Nook Deletes All Your Files, Barnes & Nobles Shrugs

If you own a Nook, you better make sure you regularly update its software, otherwise you might lose all your files that are not B&N books. That’s what happened to Michael, and customer service told him that it can happen if the device hasn’t been updated recently. The updates are too much for it to handle so it has to spontaneously jettison all foreign objects! Or something like that.

Michael writes:

I tried to turn my Nook on this morning and it wouldn’t turn on. Finally, it gave me a screen that said it was updating and that I needed to leave it be, so I did. When it had finished updating it had wiped all of the files off of my nook. When I reregister the device, the books from B&N will return, but everything, including documents not from B&N, has been deleted.

When I called technical support (1-800-THE-BOOK) to complain/make sure they were aware of the problem so that it wouldn’t happen to other people, I was informed that this can happen when the device hasn’t been updated in awhile. I asked if this was something they were trying to fix and I was blamed for the fact that everything had been wiped from my device because I had not been studiously updating the device. I asked if he understood how absurdly incompetent this was, my computer, after all, does not delete all my files because I don’t update it for awhile. I was informed that my computer updates everyday, whereas I have apparently not updated my nook in a terribly long unspecified length of time, which was just too long and too many updates for it to handle without deleting all my files.

I got the Nook because I can get books for it from my local library and unlike Amazon, B&N did not remotely delete 1984 from people’s devices. I generally like the nook, but this is insane! They think it is normal for it to delete all of my files!



Edit Your Comment

  1. PedroDaGr8 says:

    B&N support SUCKS! My wife and I have been waiting for over 3 mo for our $351.00 refund. We have been lied to about a check being sent, lied to about call backs etc. I emailed Consumerist about this but my guess it either takes a while for Consumerist to post things or they weren’t interested in my story (it is long and I am sure they get lots of complaints). Honestly, considering the people at B&N that I have dealt with I am not surprised that they blamed you. It is much easier for them to pass the buck than to actually deal with things. Even the people who act like they are helping stop trying once they hang up the phone.

  2. rondalescott says:

    I don’t disagree that this sucks and shouldn’t happen. However, it is also a good object lesson that you should always keep a backup of your non-B&N content.

    Recommended: Calibre ( Free, cross-platform, awesome.

    • Nighthawke says:

      +1 open source baby! Donate to the starving programmers too please!

    • Benanov says:

      I wish Calibre supported the game buttons on my XO. Then it’d rock something fierce. Maybe I’ll have to put a bounty on that. :D

    • jedifarfy says:

      ALWAYS back up data. If it’s not from Barnes and Noble, they aren’t going to save it. Also, v 1.4 has been out for several months, why have they not update?

  3. lotussix says:

    these horror stories are the exact reason that backups should be made.

    • ShinGetterPoPo says:

      These horror stories are the exact reason all my books are still made of paper.

      On a semi-related note, I’d really hate to lose a textbook like this

  4. Tomas says:

    Personally, I keep a copy of EVERYTHING on my B&N nook on my home computer, too, just in case something happens to my nook.

    It is only prudent to do so.

    With mobile devices subject to loss and breakage, depending on them for the sole source for any file one values is, well, not a good idea.

    (As an aside, I also have 4 GB of extra storage on the memory card in my nook, and all of my non-B&N documents and books are kept on it. Even of the nook has to reformat its built in storage to do accomodate some massive update, it leaves the expansion memory card alone…)

  5. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    I think that sort of device limitation is something that would render it a piece of junk in my book. If the device is designed to basically do two things well –i.e. 1. Store data. 2. Display it– and it can’t do one of those things reliably when it is not being wantonly neglected, then I don’t want the device.

    • Merricat says:

      It was less likely a device limitation as it was poorly coded update software. I know the early versions of the updater assume that you use the ‘external’ SD card for ‘your’ data and that the primary card the OS is loaded on is assumed to be completely ‘B&N’.

      This is not particularly ‘bad’ as the only way you can move stuff onto a Nook that isn’t from B&N is to mount it as a drive on your PC. It would be reasonable to assume that you aren’t storing your ‘only copy’ of something on the Nook’s main drive.

      It’s still not good service, but it’s not as if they are doing a Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo where they are actively seeking out ‘unauthorized files’ and deleting them.

  6. isileth says:

    Probably they have decided to follow Microsoft’s example, when they erased a Linux installation from an X-Box during an update.
    In their EULA they write they you can’t do that because apparently you don’t own the device, just rent it.
    Too bad that when the thing happened such an agreement is not valid.
    The OP should take a look at the user manual to see if this is contemplated.
    I don’t know if he could sue (he should if the files were important and not backed up) but any way he should spread the news, so that the problem could be solved and/or the corporation gets a not so nice reputation.
    Anyway, never trust a single device to hold your data.
    Devices go belly up, so for your peace of mind, BACK UP.

