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Baen Books Reveals Amazon’s Byzantine Policies on Kindle Email Delivery

6568286685_4c9794da60_bWhen I first reported a few weeks ago that Baen Books was one of the publishers which was no longer going to email deliver the ebooks 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 feature.

While it was puzzling that Amazon would discourage one source from emailing your ebooks to you but not another, I have learned today that the real situation is far more complicated than that.

Earlier today one Baen Books customer noted that his kindle account was still getting the ebooks from Baen. After he asked about this on Baen’s Bar, Jenny Cunningham (a member of the Baen ebooks team) responded with:

It will always work for a limited amount of customers each day depending on the size of the files sent. Once we reach the threshold, which Amazon has not disclosed, they will cut it off. They also have the ability to decrease the amount they let through if we keep hitting the cap. This is why we encourage our customers to use other download methods.

So, it’s basically a crapshoot whether it will work for you.

Cunningham’s comment is behind a registration wall so it is not visible to the public. But it has been seem by several people, including my source (Thanks, Fbone!)

I have no explanation for this policy of Amazon, and I am in fact having trouble believing it really is Amazon’s policy. But it is not entirely crazy, and as a matter of fact it points to a reason why two publishers had to give up the feature while a third publisher (O’Reilly) and several retailers did not.

Suppose Amazon has set a daily cap for each company which limits the number of ebooks they can send to customers' Kindle accounts. Pragmatic and Baen could be the two most active emailers of the companies which had been contacted, and once they realized that they would hit the cap everyday they decided to simply announce that the feature was going away.

The other companies either weren’t contacted, or have not been impacted. O’Reilly, for example, won’t admit to any change in the policy. All they said was "We are hoping to continue this service with Amazon."

I don’t know that we can call that a confirmation of the Baen Books statement, but at the very least it does not disprove it.

I have queried Amazon for an explanation, denial, or obfuscation (I’m optimistic that I can get all three in a single email).

Stay tuned.

image by Sergey Galyonkin

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asotir June 16, 2015 um 9:00 am

If I go on the web and purchase the books, then go to my device and want to download them, would this work? Seems as though it would, since they are not being 'sent' from the Baen account.

Whispersync was one of the great features of the Kindle in the beginning: no need of a computer. But how much did Amazon have to pay the wireless telecoms for this feature? And now that we all have smartphones or tablets with Kindle installed, Whispersync is no longer needed.

Do you know if these limits only apply to downloading over telecoms, and not to downloading over wifi? I am wondering if Amazon is hoping to discontinue the telecom contracts altogether.

Or is this all part of some scheme that Amazon has to increase its 30% share through fees? Might it have something to do with the return of agency contracts with the big 5 publishers? The idea might be that Amazon first puts in place these limits, then offers to take off the limits to any publisher, as a bargaining chip. 'Agree to our price ranges, and your limit is removed.'

David Lang June 17, 2015 um 7:42 pm

Since they charge the kindle owner $0.15/MB to deliver the messages over whispersync, I can’t see how it could possible be a money thing.

If that money covered the cost 10 years ago, it should cover far more today, bandwidth costs (including cell bandwidth) is far cheaper now.

Nate Hoffelder June 17, 2015 um 7:45 pm

Plus the vast majority of the deliveries will be going over Wifi, and thus cost Amazon almost nothing for bandwidth.

Greg Weeks June 16, 2015 um 9:37 am

It make perfect sense from an implementation point of view. They aren’t paying any attention to publishers or retailers, just email addresses. Once a a sending email address has sent a given number of bytes (the cap) that email address gets turned off for the day. They might have a white list that allows some addresses to not have a cap.

Nate Hoffelder June 16, 2015 um 9:49 am

It does make sense, doesn’t it?

Baen Books Reveals Amazon’s Byzantine Policies on Kindle Email Delivery | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing June 16, 2015 um 11:00 am

[…] Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels […]

Rachel Smith June 16, 2015 um 12:58 pm

My dad’s been buying books direct from Baen since their website first went up, back in the Internet dark ages. When Baen announced they were going to be in the Kindle store and as a result all of the things Baen was known for would either cease to exist or be redone so much they’d become pointless, it was like they set off a nuke in the Bar. Thousands of members were beyond furious, and my dad spent two hours composing his thoughts and posting them not only in the Bar, but emailing them to every Baen email address he could find.

