Delivereads – Urging Caution about a ‘Net Darling

UPDATE: To allow someone to email text to your Kindle, you must actually do two things: supply that person with the Kindle’s secret email list *and* add the sender’s email address to a “white list” of approved senders managed through your account at

The white list mitigates my initial concern that email addresses shared with Delivereads could be sold or shared with others. If I give your private Kindle email address to someone, he or she can’t use it unless his or her email address has been added to the white list. 

That said: I still think it’s good practice for anyone collecting email addresses to say, right up front, exactly how that data will be used and whether or not it will be shared with others. I’m still not sure why the good folks at Delivereads have chosen not to do so. 

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John Gruber (@gruber) and Seth Godin have been promoting Delivereads, a new service that will email curated articles directly to your Kindle.

While the idea sounds cool at first, I won’t be signing up for it, and can’t encourage you to. In fact, I’m a little surprised that Gruber and Godin have recommended the service to their thousands of followers.

Here’s why: Every Kindle is associated with a secret email address you can use to email documents directly to the device. If you give someone that email address and add them to your list of approved senders, they can push anything — anything at all — to your Kindle.

To sign up for Delivereads, you have to hand over that secret address. 

Dave Pell (@davepell), the gentleman behind the service, is entirely trustworthy. I think it’s very likely that he has only the very best intentions. But my concern, in a nutshell, is this: there is absolutely no privacy policy posted at

No promise that you’ll never receive advertising. No explanation of who is curating the articles provided, or why, or what motivated those inclusions. And no promise to keep your Kindle’s private email address private. 

As someone has already pointed out about Digg (and, by extension, Facebook): “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Delivereads is a free service. So how, exactly, will it pay off for its investors?

I’m thinking ads … or paid placement of articles … or sales of email lists.

Someone will point out that you can unsubscribe whenever you like. (You can.) Someone else will point out that you can always change your Kindle’s secret address. (You can.) And as Dave Pell notes in a tweet today, you can always remove people from the list of approved senders, too. (It’s true.)

But these things are also true of your personal email. If you start getting tons of spam, you can stop using that email address any time you like, get a new address, and even create rules to block certain people from sending you email. My point is simply this: you shouldn’t have to worry about going to any of that trouble.  The good folks behind Delivereads should tell you, right up front, what they plan to do with your private information.

For me, the Kindle is a very private space. I *like* having 100% control over what I see there. And no promise of curated reads (curated by whom? according to what criteria?) is sweet enough to blindly turn control of that space over to someone else. 

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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  • This is sort of silly, Mark.

    A. Dave has a stellar reputation
    B. Of all the scams one can imagine in the online world, this would be a super dumb one. Why? Because in less than ten seconds (I just timed it) you can change your secret email address.

    That might be a hassle, but it's hardly on the level of issues like global warming. PS what's the privacy policy for people postiing comments here and including their email address in the author email (optional) field?


  • Seth,

    I've long been an admirer of your work, and I recommend your books and products frequently to others. Thanks for stopping by!

    As you know, millions of Kindles are out there, all in the hands of a pretty sweet demographic. There's tremendous potential in being first to market with a service that gets targeted content into the very quiet, very private space those devices represent.

    Of course, that may not be Dave's plan, and I'm glad to hear he has a stellar reputation. (Did I suggest otherwise?) But to me, that's all the more reason to expect him to be upfront about what's being done with the email addresses people are supplying when they sign up for Delivereads.

    About my privacy policy concerning email addresses in the comment form: the email field is optional. I don't collect or use those addresses in any way.

    Thank you again for stopping by — and for writing _Poke the Box_, which I read last month and found very valuable.

  • Luckily, Amazon prevents this issue from being a factor at all. In order to receive any documents or messages from someone on your Kindle, you must FIRST authorize that email in your Kindle Approved Email List. If you don't like what you're getting, you just remove that email from your whitelist and boom, that email cannot contact you in the privacy of your Kindle.

    Delivereads is a side-project that I do for free. Should it have a privacy policy? Maybe, I'm not sure about that one. But it had been up for about 12 hours when you posted this and described it as a "net darling." Not yet. And if you're going to raise this issue, you should share the real facts about how the Kindle mailing system works so folks know the score when it comes to any number of tools that send stuff to their kindles.

    Also, in fairness, I don't think it's accurate to say John or Seth promoted it. They use it, they like it, they blog.

    No big deal, just wanted to make sure readers would have a clear understanding of this newish platform.

  • Dave: thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment on this post.

    You're absolutely right about the need to add an emailer to the Kindle's whitelist. I will amend the post to reflect this.

    Given who you are are and what you do, the assertion that blog entries, direct mailings to opt-in email lists, and tweets pointing followers to the service are not "promotion" of it is astounding.

    I am glad we agree that Delivereads "maybe" should have a privacy policy. It could be this simple: "Email addresses shared with me will not be shared with anyone else." Clarifying whether or not subscribers will receive ads, or whether or not Delivereads receives compensation in return for the content it delivers, would be a nice gesture, as well.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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