Clipping Limit Exceeded

I’ve entered the e-book world cautiously. I like the Kindle as a reading device, and generally have had very satisfactory experiences as an customer. I actually like the Nook more than the Kindle as an e-book reading device, but I remain irritated at Barnes & Noble for its wholesale destruction of New York City’s independent bookstore scene beginning in the early 1990s. I’ve never forgiven them for that, so since then, I have pretty much avoided doing business with Barnes & Noble on any level beyond a bathroom break.

Mostly, I’ve not gone “all in” with e-books for three basic reasons. First, too many publishers set prices too high for the value proposition they’re offering. Unless there is something special about the e-book offering — multimedia elements, for example — don’t come at me with a price higher than $10. Let me be clear: I can pay more than $10; I won’t pay more than $10 because there’s no value proposition to me beyond $10.

The second reason I’ve not gone all in with e-books is availability. Quite simply, the works I want (or need) to be available in an e-book format for the Kindle too often aren’t available. (And by the way, a price above $10 means I consider that title to be unavailable, because as I mentioned above, the value proposition usually does not warrant a price greater than $10.)

The third reason I’ve been a little wary about fully committing to the e-book situation is because of this nagging little concept called the first sale doctrine. If I buy the print book, I can pretty much do whatever I want with the copy of that book. But if I purchase the e-book, I’m not buying the material; instead, I am licensing that content subject to terms and conditions of a license into which I had no customer input. Many already know about’s Kindle kerfuffle two years ago involving Orwell’s 1984. That certainly gave me pause. Now, a recently discovered situation is giving me pause again.

Since I read only non-fiction, mostly for research purposes, the Kindle value proposition for me lies in being able to search the book, highlight passages, and take notes. For quite a while, Kindle downloads excluded page numbers that matched the print edition. The omission made using the Kindle for research purposes virtually worthless. But Amazon fixed that issue in February. And earlier this week, I discovered how to access and export those Kindle highlights and clippings. So now I’m figuring I’m golden.


I login and am reviewing notes and highlights from various e-book titles. For Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, I see this message

W.W. Norton Kindle clipping restriction

W.W. Norton Kindle clipping restriction

Let me repeat the relevant provisions

You have 120 highlighted passages but we can only show 86 of them. What’s this?

And then the link associated with “What’s this?” provides further information

Clipping Limit Exceeded

For some books the publisher allows only a limited percentage of a book to be “clipped” and stored separately from the main body of the book, as normally happens when you add a highlight. If you exceed this limit then you will see fewer highlights on this website than you actually marked on your Kindle. Popular Highlights are not counted towards this clipping limit.

I purchased The Big Short for leisurely reading, so the clipping limitation doesn’t hurt my research. But I didn’t know about this “limitation” when I purchased the book. Further, why is there a clipping limitation at all? Does Lewis’s publisher, W.W. Norton, really think that excessive clipping is a potential “piracy” issue? (Ironically, all of my settings restrict sharing of clippings and highlights.) is not off the hook on this issue, either. As a vendor, Amazon must know that part of the Kindle’s appeal is the ability to clip and take notes. If that capability is restricted in any way, to me that e-book title is defective — at least for my purposes. I will not knowingly purchase an e-book that restricts note taking and clipping. So Amazon needs to clearly identify this as a publisher-induced e-book “defect” in the same way it tries to frame excessive e-book prices (not coincidentally, usually above $10) as a publisher-induced “defect.”

Further,’s allowance of this practice is just ridiculous. It’s not as bad as its cave to The Authors Guild on the text-to-speech issue, but its flaccid nevertheless.

Now, I’m back to being real skeptical, and keeping my money in my pocket.

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