It could happen. An email exchange between a Norwegian customer and online retailer Amazon shows that Amazon could indeed shut down your account and erase your purchases. And the company doesn't have to explain its actions.
"If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought," Martin Bekkelund wrote on his blog today, recounting friend Linn's exchange with Amazon. When her account was closed, she wrote to Amazon to find out why, only to be told her account had been "directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies." In a subsequent email, Amazon wished her luck in finding another retailer.
"With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient," Bekkelund said.
While such action may be rare, the chance — no matter how small — that you could lose a valuable investment in e-books may send folks looking for protection.
A number of commenters on Bekkelund's blog referred to using, DRM (Digital Rights Management) removal software that strips DRM code from Kindle e-books and then converts them into ePub files, which can be stored on an external drive in case of emergency.
However, any software that strips DRM is considered illegal in the U.S. under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Because Amazon builds DRM into every Kindle book, you must have an Amazon account to open a Kindle book. The same holds true for Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple e-books. Amazon's terms of service agreement states: Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion. An Amazon spokesperson told TechNewsDaily that "account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library." The Nook's agreement says that termination of your account will not "affect your right to view digital content that you have already lawfully acquired and downloaded to your Nook." Apple says it can terminate your account for violation of terms and preclude access to the app, which means you wouldn't be able to read your e-books.
Unfortunately, there really isn't a legal way to safeguard your Kindle — Nook or Apple — digital collection.