Getting Started with Your New Kindle Amazon help page.
Okay, here’s a free legal place to find free thousands of free books from the Kindle store:
Just couldn’t resist giving you that. 😉 I’m not connected to them except as a user, but it’s a great place to get started.
Do you have other questions? Feel free to ask me by commenting on this post. If you want your question to be confidential, please tell me in your comment.
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.