I’m not the least bit surprised Amazon is reportedly doing this to Baen. To get into the Kindle store, Amazon made them ditch most of the free library on their website, and Baen has the worst payout deal of any publisher currently with Amazon. Amazon also dictated to them how they could and could not do their monthly bundles, and on what days they could be available for sale on the Baen website.

Amazon is screwing Baen over again? I believe it.

David Lang June 17, 2015 um 7:52 pm

the FUD over this never ends

When Baen started selling through Amazon, there were a handful of things that happened

1. old monthly bundles became unavailable for purchase

2. the Free Library lost some books (some that should have been pulled earlier because the rights had reverted, but they were still available) and the others got '2nd editions' to avoid Amazon price-matching problems. It was the authors who decided which was going to take place for each individual book. Amazon triggered the cleanup, but aren’t responsible for things not being there.

3. e-books went up in price for the first time in many years, from $6 to $7/9/10 (paperback/trade paper/hardcover)

Baen did not cut back on e-books, did not start using DRM, did not start paying authors less (in fact, they raised the rates for e-books around that time). If you are claiming that Baen has the worst payout deals, you’re going to have to show some evidence of this.

Yes, I was disappointed that Amazon insisted on them raising the price of their books and tiering them, but that’s hardly 'abandoning all the things that Baen was known for'

Michael June 17, 2015 um 6:48 pm

Ah, so it’s a usage cap rather than a ban. I run into that sometimes myself when I use Kindle Personal Documents Service more than a few times in the space of a single day. After a while things will stop being delivered and it won’t work again until the next day (resetting at midnight Pacific), so I have to sideload, resend from another approved address, or wait until it resets. They didn’t always enforce this cap, but maybe my usage was heavier than the average customer.

I never put two and two together and connected that with what was happening here. I suspect customers started complaining to pubs about failed deliveries, the pubs reached out to Amazon, then Amazon had to remind them that the service isn’t unlimited. So we can probably expect that this could affect retailers like Smashwords too if enough customers there avail themselves of the email to Kindle option.

Nate Hoffelder June 17, 2015 um 7:49 pm

Okay, now it makes a little more sense. I still feel like I’m flailing around in the dark but at least I’ve got two hands now.

David Lang June 18, 2015 um 2:00 pm

It’s not always that easy. Many domains have what are called 'spf records' which list all the legitimate mail servers for that domain. Any mail that’s sent from another mail server claiming to be from an address in that domain is to be treated as spam (with some exceptions for mailing lists, but yahoo even breaks mailing lists)

Besides, if a company goes out of it’s way to bypass a block that amazon puts in place, it’s just begging for future trouble. In the extreme case, they could be accused of 'hacking' and charged with a Federal Felony (the CFAA IIRC)

Mark Bond June 18, 2015 um 11:00 am

And if all of this is true then the solution seems to be a bit simple. A little bit of coding from the publishers web developers and a little bit of config from the customer. So instead of sending from/as [email protected] (or whatever they use) for ALL customers, they ask their customers for their personal email address (they probably have it anyway), and send email from/as that address instead. Its a fairly simple/common function and the large majority of web developers/systems/etc. do it already.

Nate Hoffelder June 18, 2015 um 11:06 am

Yep. We would also need to take the step of sending it through a third party email service to anonymize the emails. Otherwise Amazon might go for an IP level block.

Mark Bond June 18, 2015 um 11:07 am

LOL use SendGrid or even (shock horror) Amazons SES

No, "Send to Kindle" Won't Help Vanquish Amazon | The Digital Reader February 7, 2016 um 1:40 pm

[…] use the email delivery option, but as we have seen over the past year the tool can be taken away. Baen Books and O'Reilly have lost the privilege in the past 8 or so months, and so did […]

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