  7. herbie says:

    This is the sort of thing that keeps me from buying any e-book device. I want to own a book completely when I buy it, without risk of someone stealing it from my home if I or the publisher did something disagreeable. I want to be able to loan books, and give them away.

    • ClaudeKabobbing says:


    • Jeff says: "WTF could you have been thinking?" says:

      Have a look at one of the many “off-brands” of e-readers. I bought my wife one from Kmart (Aluratek) for 99.00 on sale. I download all her books in .pdf or .lit form to my COMPUTER then load her device with a USB cable.
      This is better because:
      1. I own the book in a printable (usually .pdf) form.
      2. No one updates anything without me instigating it.
      3. I can load my books on other people’s devices (“loan” it to them).
      It also has an MP3 player, photo viewer (grayscale) and acts as a USB storage device (thumbdrive). Life is sweet :)

      • Jedana says:

        My husband got one from Borders. Again, no worries. Everything can go on our computers at home; he downloads stuff as PDF’s and then converts them to E-books.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Astak Ereader for me. Now its sort of outpriced by the nook and kindle, but at the time it was pretty competitive. It’s dumb (no wifi or 3g) but it won’t eat my files and very simple to manage with Calibre installed on my PC.

      Plus I can get books from anywhere at the price I want to pay.

  8. psm321 says:

    While I agree with everyone saying “backup” and B&N is probably not responsible for this user’s specific file loss, it’s still a bug/problem and they ought to take the report seriously and fix it and suspend the update in the meantime (instead of saying it’s an expected feature of the update… or if it is, WARN the user before the update and allow them to cancel)

    • phil28 says:

      Barnes & Noble provides a digital locker that stores your content and allows it to be downloaded to your device again should you delete it or lose it. In fact you can access your paid content from another nook registered to the same account or on a nook reader on a computer, iPhone or Android phone. The writer of this story doesn’t understand that basic fact. If he did this would be a non-story.

      • Rose says:

        Really? They can delete everything of yours from your device without permission when they force an update that you also didn’t ask for and that policy alone wouldn’t be news?


        • simonsays says:

          Its a software update – keep your device updated and it will work correctly. They have only had 4 updates so far and any ten year old can follow the directions to “check for new BN content”. Any content loaded to a NOOK came from a computer in the first place – so you haven’t lost anything permanently. Stop whining – it’s an ereader to read books!

  9. Penn20 says:

    And you keep saying “print is dead”……

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It would be if digital media wasn’t being distributed in such a tyrannical way.

      Support the banning of licensing material.

  10. ckspores says:

    If the OP is downloading books via his library (using Overdrive products especially) there are copies of all his “checked-out” materials saved in Adobe Digital Editions (unless the checkout period has expired). Inconvenient, yes but gone, no.

    Anything else non-BN and non-library might be gone but as far as I know you can’t download library materials directly to your e-reader. You have to use Adobe and/or the database’s program to download books to your compute first-then transfer to your Nook.

    • TBGBoodler says:

      Yeah, but let’s say he’s on vacation and didn’t take his PC along, assuming that he could read his Nook while out of town.

    • ckspores says:

      Sure, then that would be a problem. But, he really isn’t on vacation and his stuff really isn’t gone.

  11. theirishscion says:

    Right. Duly noted.

  12. DanRydell says:

    How did the files get on the Nook in the first place? From a computer? Are they still on the computer?

  13. framitz says:

    All the non-Nook content on my Nook is from my PC and was copied to the Micro-SD I installed in my Nook.
    I suspect that this problem was involving the internal SD in the Nook.

    OP should look into adding a Micro-SD for side loaded content.

  14. AI says:

    Ah yes, digital ownership. If a company came into your house and threw away all your books, you can call the police. But if that company does it digitally, tough shit, you agreed to it somewhere in some fine print maybe or something.

  15. GC says:

    Hmm, it sort of sounds like it ran out of space when downloading the updates so it nuked everything on the card. Weird.

    If you load your own books on a nook, you can just turn on airplane mode so that it’ll never connect to B&N’s server.

  16. oldwiz65 says:

    Neither B&N nor Amazon really understand the market for tech stuff. The Kindle and Nook are interesting ideas that are ruined by incompetent technical support, refusal to fix problems, software that doesn’t work well, and general lack of post-sale care about customers. I’ll skip both.

