Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't buy your mom a Kindle

Really, don't do it unless she is at least a little computer savvy. Or unless you live nearby and can help her.

My day at work on Tuesday consisted of attempting to help 2 different women download eBooks from a neighboring library's Overdrive collection. Both were told confidently by their offspring that they could borrow library books and read for free. Amazon makes it very easy and even fun to select books and buy them, and have them appear, by magic, on your Kindle. Borrowing books is a whole different thing, and anything but simple.

In both cases we spent over 30 minutes and near the end of the process neither of them could log into Amazon. In one case I assured the woman that it wouldn't work anyway since her Kindle had a 3G connection, not Wi-fi. For the uninitiated, all Overdrive eBooks for Kindle are downloaded directly from your Amazon account. We won't even get into the privacy issues here. For library eBooks for Kindle, if you have 3G you must download to a PC and then transfer via USB. Publishers can also insist on USB transfers of certain titles even if the Kindle is Wi-fi equipped.

But wait, it gets even better! The 3G owner came back the next day, and I spent over an hour with her, patiently explaining Overdrive, Amazon, 3G, Wi-fi, DRM, and why the book she borrowed was likely delivered to her daughter's Kindle. She doesn't have a computer in Florida, and I wouldn't allow downloading the book to our research computer and transferring via USB. Shhh don't tell, we don't have a policy in place yet. The sad bit is she insisted they helped her at her home library up north, and sure enough, there was an expired library book on her Kindle. She didn't remember anything about using a computer to do it, but that's the only way to get a book on there, so I know it was used.

It was very frustrating for both of us. She ended up purchasing the book, and then it didn't auto deliver. I suspect it was because she had just borrowed it. I left it to her to call Amazon customer service.

It wasn't even my library's eBooks. I deserve a chocolate brownie for this one. Our library is getting eBooks in April. There are maybe 3 people on staff who are comfortable with this stuff. Sure, there will be lots of training, and when it's all said and done staff will pass off the most confused people to the magic 3.

OK, if you must buy your mom a Kindle, and if she plans on using library books, make sure it is a Wi-fi enabled model. 3G is best if she is going to BUY books from Amazon. There is a big difference. And for goodness sakes, please, PLEASE make sure they can log into the correct Amazon account. Nothing happens without that.
Heaven help us, here come the elderly parents.

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