Why Do Amazon & Apple Hate Families?

With the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire among the hot gifts for families this year, it’s pretty sad that neither device has any concept of “family” baked into it. Used by plenty of children, these devices ironically aren’t intended for them.

Crazy, right? I mean, who hasn’t seen kids taking to an iPad like a duck to water. Why, several parents I know have their iPads or other iOS devices like the iPhone loaded with apps that entertain and educate their children.

iTunes Isn’t For Kids

That’s the problem. To load those apps for their kids, parents have to use their own accounts. The kids, they can’t have their own.

My wife desperately wishes she didn’t have all our kids’ apps cluttering her account. A friend of hers was recently telling me the exact same wish, how she didn’t want all these apps on her phone.

How can they transfer them to their kids? They can’t. The iTunes Store, you see, isn’t designed for kids. Hit the web page about the store, and down at the bottom, you’ll find this disclaimer:

The iTunes Store is available only to persons age 13 or older in the U.S.

If your kid can’t have an iTunes Store account, then they can’t buy apps for themselves. They have to glom on to an adult to get their apps, probably one of their parents.

The Apps You Leave Behind

Oh, you can get around this. I recently made one of my sons a virtual year older than he really is just so I could get him going with his own iTunes account, so that his purchases would no longer clutter up my wife’s account.

Of course, he had to leave behind all the old apps he used to play on her account. The really important ones, well, I suppose they might get purchased again. Fortunately, they’re generally cheap enough. But it kinds of sucks that a parent who bought an app for their child can’t transfer that app to them formally.

Get Your Family Going On Kindle…

Then there’s the Kindle. Having used it since the beginning of this year, I’ve learned to love the device.

I’ve gotten over the fact that I’m often paying the same price for a book as the print edition despite their being no shipping or printing costs involved. I find reading on the Kindle to be easier, especially for non-fiction, when I like to highlight and make notes.

My kids wanted nothing to do with the Kindle, when I suggested they might try it. They wanted “real” books. My wife was dubious, as well.

And Watch Kindle Kill The Idea Of Family Book Lending

Now my wife loves it, especially how she can catch up on a book through her iPhone. In fact, when I mentioned I’d read something interesting in the Steve Jobs biography that I purchased for my Kindle, she said she’d like to read it when I was done.

Oops, no can do. Unlike a real book (around $18 from Amazon right now), the Kindle edition I purchased for $15 can’t be lent to her.

Sure, some Amazon books can be lent to others. But so far, only one of the nine Kindle books I currently own have this option. As for the one that I can lend, I can do that once. After that, no more lending, to my understanding.

Lending is entirely up to the publishers, and the publishers, despite charging real book prices aren’t providing real book benefits, such as the ability to send the book to whomever you want, much less resell the book.

Meanwhile, my youngest son just started his first Kindle book. Not having an Amazon account of his own, my wife bought it through her account. And so the clutter of child purchases in parent accounts begins.

Where’s The Family Account?

To be fair, as far as I can tell, Amazon accounts have no age restriction. If we want our children to have their own virtual libraries, we can create accounts for both of them. But I’d still argue that the Kindle still isn’t designed for kids, and it certainly isn’t family friendly.

Our children, like those in many families, are close in age and like to share books. Given that most Kindle books don’t appear to be lendable, that’s a big strike against traditional family lending.

A workaround solution is to have one account that everyone in a family uses to share books. Then, siblings and spouses can all easily share books with each other. Of course, this also means children have pretty easy access to adult books, and that’s something that parents might not want.

Where’s The Sign-In For Tablets?

Somewhat related, our growingly tablet-oriented world hasn’t caught up with what computer-based world has long allowed, the concept of separate sign-ins.

Both Windows and the Mac allow for the same computer to be used by different people, each with their own account. A family can share the same computer without stepping on each others settings.

But what if a mother wants to let her child use her iPad? There’s no way to “sign-out” and sign the child in, to view their own menus and apps (trust me, plenty of parents would kill for this feature).

Similarly, what if a Kindle is being shared by a family, but each family member has their own Amazon account? You have to deregister the Kindle from the current account and then reregister it to the new one.

That’s a pain, and one that just gets worse when you’re dealing with the Kindle Fire that does more than just books, because now you’re losing settings for email and other non-Amazon accounts that might be linked to installed apps.

Allow Transfers Or Family Lending, Please

My headline is exaggerated. I don’t really think Amazon or Apple hate families. I also know they struggle with some absurd restrictions that content owners impose.

But still, it shouldn’t be this hard. Kith and Kindle from O’Reilly Radar was talking about the need for a “Friends & Family” plan for the Kindle back in 2007. Here we are in 2011, and the situation hasn’t improved.

The ideal solution is that if you buy an app or an ebook, you also buy the right to permanently transfer that purchase to someone else. That’s how things work in the real world; in the digital world, where the physical costs are less, why shouldn’t the same rights apply?

At the very least, I wish Apple and Amazon would think more about the concept of family accounts, so that a purchase could be delivered or registered to one of several designated “family” devices, especially for when you’re dealing with younger children.