Amazon, Google, Democracy, Money...
Dear Amazon helpdesk
I am writing to confirm, as I have done before, that downloading English books to a Kindle from amazon.com (as opposed to amazon.cn, I assume) takes forever in China. As everyone is well aware, this is a direct consequence of the rather skilful control of dangerous foreign websites by the Authorities (note 1).
I bought a book yesterday afternoon (#D01…603) and it’ s still not available at half past seven this morning. I also add that I have been using the Kindle outdoors for about two hours: neither whispersync nor WiFi do work as they should.
Of course, I know by experience that the book will eventually download, maybe by Wednesday or Friday, but still, I find that using an English language Kindle in China is a less than satisfactory experience! In addition, kindly consider that the poor Kindle keeps trying to download the book, which empties the battery in two-three days. The solution would be to switch to airplane mode… but then I’ll never have the book!
Something else, if you don’t mind. I am not an American citizen and I am following the US presidential campaign out of personal interest and curiosity only. I read that Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, who owns the once respectable Washington Post, is openly taking sides against Bernie Sanders. I deeply regret that I have to give money to a person who’s actively attempting to blow democracy off course. After all, it is not only in China that there is a shortage of democracy. Here it’s the Party. In the US, it’s the Big Money. The sources of wisdom are indeed infinite.
Kind regards from Beijing
Are you curious to kow how it ended? Go to note 2!
Note 1: Amazon is obviously performing and behaving better than Google in China. According to the Wall Street Journal, after a long period in purgatory, Google is attempting a comeback to China… sorry: the huge Chinese market. We now have https://translate.google.com/ to tell the US government who’s translating what, and the parallel http://translate.google.cn/?hl=en to tell the Chinese government who read’s what foreign language stuff that needs to be translated. For a short overview of the woes of Google in China, see this and this link. For a general overview of undemocratic and unethical behaviour by Google, Wikipedia is a good source. Just to be fair, I also wanted to quote a Chinese view on the issue, but a search of “Google” on China Daily yields ERR_CONNECTION_RESET and the Details link tells me that “The connection to searchen.chinadaily.com.cn was interrupted.” Never mind. China Daily has lots of other interesting stories.
Note 2: I normally just ignore the problem, as the book eventually downloads after two or three days. As I mentioned, there are several forums where the well known issue of slow downloads in China are discussed (examples: here and here). Some people suggest that one shouldn’t buy the books using the Kindle, but rather use an android device over a VPN channel where books do download instantaneously. The rumour has it that, once you have the book on your tablet, it will download quickly to the Kindle as well. This is not my experience. The issue is well know to Kindle users in China, but apparently no-one told Vasanth, Josh, Pulkit, Prakash or Mary who operate the Amazon helpline. Their standard email says:
I’m so sorry to hear about the trouble you had in downloading the Kindle content . Please let me apologize for the inconvenience you experienced in this case.
Please be informed that this is not normal and I’m not sure which part of the process or step was causing the problem. We need to have few more issue related information to isolate the issue completely.
Given the issue, I feel that it will be best if you please let us call you or chat with you at your most convenient time. In this way, we could go through some advance troubleshooting in real time to immediately identify what’s causing the problem, and quickly determine how to proceed to your satisfaction. We can also provide you with options available for you and resolve the issue at the earliest.
You can request for a phone call or chat from this link: etc etc etc
Up to now, I have ignored the “offer”, but yesterday I contacted them over the chat and we did the promised “advanced troubleshooting” which consists in resetting the Kindle, de-registering and re-registering. I had already done that myself. Here’s a screen capture of the end of the session with Vasanth (or was it Josh?). I explained that the purchased book appears as “queued”, that it starts s-l-o-w-l-y downloading 3%, or even sometimes 27% (or whatever) and then drops back to “queued” or “internet required”. Vasanth religiously asked to reset, de- and re-register after which the symptoms were the same as before (first line of screen capture: It is still “queued”). A that point, he decided that I needed specialist advice and he handed me over to Harsha, who’s no doubt been nicknamed that because of his/her harsh treatment of customers. Harsha immediately found out that I had purchased my Kindle from Amazon.fr, and threw me out with my problem and my Kindle by referring me to amazon.fr. S/he didn’t say goodbye, nor dit s/he verify that my kindle is registered in the US and that the books are paid for using a US credit card (read paid: not stolen).
End of the story? Yes, end of the story… until the next book I buy. As to yesterday’s book, it downloaded while I was not watching yesterday afternoon. Maybe that’s the secret: don’t watch what Amazon is doing.
By the way… The book is When We Are No More. How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future, by Abby Smith Rumsey, Bloomsbury, 2016. 246 pp. I have now reached chapter 3, and I suggest it is worth the read. Somehow, it is paradoxical to read the book on a Kindle, the prototype of a digital device where your books will be irremediably lost when your kindle decides to pack up (and it will packup, like your previous Kindles). But they will be preserved in “the Cloud”… If you want the book, just pay 15.56 US$ to Jeff Bezos with your American credit card; he’ll use some of it to criticize Bernie Sanders in the Washington Post, but he’ll be pleased to send the book to your French Kindle. Thanks, Jeff!