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Amazon Now Blocking Publishers (but Not Retailers) From Emailing eBooks to Your Kindle?

5793059580_07a2fc072a_bWhen I reported yesterday that Baen Books was going to drop the email delivery option from its ebookstore, I downplayed the story by pointing out the context that other retailers and publishers still offered this feature.

I think I may have erred. While I can’t report that Amazon is now forbidding _all_ other companies from sending your ebooks to your Kindle, I can tell you that the ban is affecting more than just Baen Books.

A reader tipped me to the news that The Pragmatic Bookshelf has made an announcement similar to Baen Books. Pragmatic will also be withdrawing this delivery option from its ebookstore:

Please note that as of May, 2015, Amazon has notified us and other publishers that they will no longer allow publishers to use the “send to Kindle” email feature. We are trying to work with Amazon to convince them to keep this feature for you convenience, but it would appear that your convenience is not a priority.

Toni Weisskopf, the Publisher at Baen Books, confirmed on Baen’s Bar (registration required) that Amazon changed the policy. I’ve also been told by a reader that a third publisher has been impacted, but has not yet announced the news. (Thanks, Michael!)

Using the Kindle email delivery option for commercial purposes has always been against the rules, so this week’s news is more disappointing and frustrating than a surprise. Amazon may have been turning a blind eye to the misuse of this feature almost since the first Kindle shipped, but that doesn’t mean that they would continue to do so.

Nevertheless, I do find myself surprised as this story continues to evolve. You see, Amazon is not blocking all companies from using the Kindle email feature.

They’re just blocking publishers from using it ( so far, anyway).

I’ve checked, and the ebook bundle site StoryBundle hasn’t received any notice from Amazon.  NetGalley is also showing this delivery option on its website, and earlier today Mark Coker told me that Smashwords "haven’t received any recent communication from them on this".

At this point it looks like Amazon doesn’t want publishers to use this feature but hasn’t raised a similar objection to retailers and distributors flouting the rules.

Or maybe not.

I’m still waiting to hear back from O’Reilly Media. This technical publisher sells DRM-free ebooks direct and has long offered to deliver ebooks to a customer’s Kindle account.

O’Reilly hasn’t yet said whether they will continue to offer this feature, so at this point we still don’t know just how confused this situation really is.

I’ll update this post with O’Reilly’s response when I get it. Stay tuned.

P.S. And if you know of another publisher or retailer which has been impacted, please leave a comment. I’d like to better understand the scope of the issue.

image by VinothChandar

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Feda May 29, 2015 um 1:17 pm

If publishers were smart they would invest some money in starting an e-reader company that would have a line of quality e-readers in few sizes and open access for loading e-books with support for all popular formats. And than get those e-readers into stores like Best Buy, Target, Wall Mart etc… because most people are too lazy and disinterested to invest time and effort needed to find quality e-readers that are easy to use and open to all book sources.
The few e-reader companies out there are just to small to have sufficient budgets to produce devices that can get mass market penetration.
That would be the best way to reduce Amazon’s dominance in the e-book market since most of it comes from the fact that they make superior devices, not because anyone likes their restrictive business model and locked down ecosystem.

puzzled May 29, 2015 um 7:58 pm

The publishers aren’t smart.

Something like this could be considered collusion.

If the publishers did come up with a common ereader, it would be so locked down that it would barely work with book purchased from the publisher’s own sites. For an example of this, just check out the pathetic sites from almost every publisher. It would definitely not allow side-loading, as why should the publishers help you not spend buying their ebooks.

Plus it would be priced so high as to be unaffordable, after all, the publishers have to protect the price of books, and ebooks only reason for existence is to threaten the prices of books.

Chris Meadows May 29, 2015 um 8:38 pm

In fact, the start of the collusion among the publishers that led inexorably to the Apple court case was publishers meeting for exactly that purpose—to start an e-book "recommendation" service of their own, Bookish. Of course, publishers being publishers, they weren’t even able to make a go of that service, and it ended up getting sold to Zola Books less than a year after it launched.

fjtorres May 29, 2015 um 2:16 pm

Actually, several publishers did exactly that almost 20 years ago.
That was before most of them were bought out by their current giant multinational media companies.
They bailed out quick, though.

