Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dear Amazon and Apple, We Need Family Accounts

We live in a land that has food, clothing, water and electricity.   We have gadgets that make a mockery out of those shown in the 60's.  We have bought into the commercialization of "must have it" gadgets, not just as individuals, but as a group and more aptly, as a family.   So why is it that after falling for all of the commercials, rantings and sales pitches, we the people cannot get two of the best companies in retail to get their acts together and create a family account?

Both companies have succeeded in getting consumers to purchase multiple devices that bare their name.  With integration via Whispersync for Amazon and now iCloud for Apple, both companies have made it possible to download files to all devices - ie Kindles or iPod Touches, iPhones etc from one account, without having to pay additional funds for the privilege.

But where both companies fall short is in the implementation of a real family account.  Apple has iTunes linked to one owner.  All who own an Apple device who want to share from the same iTunes account, must have links to the same Apple ID.  Hence, your son's iPod Touch must use the Master ID to access iTunes and download media.   It's not a bad system, particularly if you download apps, but recently, with the advent of iCloud, the system has gotten a little more disturbing.  Apple assumes that all devices - your kids, your wife's, etc - linked to the iTunes Apple ID account all belong to one person - the person with the Apple ID.  So, it will automatically download an app to your wife's iPod, kid's iPod Touch etc., without your permission.  This includes songs and other things as well.  It may not be in your best interest to do this all of the time and it can become downright annoying.

Amazon's system is a lot worse because it revolves around books.  For the Apple iBook store the same problem applies, but since Amazon's main dish is books, this is more of a problem.  I recently purchased Kindles for my kids.  I have a lot of books in my archive space - this is Amazon's cloud storage for your books (a nice system since you can archive 100's of books and only keep a few on your Kindle, thus saving space).  Due to the fact that both kids will be reading the same books a few years apart from each other for required reading at school, it behooves them to have the same account.  I have found out that the master account, which is mine, is not the best place to do that.   My son, in no time flat, began downloading free books without a password and is now only steps away from ordering from Amazon with One-Click to my credit card !  As of Christmas day, one required a credit card to open an account at Amazon and an email address.  So I will have to create a whole separate account with a prepaid credit card to "Stop The Madness."

Both of these solutions are obviously riddled with problems.  Both were created with one end user in mind and both systems have not modified their programming to include multiple users in the same household.  Both have successfully placed commercials showing the benefits of kids having a device with happy, smiling family faces and cute little children pressing touch screens.  But the reality is this. If you're on Amazon and you've got yourself a Kindle and a host of cheap Kindles for your family, your 8 year old could be downloading from your archive Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the unabridged works of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence!   Apple is not immune to this.  The same holds true for their iBook store as well.

What we need is the following:

1.  A Master Account (MA).

       This account would tie all of the other accounts together and would have an Archive that may or may not be visible to those who have a secondary account tied to the main account.       This would be similar to Windows/Linux/OSX Main account in the OS. 

2.  Secondary Accounts (SA).

        Secondary Accounts link to the Master Account with separate permissions in place, ie.  Each secondary account may have its own password and download books to the Master Account, but  release the book to anyone tied to the Master Account (MA). 

        The holder of the Master Account (MA) would have full access to all Secondary Accounts including the ability to terminate Secondary Accounts and to not download from the MA archives.  Additionally, it would have the ability to shield secondary accounts from actually seeing the entire catalog of the Master Account and allow visibility access to only those who get permission to view it.        

I am sure that more restrictions could be placed, such as limiting the secondary accounts to no more than six people living in the same household or something like that.  But this would eliminate the multiple separate accounts that need to be created for both Amazon and Apple in order to separate media from kids.  The way that this exists now means that if you own Amazon Account A, you cannot download books belonging to the same family member with Amazon Account B.  In the Master and Secondary account structure detailed above, the parent will still have control over the subsidiary accounts and not have to purchase an item twice.



Liz Peeking Picture taken from Scholastic (

Side by Side  taken from Step up to the Call blog (