Kindle Unlimited not quite unlimited (or how Amazon plans to kidnap your data)

Kindle Unlimited is a new service from Amazon which gives the customer free access to thousands of books for a fee of $9.99 a month.

But what happens to our notes, highlights and bookmarks?  Do we get to keep those if we leave Kindle Unlimited?

I just asked Amazon customer service and the answer turns out to be “no.”

When you cancel your Kindle Unlimited subscription, you will be able to access your Kindle Unlimited books until the next billing date listed on your Kindle Unlimited subscription. At the end of your subscription, you will lose access to all your Kindle Unlimited books. Your bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be saved to your Amazon account, but won’t be available until you purchase the book later or renew your Kindle Unlimited subscription. (emphasis added)

This means that if you want to keep your research materials (your research materials, mind you) you will have to pay Amazon a ransom every month for the rest of your life.  Right now it’s around $120 a year.  Clearly, Amazon can set this ransom at any amount it wants.

This must be one of those new fangled business strategies they call making a service “sticky.”   Sticky, yes, and golly if it doesn’t smell too.

A rule of thumb: Content created by the customer belongs to the customer.

We could split the difference here, if need be.  Amazon may have a legitimate claim to withholding our bookmarks and highlights.  But notes?  Notes belong to us.

11 thoughts on “Kindle Unlimited not quite unlimited (or how Amazon plans to kidnap your data)”

  1. Perhaps the issue here is considering “bookmarks, notes, and highlights” content. In my mind, it’s metadata – it’s related to content, but virtually useless without it.

    Say you kept the bookmark – OK, that’s a bit on location 1504 or 3802. How does that help you without access to the book (and not the print book – the same e-book to ensure consistent pagination)? Notes (presumably) are kept alongside the book’s data, while highlights are again only useful with the context of the original book.

    Call it ‘kidnapping your data’, or call it a reason to revert to another note-taking solution.

    1. Chris. Thanks for this great comment.

      My response:

      bookmarks maybe.

      but a highlight is extremely useful to recall the larger argument, and yes it belongs to the author and to Amazon, I guess, but surely this is fair use. You are capturing a very small part of the larger whole in order to evoke that larger whole in memory. An event that the author and Amazon surely want to happen. otherwise they do confine themselves unduly.

      And a note is, as I argue, completely and only ours.

      Thanks, Grant

  2. I’m certainly no Amazon fanboy nor do I like the unhelpful walled garden that Amazon is creating. But I do recall that there are ways users can move this data to their own computers. If they can do that with Kindle Unlimited data, then the loss of access becomes much less serious.

    Also, perhaps there’s an opportunity for someone to create an app that knows how to capture and manage this data.

  3. Michael, thanks! Use there is always cut and paste I guess. But surely Amazon wants to encourage us to say in the garden by making it as useful as possible. And yes, as you say, a great opp for an app! Best, Grant

  4. The term “kidnap” implies coercion, Grant. But no one forces you into a relationship with Amazon, and you are supposed to know the terms before voluntarily entering into it. Sounds to me like Amazon’s policy is no different from that of a library if you were to highlight and write notes in a book, return it, and then months later take it out again. And one of the ways it’s better than a public library is you pay for it only if you plan to use it.

    For the benefits received it sounds like KIndle Unlimited is a tremendous value and, unlike (say) your relationship with the DMV, you can actually opt out of it if you want to. It sounds like there are more virtues here than you are crediting.

    1. Harold, Good point. “Kidnap” is the wrong word. When Kindle takes my notes, they take my intellectual property, and when they take that…well, something much stronger than “kidnap” is called for. Thanks, Grant
      p.s., and again I thought the point of digital domains was to encourage people to treat them as a walled garden, not punish them for doing so.

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