Five models of Kindle – popular e-reader devices – are becoming outmoded, losing support from their manufacturer, and essentially being prevented from downloading new books.
Usually, August is a key month for avid readers, who devour books on the beach and by pools as part of their summer holiday. But the month is an unwelcome one for some readers who rely on Amazon Kindles for their entertainment.
The Kindle (2nd Gen) International, Kindle DX International, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (4th Gen), and Kindle (5th Gen) are all affected by the change, which was announced earlier this year by Amazon. It’s a wholesale change to the operation of the Kindle that comes close to bricking the device: from the first week in August, users will lose their ability to buy books directly from the device and can’t add books to a wish list to buy on another device at a later date.
It’s not just one-off purchases of books that are affected by Amazon’s decision to withdraw support for the devices. Kindle Unlimited subscribers, who pay for an all-you-can-eat Kindle service with continuous access to e-versions of books, will find that they’re suddenly out in the cold too. They won’t be able to browse or read new titles directly on the models that are affected.
A broader problem
The idea of sunsetting devices and support for them is picking up pace and has long been a problem for people who buy tech. Spending hundreds – or thousands – on devices comes with an implicit agreement that you’ll be able to use the device for the total length of its useful life without the manufacturer withdrawing support.
And yet, that premise is a problem for manufacturers, who rely on us upgrading our phones and tablets in order to continue to make money. So it’s little wonder that they decide to pull back on support for older devices.
The Kindle withdrawal is, in part, down to security. Last year Amazon said it was only offering security updates for devices four years after their device was last available for purchase from their website. That’s due to the prohibitive cost of being able to maintain decent security on devices and the potential reputational risk of having thousands, if not millions, of unsecured devices out there in the wild that bear the Amazon brand name. If they were hacked, there could be huge ramifications.
Yet there’s another reputational risk – and one that regulators have cottoned on to. It’s the risk of alienating and annoying users by dragging them into an endless cycle of upgrades, milking them for their money. Apple iPhone and iPad users have long complained that the company unofficially sunsets them out of their devices by issuing ever-increasingly large iOS updates that seem to turn a speedily running device into one that slows down to a crawl.
And politicians who have been watching this happen, and see it across manufacturers, are beginning to intervene to try and prevent it from happening. European parliamentarians tabled a law that gives users the right to repair in April 2022. The reason? A survey found that 79% of EU citizens believed manufacturers ought to make repairs easier, and a further 77% said the ability to repair their devices would be preferable to replacing them.
European lawmakers aren’t the only ones. In July, the Indian government said that it was beginning to draw up right to repair rules to protect consumers.
“A product that cannot be repaired or falls under planned obsolescence i.e. designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, not only becomes e-waste but also forces the consumers to buy new products for want of any repair to reuse it,” a Ministry of Consumer Affairs spokesperson says. “Thus, restricting the repair of products forces consumers to deliberately make a choice to purchase a new model of that product.”
There’s now a race going on – between manufacturers trying to bring devices to the end of their useful life and regulators trying to ensure that consumer rights are enshrined in law. Who wins is yet to be seen.
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