    • PedroDaGr8 says:

      I don’t honestly think that amazon tech support can be any more incompetent than B&N. They take the cake in my book as worst support EVER!

    • DanRydell says:

      Sure, they don’t understand the market for tech stuff. Nevermind that the Kindle has been phenomenally successful. Amazon will keep misunderstanding the market all the way to the bank.

    • ryder28910 says:

      You’re obviously in the minority, given the wild success of each device. I’m sure you have a better understanding of things than their teams of experienced market and technology analysis folks do, though.

  17. Daverson says:

    Yes, Michael or Micheal, it is insane. As insane as thinking electronic files never need to be backed up.

  18. Buddha says:

    Back you stuff up people! Sadly, most people learn this the hard way.

  19. tbax929 says:

    I love my Nook – when it works. I lost the few books I purchased legally from B&N because my account locked up and they couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I had to create a new account, and B&N refused to give me the titles I had already purchased on my new account.

    They wonder why I obtain most of my books illegally…

    • simonsays says:

      The only way your account can get “locked up” is if you tried an incorrect password too many times. BN won’t give out acct info to just anyone who calls and says “i forgot my password”. Back up your data and keep a list of your passwords – this is SOP for anyone using an electronic device, ereader or computer.

  20. edicius is an acquired taste says:

    And I continue to be glad that I own a Kindle and not a Nook.

    • chux0r says:

      Don’t feel too smug about that Kindle – Amazon imbued it with impenetrable DRM and EULA B.S. Your (their?) content is subject to their whims, the bomb just hasn’t dropped yet. :/

      • edicius is an acquired taste says:

        While that may be true, I haven’t experienced a single problem. Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

        Of course, if something does happen, I promise I’ll be the first to bitch about it. :)

      • pz says:

        I don’t know — I’d say that whole mess about Amazon deleting books off of users’ devices after they had been bought (1984, for one) was a pretty big bomb… : Sure, Amazon’s said they’d “never” do it again, but it’s that kind of remote control power that made me get a Nook in the first place, over a Kindle.

  21. Baka-no-Kami says:

    I could be wrong, but I don’t remember ever having to reregister my nook after an update. You do have to reregister after a factory reset, which would also wipe anything on the internal memory card (but leave the add-in alone). It’s possible the OP’s nook got wiped and as a result had to re-update, so it was the wipe that deleted his files and not the actual update.

  22. SG-Cleve says:

    Someday your Nook is going to croak, so you have everything backed up. Right?

    This is a good time to remind everyone to back up your computer too. It would be a shame to lose all of your family photos and your expensive music collection. Do it now!

  23. TooManyHobbies says:

    Meh, it’s not like anyone keeps only one copy of anything they care about, right? I mean, really. It costs about a nickel for the disk space to back up the whole thing.

  24. yagisencho says:

    It can be annoying to have the device wiped, but the only way it’d be permanent loss is if you also deleted those files from the computer you originally copied them from.

  25. juneaugurl2 says:

    I had the same thing happen with my i Pod. When it would update, it would erase a bunch of my files and some of them would be i Tunes songs i had just purchased that I did not have a back up of yet. I learned to turn off the automatic updates and instead make sure I back up everything and then install the updates myself. If I didn’t, every time I Tunes turned on it would start updating and not leave me with a choice. Good luck!

  26. phil28 says:

    All of her books are safely stored on B&N’s servers so they can be retrieved easily from the updated nook. Don’t understand what the problem is. It’s better than a computer because everything is backed up.

  27. Erika'sPowerMinute says:

    It’s Barnes and Noble, not Barnes and Nobles. And decide on the spelling of Michael.

  28. OnePumpChump says:
  29. Blueskylaw says:

    Thats funny, my books never needed batteries or software updates and they never crashed on me or suddenly had themselves remotely deleted (1984) and I can resell them when and if I want because I own it. The best part is I can read them on a plane without being put on a no fly list.

    /awaiting flames or criticism that print is dead

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Print is not dead, but I hate the kind of smug attitude that non-ebook people have. I get it – you prefer paper books. I still don’t have an e-reader, and still get paper books from the library. But your lifestyle is not the same as others’ and millions of people really enjoy using their e-readers. You can’t use any of these examples as justification for not owning an e-reader. The only real justification you have is simply “it doesn’t work for my lifestyle.”

    • ckspores says:

      I love paper books too and even though I’m a librarian and everyone THINKS I should be against eBooks, I’m not. But, smug non-ebook readers really irritate me. We get it-you like paper books.

  30. dg says:

    This is why I disable all updates. After I vet what the update does, how it works, what features it adds or removes, I decide if all of that will be of greater benefit to me than what I have now, and I act accordingly.

