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The B&N Nook Store Leaks Like a Sieve

About a month ago I brought you news about a recently closed security leak in the B&N Nook Store, which the numerous comments have indicated was a common occurrence. Today I learned that B&N didn’t close the leak quite as thoroughly as they thought they did.

B&N isn’t supposed to sell ebooks outside the US, but as it turns out their security to block international sales breaks on a fairly regular basis. That’s pretty well known among B&N’s international customers, but what some might not know is that Barnes & Noble isn’t very thorough in fixing their security issues.

My source for the last story, Antonio Hermida, was playing around with the Nook Store today when he found another security issue. He’s still in South America, so he’s really not supposed to be able to buy ebooks form B&N nor is he supposed to be able to open and read the ones he bought before. But it turns out he can.

While B&N blocked him accessing the 2 ebooks he bought via his account page, Antonio found that he could still search for the ebooks from in the Nook Store and download them from the each title’s listing pages. He reports that he has complete access to the ebooks and can even share them with other registered users.

Do you know how I used to respect B&N as a tech company? Well, clearly their best people aren’t working on keeping their website up and running.

On the other hand, perhaps this is a good thing; B&N is surreptitiously building a customer base that will be eager to come out if the shadows when B&N finally expands internationally.


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Geert April 11, 2012 um 12:58 pm

Unfortunately the information mentioned in this article is wrong.
There are only restrictions when buying ebooks (because B&N does not have the rights to sell ebooks outside the US). There are no restrictions when downloading content from your B&N account. All ebooks that are in your B&N library can be downloaded anywhere in the world.
From B&N’s traveling faq (1):
"Yes, bring along your NOOK so you can enjoy favorite books, periodicals and apps on the road. Once you have purchased a book, periodical or app in the United States using a account that has a U.S. billing address, you can download and read your purchases anywhere in the world.".

Nate Hoffelder April 11, 2012 um 1:22 pm

He doesn’t have a U.S. billing address, which is likely why he was blocked.

Tim April 11, 2012 um 1:12 pm

The B&N Store "leaks" a lot more than you describe in your articles. I bought my Nook on a trip to the US and use it as my main ebook reader in Germany. There is one small trick necessary to use the Nook store but all in all for english ebooks I don’t really find it less convenient than shopping in a German ebook store and sideloading the books. I’m a little hesitant to go into details because obviously I don’t want them to close the leaks due to unwanted public attention.

However I fail to see the big problem about the leaks. I even think B&N might be aware of them and tolerate them for now. If I buy an ebook at the Nook store B&N earns money, the publisher owning the right’s in the US earns money, and the author earns money. None of them seem to have an incentive to stop this as long as the publisher holding the rights in Germany doesn’t complain to much.

Anonymous Coward April 11, 2012 um 8:57 pm

I’m an international user and frankly I don’t understand why the publishing industry is so fixated on not selling to international users. Dead tree books from US are generally cheaper outside US, due to less royalties I think, so theoretically the publishers should be getting more royalties by selling US ebooks outside them outside US (I do ship dead tree books from US). The only reason I can think of is that there are middleman who are controlling the distribution of books outside of US and they are protecting their turf.

Nate Hoffelder April 11, 2012 um 9:02 pm

It happened because local ebookstores (in the UK, I think) couldn’t compete on price with US ebookstores, who usually sold ebooks for less. So instead the UK stores started pressuring publishers to block those sales.

Ayn Rand, eat your heart out.

MikFinkel April 12, 2012 um 7:37 am

I agree with Tim. It is just possible that B&N does not want to close these loop holes.
Tho it does appear that just the sale is not allowed, possibly the downloading of already purchased is O.K.

Tom April 12, 2012 um 7:45 am

I think calling it a security leak is a bit over the top. B&N needs to maintain the ability to allow US customers who happen to be traveling overseas to access their digital library (something they have promised). There will always be people who look for (and sometimes find) ways to sneak in and buy books. If this happened in a bricks and motor store (a traveler on holiday buying a physical book) no one would even bat an eyelash. This makes it less a security leak and more a minor oversight (a minor oversight that no one really has an incentive to fix).

Also B&N looks to be expanding into several markets so this most likely be a moot point in the very near future.

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