The Grumpy Troll

Ramblings of a grumpy troll.

Back Up Your Books

Discovered that this is mostly a UI problem.

Mrs Grumpy Troll was bemused by my setting up Calibre on our home computers, with imports of all the eBooks we legally own.  With the DRM stripped so that this would be possible. “But you can always re-download them!” she said. She is no longer bemused.

The other day, as we sat down to eat in a diner, she asked me if I knew what had happened to a book we'd both read on our Barnes & Noble Nook account. It was “A Discovery of Witches”, by Deborah Harkness. No, I didn't know. But I had my phone with me.

So I turned off my antennas (airplane mode) to prevent synchronisation, then went into the "B&N Nook" app. There was the book, in my library. I turned the antennas back on, clicked the book, and it downloaded. Then I pressed the button to sync, in the top right (two arrows in a circle, pointing to each other). The book disappeared! While the Android notification of a successful download was still present.

When we got home, I checked my online B&N account. Sure enough, the book was not in my online library. Also, my backups into Calibre had only been for those books then on the Nook, so I did not have a copy which I could continue to use. Drat!

I then checked my order history on B&N's site, a process which is made unnecessarily laborious by only being able to see five orders at a time and having to click on each to see what was ordered, and no order history search (that I could find). I found the purchase, for $14.99.

The next step was to email B&N's support department, something only available via a web-form which doesn't let you receive a copy of your message. Fortunately I knew this, so copy&pasted the message sent into a file for safe-keeping. This included the reference to the purchase number. The response? Canned instructions on how to force my Nook to re-sync with my online library.

The problem is not a failure to sync. The problem is that B&N are silently removing books from your purchased library EDIT: has UI, UX and email Support problems: a recently downloaded book was then silently deleted from the device it had been downloaded to, and even selecting "All Items" for the online library was inadequate to see all items; a book can be "Archived" and thus moves state; the Support email response was pre-canned and failed to address the problem at all.

A clear demonstration of why trust in the cloud needs to be a function of who you are being asked to trust, and of why Amazon are destroying B&N. I can no longer even trust them to keep track of the content they promise to keep track of. EDIT: Other recent posts about the Nook will demonstrate why I've lost so much confidence in B&N that I was ready to believe this: in another incident, I ended up being charged twice for the same book and they had no way to deal with this.

Anyone who claims that stripping DRM is illegal is demonstrating why the law does not define morality. If I pay money to own a book, I expect to continue to own that book and not have my access silently withdrawn without notice. I do not share the stripped books, I just keep them on my own library shelf, where they become part of routine system backups and where I can have some trust that they won't be deleted by the company I happened to choose to purchase the book from.

My wife and I now cooperate to ensure all eBook purchases make it into Calibre, with the DRM stripped.

-The Grumpy Troll


Phil P
Updated, book "recovered". B&N have UI, UX and Support problems, but not lost book problems. Just "will charge twice for same book" problems.
Phil P
I'm quite happy to have discovered that Baen expanded their original Free Library into a full store with no DRM. Plus they cover a number of independent publishers who sell through them. Since discovering this, they've received most of my custom.

However, the content of a book is more important to me than the idiocy of the publisher, so those publishers who do force DRM still get some of my custom. But grudgingly, and with me always looking around for alternatives, so it's not a foundation for happy repeat customers. Fortunately I read enough SciFi and Baen books anyway that 90% of my purchases can now go through them.
Amazon has done the same thing, of course (see the Orwell fuss).

I do not pay for DRM-ed content, ever. Yes, I can strip it and back it up, but by doing so I'm encouraging the producers to think that DRM will increase sales over non-DRM.
Categories: trust cloud BarnesAndNoble eBooks