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Another story of a reader losing his ebooks.

While traveling to a library conference in Singapore Jim O’Donnel’s Google Play app on his iPad asked for an update. O’Donnel naturally updated the app and in the process removed the 30-40 ebooks he had previously bought. He was not able to re-download them as Singapore is not one of the countries where the Google Play bookstore is active.

He wrote about his experience on the Liblicense mailing list:

I’m in Singapore attending the IFLA meetings. Long trip, but I made a bold and brave decision to depend for my reading material on this trip entirely on my iPad — Kindle, iBooks, and “Google Play” (formerly known as Google Books). A single slim volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets accompanies me in codex form to give me something to read during the ritual shutdown of electronic devices on the planes.

So when I got here, I noticed that several of my iPad apps had updates on offer, so I clicked and approved. One of them was Google Play. When it finished and I went to open the app, it told me that it needed to update my book files and this might take several minutes. Time passed and the screen filled in the covers of the 30 or 40 titles I keep live on the machine. Two of them were books I am actively reading for my teaching this fall.

But all of my books had un-downloaded and needed to be downloaded again. The app is an inefficient downloader, almost as bad as the New Yorker app, so I dreaded this, but clicked on the two I needed most at once. (I checked the amount of storage used, and indeed the files really have gone off my tablet.)

And it balked. It turns out that because I am not in a country where Google Books is an approved enterprise (which encompasses most of the countries on the planet), I cannot download. Local wisdom among the wizards here speculates that the undownloading occurred when the update noted that I was outside the US borders and so intervened.

Atypically, Google has Google Play help service available by email, but a series of exchanges demonstrated that the droids at the Android Store were neither able to comprehend my issue, sympathize with my plight, or offer a remedy. I must return to the US to be allowed to spend a few hours redownloading “my” books before I can read them again. At one point they asked what features I might suggest be added to Google Play. I suggested “Don’t Be Evil”, but got no response.

Fortunately, archive.org had a non-Google scan of the 19th century book I needed most; it downloaded just fine and I’m reading it in GoodReader, which appears not to care what country I am in.

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