Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Stupid Little Battle with Amazon Kindle's Dictionary

One of the most useful features of Amazon's Kindle e-book platform is the ability to highlight a word and get a definition for it instantly from the New Oxford American Dictionary installed on every Kindle device or Kindle application for PC, iPhone, etc. No internet connection is required to look up words in the built-in dictionary. This is a VERY valuable feature.

Nonetheless, I did not recognize or use the dictionary feature for a while. I had been using Kindle on PC a bit and there was no indication that the New Oxford American Dictionary was installed. It turns out it is there, but it never shows up on your "Home" or "Archived Items" on Kindle for PC. It is just there in the background, ready to be used to instantly define words.

A little bit later, I bought an iPod Touch and installed the Kindle App for it. While looking at installed books, I noticed that the "New Oxford American Dictionary" was installed and showed up in my "Home" directory (unlike Kindle for PC). At this point, I had no idea that Kindle interfaced with this dictionary to provide instant lookup of words. My thoughts were "Why do I need a dictionary for Kindle?" There were much easier ways to lookup words offline with other Apps on the iPod rather than manually searching through the dictionary.

Being somewhat of a "digital neat-freak", I decided I need to figure out a way to consolidate my Kindle library and get rid of books I did not want anymore. It turns out that Amazon only recently made this feature available. 

By logging in on Amazon and going to the "Your Account" page. Go down to "Digital Content" and click on "Manage Your Kindle". This takes you to a new page where you can register Kindle devices to your Amazon account as well as set up some other options. At the very bottom of this page, you can see all of your orders. By clicking on the "+" to the left of the book's name, a new menu comes up and at the bottom right corner of this you can click on "Delete this title." When you do that this pops up:
By clicking yes, you can permanently delete books from your Amazon account. 

In doing my digital clean-up, I wanted to get rid of some of the free public domain Kindle books which I had downloaded. This, to me, seemed like a completely reversible thing to do as all of those books could be downloaded again for free if I ever wanted them again. I probably would never permanently delete a title I paid for as I would not want to pay for it again if I did want to read it at some point in the future, and the cost to keep it in my library was pretty minimal, ever for a digital neat-freak such as myself.

While looking at my books, I came across the "New Oxford American Dictionary" discussed earlier. I didn't remember downloading it, but nonetheless figured it was some sort of free book that could easily be downloaded again. So I permanently deleted it.

I didn't notice any problems for a while until, while reading a Kindle book on my iPod Touch, I wanted to highlight a section of the text to make a note. I end up only highlighting one word and a little box came up saying "Dictionary not found" along with saying how it could not be found in my archive and to contact customer service. When that happened, let's just say I felt a bit stupid. But it wouldn't be a problem, right? Since every Kindle device in the world has the New Oxford American Dictionary (except now for mine), I could easily re-download it from Amazon's website to get it back on my device. Wrong.

I went to Amazon's web page, and while they had the print version of the dictionary for $32 or so, the Kindle version was not available as a download at all. There was even the little link under the book's picture to "Tell the Publisher!" that you'd like to read the book on Kindle. I tried reinstalling the Kindle for PC software as well as the Kindle App for my iPod but this did not work either as the book is linked with the account and not the software itself. So I called Amazon customer service around 11:30 pm on a Friday night. I was definitely a bit upset about losing my ability to look up words instantly from within a Kindle book. (It turns out I actually could buy a different dictionary for Kindle for about $10 and use it for this feature.)

A nice gentleman from India answered, and I told him my issue. Well, he just didn't know what to do. It was not something he could just fix instantly. He suggested that I make a new Amazon account although this would clearly not be ideal as I had other paid books linked to my current account. I admittedly felt a bit embarrassed for deleting the dictionary, but I did not recognize it as something I had downloaded nor felt that its utility was made clear. On top of that, I was "sure" it would be easy to re-download the free book.