    Any device which requires an update to work with something that it used to work with, I consider broken and get rid of.
    The main reason for these asinine updates is some kind of digital restriction management BS that someone broke, and they want to “fix”.

    When I get a device that doesn’t have DRM and lets me do what I want with it, I’ll buy one. Until then, I’ll stick with my netbook…

    Return the POS – it’s broken.

  31. ajlei says:

    One more reason not to get a nook. I’m really loving the new Sony Touch, it’s just a more durable looking product (no plastic), no need to deal with the slow and buggy touch screen that the nook has (yes, I have used several and they all have a delay or sensitivity issues), and the Sony UI makes a lot more sense.

    Plus, I went to a B&N this weekend and asked the employee a question about the nook and, despite his “nook certified” badge, he could not answer anything about the screen type.

  32. TPA says:

    Not sure what all of the fuss is about — TomTom GPS users have had this “feature” as part of their ownership for years. Update your maps and all of your favourite destinations will be deleted. They’ll be nice enough to save your device preferences (colour, voice type, etc.) but your favourites will be toast each time.

  33. Plasmafox says:

    I’m sure in their eyes you didn’t buy it, you just lease from them a revokable right to use the software on it. If that’s the case, If you don’t like something it does or they do, according to them your sole recourse then would be to stop using the device. you’re not their customer, their shareholders are.

    This is why people jailbreak things.

  34. El_Fez says:

    So tell me again why digital books are superior to hard copies?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Because carrying five books on vacation with you is a pain in the neck, and so is attempting to read a physical copy of a 1,200 page hardback on the train.

  35. Lear100 says:

    Does technology really make our lives easier???

  36. SpaceCadet says:

    Yes, backups are good, backups are prudent. But that’s not the point here! This company thinks that deleting/destroying the digital property of its customers is an acceptable thing to do. Not just acceptable, but as a “design feature”. They don’t have to – they could check for available space, and notify the customer that they need to backup/remove files, and ask for confirmation to continue. They have made the *choice* not to do this.

  37. the_real_keenfrenzy says:

    This is not an intentional software design choice by Barnes & Noble. Per their help page on their website:

    “Once the software update is completed, your NOOK will automatically restart and display the Home screen. The software update will preserve your personal settings, including your registered account information, content, display settings, and Wi-Fi® settings.”

    If the OP lost content and had to re-register, something must have gone afoul during the update, which can happen with any sort of computing device.

    I own a Nook and have never lost content from the device. The only gripe I’ve seen that I can agree with is that the touchscreen is sluggish.

  38. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This is why I got a non-proprietary ebook reader.

  39. classic10 says:

    Yeah and if you are a software developer you should know that files don’t vanish for no reason. Or it is done intentionally of for software or hardware error. No other option here.

  40. Jessica says:

    Of course, my first question would be, How many times did he hold the power button down to try to turn the device on? Because if you hold the power button down for roughly ten seconds, then release and then repeat the process six times, it does a factory reset and has to reload the latest update from the servers and everything. It’s a painful process that takes at least an hour and it WILL delete all non-B&N content that’s stored on the nook’s main memory.

    Lesson? Store your non-B&N content on a memory card in the nook and reserve the space on the nook’s main memory for B&N content that you can’t lose.

    For the record, I’ve had my nook since it was released last year, and I’ve NEVER had an issue with it, including any of the laggy-ness, lack of touchscreen response, slow page turns, etc. that people claim they’ve had.

  41. bibliogrrl says:

    This is EXACTLY why I returned my nook after 2 weeks. I loved the design, but the customer service was appalling.

    It would not recognize any content over 10 books (I had over 50). When I called, they said it must be an issue with my memory card (I had the same problem whether the content was on the card or on the nook itself), and because it wasn’t their hardware, they couldn’t offer support or advice.

    And the kicker was they would not admit at ALL that it could have been a hardware problem specific to that single nook.

    I returned it and have a Sony Daily Reader 900 that I’ve had little problem with, and the customer support is helpful and quick.

    • simonsays says:

      You can always go into the store and ask for the Store Manager or Digital Salesperson and ask for an exchange on a truly defective nook. I work at a BN and we always try to accommodate customers who purchased nooks at a BN. I have seen very, very few truly defective nooks. I have seen customers who simply shouldn’t own such a device and customers who just won’t admit they’ve damaged their nook. In over a year I’ve never heard of any nook issues dealing with the number of books being limited; the device will hold about 1,500. It sounds like your nook was a defective device if it only held ten books. Sorry you had a bad experience at your store!!!