Kindle clipping limits

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I love books on history, and have read several on my Kindle. I hope to someday write book reviews, or perhaps use quotes from the books in my future writings. Kindle facilitated this capability by providing functionality to highlight passages, add book notes, and especially, save a Kindle “page” to a clipping file.

By saving passages from the book to a text file, I can copy and paste quotes, without worry about mistyping the text. In addition, if my Kindle died, though I may not have the books, I’d at least have my notes.

My routine would be to read a book, such as A Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s or Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, and once finished would copy the clipping file to my computer, delete the one on the Kindle, and start fresh. However, while reading Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, about a third of a way through, when I went to save a page with a passage of interest to my clipping file, I received an error:

Unable to save clipping. You have
reached the clipping limit for this item.

Clipping limit? This was the first I’d heard of clipping limits.

I deleted the clipping file, but it made no difference. Per suggestions on an Amazon thread, I also deleted a metadata file associated with the book, but again, had no luck.

I tried to find information about the clipping limit in the Kindle TOS or User Guide, but nothing was covered. I also tried to find out if one can “delete” items from the existing clipping file, in order to replace with other clippings at a later time, but once the limit is reached, nothing associated with the book can be added to the clipping file, not even a highlighted sentence.

Not all books have a clipping limit, and the limit is not the same for all books. However, there is no way to find out if a book has a clipping limit, or how big it is, unless using software to ‘crack’ the DRM (Digital Rights Management) for the book.

That I’m peeved is to put it mildly, as that was one of the Kindle features I found most valuable. It was also one of the features I’ve used to sell the reading device to others. And now I’m afraid to make notes or save clippings without wondering if I won’t hit the limit. Contrary to what Amazon or the Publishers must assume, I’m not going to use the “Save as Clipping” feature to copy the entire book—I’d rather get the book from the library and photocopy each page, because it would be easier. And I can’t wait to find out what happens when several college students hit this limit with their fancy, and expensive, new large form Kindle DXes.

More importantly, Amazon does not mention this limitation with the sales material for the device, though the company does tout the “Save as clipping” capability.

Bookmarks and Annotations

By using the QWERTY keyboard, you can add annotations to text, just like you might write in the margins of a book. And because it is digital, you can edit, delete, and export your notes. Using the new 5-way controller, you can highlight and clip key passages and bookmark pages for future use.

Yet there’s nothing about clipping limits: in the documentation, or the web site. This, to me, is a deceptive business practice. Making an assumption that people will somehow “know” about the limits because of copyright laws is especially weak, because the amount you can copy seems to be arbitrary, and we readers have no way of knowing what these limits are.

Even more disappointing, the clipping limit also applies to DRM free books from Amazon, according to a MobileRead forum entry.

update I counted the clippings from “Banana…”, and discovered that the clipping limit for this book has been set to 40. That’s Kindle clippings, not book pages. Following is a typical clipping:

busy, modern family would consist of bananas sliced into corn flakes with milk. It wasn’t just the recipe that broke new ground. It was also the coupons, pioneered by the company, packed inside cereal boxes (redeemable for free bananas that the cereal companies, not the fruit importer, paid for). The company made sure that children knew about bananas, too. It set up an official “education department,” devoted to publishing textbooks and curriculum materials that subtly provided information about the fruit. United Fruit also added a new element to its political strategy. If military action was impractical (U.S. troops might be unavailable or force precluded by situations on the ground), Central America’s geography became an ally. The region’s countries were small and easy to move between. There were plenty of natural ports on both the eastern and western coasts, and bananas could be grown just about anywhere land could be cleared and a railroad could be laid. If a government became particularly balky, the company would simply threaten to go next door. But one thing United Fruit couldn’t control was nature. Not long after bananas added themselves as a third party in cereal and milk, the troubles growers were beginning to have with an aggressive malady became public. One headline in The New York Times read: “Banana Disease Ruins Plantations—No Remedy is Available—Whole Regions Have Been Laid Waste and Improvements Abandoned by

update I’ve tried the Perl tool mobi2mobi on several of the books I have, including those with an expired copyright downloaded from Amazon, one that is copyrighted and with DRM, and one that is copyrighted, without DRM.

The values I’m getting would seem to be percentages, not absolute clipping instances. So a value of 0xa, which is hex for 10, would be 10 percent, not 10 instances. Non-DRM books return a clipping limit of 0x64, which is hex for 100, which would be, if my guess is accurate, 100%. This matches our expectation for a non-DRM enabled book: that we can highlight, or clip pages up to 100% of the content.

That the value is a percentage may have been obvious to some of you, but the idea of that Amazon would enforce such an arbitrary limit, and without notice to the customers, is still new to me.

Note, also, that Amazon is attaching what seems to be a default value of 10% to books that are no longer covered by copyright, but which you can download for free from Amazon. Looks like Amazon is also attaching DRM to these books, too. My suggestion would be to get these books elsewhere, like, and hope they aren’t so limited.

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