The customer service representative told me he would work on the problem and call me back, although he probably wouldn't get back to me until the next morning as he knew it was getting late on the West Coast of the United States. I almost wanted to tell him to just call me as soon as he figured it out or had a resolution. I spent a few more mointues researching my issue on the internet to no avail and about 15 minutes later, I got a call from Amazon. They figured out a way to relink the dictionary to my account, and he wanted to verify it worked. And it did. I had my dictionary back.

It all worked out in the end, but I was surprised how difficult it was, and a bit surprised no one had experienced this issue before. My new policy is to just not permanently delete anything on my Kindle anymore. As my "Archived Items" folder fills up with a bunch of useless books I will never read, I'll remember this.

Buy the Kindle here.


cspice said...

That's a funny story! I actually was confused when I first saw the dictionary. I was thinking, "I didn't download a dictionary!" It's good to know there is a solution available.

srnguyen said...

Wow, even though I'd consider deleting that dictionary from the Kindle, I would never have gone through all the steps you did in order to do so! Didn't realize it'd actually be kinda complicated. Glad you wrote about it though.

Manuel said...

I've just did the same thing!! ... I also did't like that dictionary on my Iphone, until I've realized I screwed big time !! :)

Thank you !, Amazon Customer Support already restored my dictionary..

Don't you think that Kindle for Iphone could allow the choice of another dictionary?. Before I found your blog, I even buyed Merriam-Webters but it didn't work

mspice said...

@Manuel I read from other sources that the Kindle could use a different dictionary including the Merriam-Websters one, so I am surprised it did not work for you. I feel like Amazon's digital services in general are FAR behind their retail delivery services. I hope this really improves in the future.

Anonymous said...

I recently did the same thing... . I'm waiting on Amazon to help me out.

Anonymous said...

I made the same mistake, but was not as fortunate with Amazon Kindle Support (Two reps said it was impossible to get it back once deleted) Obviously, it can't be impossible.

Anyway, I figured out a fix.
1) Deregister the Kindle from your Amazon Account.
2) Set-up a new Amazon Account and Register Kindle
3) d/l the dictionary to the Kindle
4 )Deregister the Kindle from 'new' Amazon Account
5) Re-register the Kindle to 'old' Amazon Account

Yes, convoluted, but it works.

Anonymous said...


Tools - Options - Registration - Deregister including remove all licensed content.

Not sure if you need to restart. I did, might be no need.

Re-register and you when you need to check a word, the dictionary will download again.


gadfly1974 said...

Thanks so much, everyone! Now when I click on a word in my iPhone Kindle app, everything is peachy :-)

northcamel said...

I just had the same experience with you and I just contacted amazon to get it back.

Anonymous said...

Thank god for this blog! I was going nuts trying to figure out how I downloaded a dictionary with no price attached.
Cleared it up for me. Why on earth is this not made clear by Amazon?

Ruchelle said...

I thought I had purchased the dictionary and kept trying to get it to show up on my Kindle. Glad to finally figure this out! Lol.

Anonymous said...

this worked for me. it was driving me CRAZY until i read this post!

Anonymous said...

Tools - Options - Registration - Deregister including remove all licensed content.

Not sure if you need to restart. I did, might be no need. (i did NOT restart)

Re-register and you when you need to check a word, the dictionary will download again.

THanks to Anonymous who posted this!!

Anonymous said...

Plug Kindle into computer and Open device to view files. Path to foreign language dictionaries: Internal storage > Android > data > > files > dictionaries. Mine had ten files in it and there were ten foreign language dictionaries that had appeared on my Kindle aside from the Oxford English dictionaries, which I like. They did not show up in MYK. I deleted the files in this folder and they all went away, except for the English one of course and it still works great. I could not find this answer in any forum and Amazon support had to escalate it and said they'd get back to me. I found the files before they had the chance. Hope this helps someone like me!

Cindy Dy said...

You are an awesome blogger. This is one of the best blog I had visited so far. Hope to read more post from you in the future. Keep it up. God bless.


Anonymous said...

I do not want the dictionary and highlight feature , sso how do I get rid of it ?
Every time I turn a page the damn dictionary comes pup instead