There, I said it. I’m betting most consumers and quite a few publishers don’t realize that Amazon has limits in place to prevent you from loading one Kindle ebook on more than 6 devices within the same account. You’re probably wondering why I have so many devices connected to the same account. The answer is simple: I like to test new devices and the old ones become hand-me-down’s to family members. They all remain on the same account though.

Amazon has a default maximum of 6 devices for any given Kindle ebook. Once you try to get it onto the 7th device you’re greeted with an error message saying, “License Limit Reached”, and they nudge you to buy another copy of the product. No way. I already bought it once and I’m not buying it again.

This is yet another example of why DRM sucks. Someone decided 6 was a magical number and so no title can be read across more than 6 devices. Sure, I could de-register or maybe even just delete the book from one or two of my older devices but why should I have to?!

Limitations like this, including DRM in general, are evil and should be done away with. Amazon and publishers, please start trusting your customers and eliminate stupid barriers like this. You’re not protecting your revenue stream this way but you’re doing a terrific job of irritating your customers and reminding them that you don’t trust them.


(Via Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog.)


  1. DRM is evil? Maybe you’re into hyperbole or perhaps you misconstrue the nature of evil, but limiting ebooks to six devices is, at the very worst, an inconvenience. Just how hard is it to delete a book and only read on the device at hand?

    If anything , calling DRM evil undermines any legitimate issues.

  2. @Greg M. How do you expect the person to delete said books, if the device is not on hand to begin with? We do not have the same devices out all the time. At one point, it can be our phone, a laptop at another, or a even a tablet. If our phones are not on hand, which is unlikely, an ebook cannot be deleted from it. The same is true for tablets or laptops.

    @Melita K. The person could be too young to have an account or a credit card, which is often the case with sites like Amazon. One is not likely to sign up with Amazon if they don’t intend to make money or buy something, which means they need a bank account or credit card in any case.

  3. Well said Joe. DRM is evil, stupid and dumb. Which is why I strip DRM on EVERY title I buy that has it. It is also the reason why pirating continues and will continue to spread. I have zero sympathy for the publishers who insist on this idiocy.

  4. Joe, I don’t completely disagree with you, however I can tell you one way that I believe device limits will increase publisher revenue, and that’s the classroom. As a high school teacher, I look forward to the day when all of my incoming students have some standard of ebook reader given to them, all tied to a school account. With device limitations in such a situation, the school will have to buy one copy of a book for every six students — not a bad deal, really. Without limitations, we could buy one copy to deliver to four or five hundred students.

    As I say, I can’t stand DRM myself, but I can see a publisher being really worried about a scenario like the one above.

  5. David – I could never see that happening. A school is a very different situation that a personal use situation. The 6 limit is related to personal use while a school is a non personal use case. Usually, at least in my experience in my country, schools are highly compliant with licensing rules and highly unlikely to pull a stunt like that.

  6. @Bryce Boohoohoo if you max out devices as you described. DRM may be inconvenient and ultimately ineffective and/or unnecessary, but it is not EVIL. Whenever people describe DRM as evil or draconian they undercut the effectiveness of their argument by blatantly overstating the wrong done to them.

  7. Howard, I wouldn’t even see it as a stunt. If I’m device-limited to six copies, then I buy a copy for every six kids — still a bargain. But if I’m not limited (and my budget is — as it always is), and I’m not device-limited, which is to say, if I can buy one copy and have every kid load it on — that’s what I’m doing.

    Incidentally, which country are you in where schools are compliant with licensing rules? I’ve taught in two, and, whether it’s photocopying, showing videos or playing audio, I’ve never yet encountered a school that’s lilly-white when it comes to copyright law and such.

    I’m not judging, just reporting.

  8. Dear Joe,

    if you would just compare the way Amazon handles their device limit to the way Adobe handles it with ADE & eDRM’d ePub, you’d applaud Amazon’s concept.

    With Amazon, it’s one account, six devices. With ADE it’s one eBook, six devices.

  9. @Greg M. The cases I present were situations in which an average user will most likely encounter. I don’t fit that profile average user profile, especially since I can read any ebook I get on any device, and any number of them, using any software, which is not possible under a DRM system. These problems everyone complains about is because these are problems that make things difficult for an average user. Some people can’t even use text-to-speech due to DRM.

  10. My wife and I love our new Kindle Fire. It’s lightweight, easy to use and has a great interface. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions from http://www.kindlemad.com through google.

    It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. I am one very happy Kindle owner!

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