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Baen Books to Drop Kindle Delivery Option From Its eBookstore

Baen_logo_small_color[1]Here’s a frustrating bit of news.

The SF publisher Baen Books sent out an email yesterday to its customers with the news that it will shortly have to stop delivering Kindle ebooks via email:

Starting on or about June 10, 2015, Baen Ebooks will no longer be able to provide automatic delivery of the .mobi format to a Kindle device via the "Email book to my Kindle" feature. We have just learned that to comply with Amazon’s Terms of Use, Baen Ebooks cannot use Amazon’s Personal Documents Service to deliver paid content.

The rest of the email included instructions on how users can email the ebooks on their own.

Baen will of course continue to sell Kindle ebooks DRM-free, it’s just that for some inexplicable reason they are no longer allowed to email said ebook to your Kindle account. Readers can still do it themselves, however.

As with any of Amazon’s decisions, i would not try to read too much into this. I know that one site is saying that Amazon has changed its rules recently, but I doubt that has anything to do with it.

A member of Baen’s Bar found the rule in question, and it turns out that Amazon has always had the rule that this service cannot be used for commercial purposes. The rule exists, yes, but Amazon turns a blind eye to violations.

For example, Amazon is currently not enforcing the rule against netGalley, and they are letting Smashwords email docs to your Kindle account.

I can’t tell you why or how Baen Books ran afoul of Amazon, but I wouldn’t read anything into it other than the obvious conclusion: that Jeff Bezos bites the heads off of kittens.

Seriously, folks, I doubt this change will matter much. I suspect that any reader who is savvy enough to shop at Baen Books is also knowledgeable enough to either sideload an ebook over a USB cable or simply email the ebooks on their own.

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Chris Meadows May 28, 2015 um 10:31 am

It may even be as simple as that someone on Baen’s web team was looking over the rules and said, "Hey, wait a minute, how did we never see this before? We better cut this out before Amazon notices and complains about it."

Given that Baen’s web team now is not the same people who originally started the store, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

fjtorres May 28, 2015 um 10:38 am

So far, nobody has said who instigated the change.
Or why.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) May 28, 2015 um 12:29 pm

Smashwords had issues too and had to change some things a while back to get the direct thing working (I’m not sure it currently is implemented as I haven’t tried it in a while). Amazon does frown on the practice and I think they will flag it if they see it. After all, they aren’t making any money if someone buys direct from Baen. So it doesn’t surprise me that it was halted. Yes, it’s frustrating, but Amazon isn’t going to go out of their way to help another site sell content when they don’t benefit.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 12:34 pm

I checked SW this morning. The FAQ suggested that the service was operational.

fjtorres May 28, 2015 um 1:09 pm

What I remembered was rants from a couple years back complaining that Amazon had blocked them. Never saw word they had gotten it working again.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 1:12 pm

That was during the beta test. At first SW had the feature, then they disabled it, and then they brought it back without any mention of the Kindle.

Tom Semple May 28, 2015 um 2:20 pm

O’Reilly’s Send To Kindle still works. It’s not 'automatic': you have to go to your account product page and send from there (or to Dropbox, Google Drive etc.). So it is always initiated directly by the user as an optional, extra step after purchase, not with the purchase itself. I don’t see how that could be construed as having 'commercial purposes' since there is no exchange of money involved.

I don’t know how that differs from what Baen has been doing, as I’ve never used Baen. Did they have an account setting to automatically send each purchase to your kindle account? I could see where that might make Baen into an 'alternative storefront' that would run afoul of the TOS.

Or maybe it is just that Baen has gotten new legal advice rather than some takedown notice from Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 2:25 pm

Baen required that you click a button to send the ebook; it was not automatic.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 9:22 pm

And thanks for checking O’Reilly. They slipped my mind.

Michael May 29, 2015 um 12:08 am

Amazon started sending out warnings to publishers earlier this month. Andy Hunt from The Pragmatic Bookshelf may be able to provide more details — or can at the very least confirm this isn’t just affecting Baen.

Netgalley doesn’t sell books, as far as I know, so I doubt their usage falls afoul of Amazon’s terms. Smashwords may have been warned but haven’t announced anything yet. It would appear Baen was given time to bring their site into compliance, so Smashwords may have as well. Or maybe Amazon just doesn’t care much since Smashwords only directly distributes a small number of titles to Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder May 29, 2015 um 4:55 am

Do you know of other publishers who have gotten a similar notice?

Michael May 29, 2015 um 9:25 am

I know one, but I don’t think they’ve announced yet. Their catalog is close in size to Pragmatic Bookshelf’s. As far as I know only PB and Baen have announced anything. PB has some information here:

Nate Hoffelder May 29, 2015 um 9:44 am

Thanks. I didn’t find that page when I was looking earlier.

This might explain why SW has this feature but the publishers do not:

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.

On the other hand, SW is more generalized, while the publishers' feature is focused on the Kindle.

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