Defective by Design's International Day Against DRM is coming up next week, and fortuitously Amazon has given us another example of why DRM is harmful.
Early this morning I got an email with an ebook I have been waiting for. It was Mytro by John Biggs, which I had backed in the Kickstarter campaign, and the email delivered the DRM-free ebooks I had bought. I'm not one to wait, so i immediately downloaded the ebook and tried to open it in the Kindle app on my PC.
And that's when I saw this error message:
For those who can't read the text, it says "The version of the Kindle application has expired and can no longer be used. Please update to a newer version."
You see, every so often Amazon likes to disable existing Kindle for PC apps and force users to upgrade. This is the first time I encountered it, but according to the support forums thread I found Amazon has been pulling this trick since at least 2012. I'm not the first person to be surprised when my Kindle app refused to run, and I am probably not even the 41st.
I was able to download and install the updated Kindle app, so this was only a minor inconvenience - today. Luckily I had a functional internet connection; if I were traveling, at a conference, or anywhere away from my home, I might have been out of luck.
And this time around I was also lucky in that the update didn't bork access to my ebook library. Back in 2011 Amazon pushed out an update for the K4PC app which was simply broken. I, and many other Kindle users, lost access to every Kindle format ebook on our PCs, including stuff we bought elsewhere as well as any annotations or notes we made in those other ebooks.
And that, folks, is what makes DRM, and especially Amazon's DRM, so utterly pernicious. Not only was Amazon able to block me from accessing the content which I licensed from them, they also cut me off from content I own and content I created myself.
So when the Day Against DRM rolls around again next week, it might be worth your time to make sure your content is safe. Like Cory Doctorow says:
If you can't open it, You don't own it!