Nate Hoffelder May 30, 2015 um 6:01 am

When was this? What device?

fjtorres May 30, 2015 um 6:51 am

Softbook. And Rocket Book. Circa 1998.
Remember my series at TPV?
Softbook was supported/owned by Random House and S&S among others, Rocketbook by Bertlesmann, B&N, and Cisco.

They had all the pieces that made Kindle a success but didn’t stick with it.
Then they sold out to NEWS Corp who ran the combined project into the ground.

And, more recently, there is Tolino in Europe.

It’s been done.

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 11:22 am

I’m not sure who owned those companies at start (I’ll go look) but I do know that in their second stage of existence they were swallowed up by Gemstar/TVGuide/Thompson.

I didn’t realize that the publishers had an early hard in the ereader business.

fjtorres May 31, 2015 um 1:19 pm

I’m pretty sure they were early investors–from before the devices were released. They were listed as equity partners in the product launch reports, for one.

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 5:08 pm

Found it.

According to the Project Gutenberg blog, Bertelsman and B&N were two of the first investors in Nuvomedia. S&S and Random House invested in Softbook.

Liz May 29, 2015 um 2:49 pm

I expect NetGalley is excluded because they’re sending free content, not paid content.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) May 29, 2015 um 3:20 pm

Netgalley isn’t a good example–they don’t charge READERS so while they are commercial, I think the rule is that you aren’t supposed to be "selling" the content. The other examples all charge for the content and basically Amazon gains nothing from the transaction. And you are right, the rule has been in place since the beginning. I have used the Send to Kindle and the mail feature, but only with free stories. I think the only thing Amazon gets out of the "free" content is the goodwill and it also keeps people "close" to their ecosystem. (It may potentially convince them to pay for cloud storage?)

fjtorres May 29, 2015 um 5:35 pm

They recently separated the free Kindle Cloud (where personal docs go) from their paid cloud effort. The free cloud is now strictly a customer convenience feature so I don’t think there’s a cloud upsell path for Kindles, now.

Nate Hoffelder May 29, 2015 um 10:50 pm

I would think Amazon would kick NG out first.

NetGalley does charge publishers for the service, and there was a time about 4 years ago that NG ran afoul of Amazon. NG had to drop the email delivery option for a while.

Will Entrekin May 29, 2015 um 3:51 pm

I wonder if there’s a money aspect here. I just realized; earlier today, I got an email from SendtoKindle that they’re canceling their free plan. It was couched in expansion, but still, seems like weird timing.

Nate Hoffelder May 29, 2015 um 5:59 pm

I got that email as well (after the post). Do you think it is related?

Nate Hoffelder May 29, 2015 um 10:32 pm

No, wait, I got an email from a different service (SendtoReader).

rur May 29, 2015 um 7:46 pm

But that doesn’t prevent a publisher from emailing directly to me & then I can upload to my kindle via USB, as I have done with many books.

Nate Hoffelder May 30, 2015 um 6:00 am

Correct. And Smashwords' service is set up for that purpose delivery (which could be why they got to keep it).

anothername May 30, 2015 um 6:48 am

German retailers (and publishers?) developed the umbrella competition platform of Tolino. Maybe American companies should license Tolino as they seem incapable of innovating where German companies are able.

fjtorres May 30, 2015 um 6:55 am

The American companies you refer to are *owned* by the German (and french) companies you refer to. Only one of the BPHs is actually an American company.

Nate Hoffelder May 30, 2015 um 7:09 am

That would not work here in the US. The only reason it works in Germany are the fixed price book laws are designed to prevent competition.

fjtorres May 30, 2015 um 7:46 am

They’re the same execs but the market itself is different and has been different for over a century. A lot of the "troubles" of the BPHs stem from applying european management to an alien market hostile to high prices and price fixing. Even when they sneak past the law, the market punishes them.
Even publicly available numbers show a decline in constant currency terms of around 7% over the last 8 years, with a unit sales decline likely in double digits.
Things are different, ’round these parts.

RockDaMan May 30, 2015 um 2:29 pm

Rules are made to be followed; Amazon has been relatively good for the industry.

Baen Books Reveals Amazon's Byzantine Policies on Kindle Email Delivery | Ink, Bits, & Pixels June 15, 2015 um 6:41 pm

[…] you buy from it to your Kindle, I was the one and only news site to report the strange news that Amazon was blocking publishers but not retailers from using this […]

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