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Amazon, hacked accounts, & Kindle ebooks – the real story

There’s a post over on Consumerist right now that’s going to be all over the tech blogs in the next few days. It involves Amazon closing a hacked account and the account owner losing access to his ebooks.

The story is going to be reposted everywhere because it’s an attention getter. The tech blogs will be able to write about how a major tech company screwed up, and that’s always good for a few page views.

The only problem is that losing your amazon account after 8 years of purchases is not that simple, not only I have I permanently lost all my order history, shipping address for tons of friends and family and my 5 page wish list neither of which I have a record of anywhere else, but I soon discovered that it also meant losing hundreds of dollars of Kindle books I have purchased from them. Amazon’s solution to that is just to offer me a gift card for the amount I spent on Kindle books so I can repurchase them all individually on the new account I’m supposed to open with them.

But as I have the nasty habit of heavily highlighting, bookmarking and annotating all the books I read, it means that they just trashed the countless hours I spent reading and taking notes in my books!

Unfortunately, his experiences aren’t the complete story.

I’ve been following a similar problem faced by Joanna of TeleRead. Her account was closed because Amazon said that the account was hacked. She too lost her Kindle ebook collection, but only temporarily. She contacted Amazon and they offered to reopen her account. She did get the account back, and she did get her ebooks back.

I wasn’t going to write about her experiences; everything came out okay so it wasn’t much of a story. But now there really is a story. Here we have 1 person who got the account back and another who did not. It’s clearly obvious that Amazon will let you back in after the account has been hacked, so I have to wonder what did Joseph do that was different from Joanna?

Folks, I usually won’t go out of my way to defend Amazon, but in this instance I think they did the right thing.  It’s unfortunate that Amazon couldn’t transfer the rights to a new account, but are they alone in lacking that ability? I don;t know any major digital content retailer who can transfer rights like that.

And frankly, Amazon did offer him a credit for all of his ebooks. It’s not a great solution but it’s a pretty decent one.

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Timothy Wilhoit July 15, 2011 um 12:29 pm

Amazon DID do the right thing. I’ve had my bank do the same thing when their automated fraud bot detects what "may" have been unauthorized activity on my account. Once I call the bank, it’s quickly resolved and my account is restored. I’m a bit skeptical about the Consumerist creating a whole story from one email. I seriously doubt that Amazon would permanently close this person’s account. I remember the thread from Mobileread because I posted several times on that thread. When did the OP on that thread indicate "They [Amazon] didn’t like the idea…?" She said Amazon told her that "they can just reactivate my account and have me change the password." Of course, she may have said something to you that wasn’t part of the thread but I didn’t sense any reluctance on Amazon’s part to re-open the account. I remain skeptical of the Consumerist’s story (the part about the permanent closing) unless some additional evidence is provided.

Nate Hoffelder July 15, 2011 um 12:43 pm

Amazon PR said that to me, actually. Thanks for pointing it out. It confused the issue so i removed it.

Lynne Connolly July 15, 2011 um 12:30 pm

Have to say that recently my Kindle, still under guarantee, developed a couple of hair cracks on the case.
They sent me a new one and asked that I send the old one back in the same packaging. I didn’t even have to go to the post office, because it was DHL and they collected it from my home. So I could transfer all my stuff, unregister the old one and reregister it, and I wasn’t without my reading device for even a day.
Got to call that good service.

Timothy Wilhoit July 15, 2011 um 12:52 pm

Joanna did write an article about her experience here: and her last paragraph was very interesting: "On a final note, I did some digging and it turns out I am not the only person who has had this situation. Several Kindle customers who reported similar issues were able to trace the security breach to a recent hack of the Sony servers. I do have an account at the Sony store, although I have not used it in awhile, so perhaps the problem originated there." Lesson to learn…change passwords on all accounts immediately (ones with your credit card especially) and make your passwords difficult to crack.

Mike Cane July 15, 2011 um 1:34 pm

I don’t understand what is meant by "hacked" here. Do you mean someone ran up additional purchases?

Anyone who uses the same damn password on more than one site or account is asking for problems.

Timothy Wilhoit July 15, 2011 um 1:43 pm

"Anyone who uses the same damn password on more than one site or account is asking for problems."

Pretty much, yeah. ^_^

Chris July 15, 2011 um 4:52 pm

You’re assuming the person uses the same password on more than one account and even if they did, how does that justify someone acting in an unlawful manner?

The "same password" defense has quickly become the "look at the way she was dressed" defense of the 21st century.

Mike Cane July 15, 2011 um 8:51 pm

What BS. If someone hacked Sony and found a password in the clear with a user name, it’s only natural they’re going to take that user name and password, plug it into software, and have it robotically check major sites to see if any of them open up.

Worst metaphor ever.

Chris July 15, 2011 um 11:21 pm

So, if someone illegally gained access to a username, it’s natural that they’re going to use it to illegally gain access elsewhere and that’s cool?


Whatever helps you sleep at night, man.

Nate Hoffelder July 15, 2011 um 9:24 pm

Amazon closed the account because of unauthorized access. It’s not clear how someone got in, so hacking is a possibility.

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