Although it smacks of poor customer service, Amazon is completely within its rights to do this. Its terms of service state:
All content included in or made available through any Amazon Service, such as text, graphics, logos, button icons, images, audio clips, digital downloads, and data compilations is the property of Amazon or its content suppliers and protected by United States and international copyright laws.
All the books on your Kindle are not yours. They belong to Amazon. All that cash you have paid was simply to access these books on your Kindle. You have not paid to own the books. If you want to own books, pay for physical printed books and get Amazon to send them to you by post.
Other online providers have similar terms and conditions.
Barnes & Noble “reserves the right to modify or discontinue the offering of any Digital Content at any time”. Apple’s terms and conditions state that “You acknowledge that iTunes is selling you a license to use the content made available through the iBookstore”
Non of these terms state that you actually own the content at all. In each case the content remains the property of the supplier.
Providers like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have structured their licences like this to protect themselves. If there is a catastrophic site failure that makes access to your books impossible, then you could sue for the return of your property. They would be liable.
Granting a licence to use the books or use the software makes sense. These terms are to protect their investment in their site infrastructure and costs to maintain the site.
To try and protect your investment on Kindle and Nook, you can try to remove the DRM from the book. Removing the DRM from the book puts you in contravention of terms and conditions and you then run the risk of having your account suspended. But you will have access to the books.
Digital Rights Management is a huge issue for publishers and authors. I totally get DRM, the need to limit access to digital content after purchase and I get the need to protect copyright.
I am a published author and I am delighted that I receive royalties for the books I’ve written that have been legitimately purchased. Why should the book that I spent months researching and writing, formatting and editing be available for free or downloaded on torrent sites?
With the imminent demise of the printed book, we are going to have to get used to the way we purchase but do not own electronic goods. Whether that is virtual clothing for my Second Life avatar, a customised background image on Twitter or a premium account on LinkedIn, it is not really mine.
I am renting the service just like I am renting the books I ‘buy’ on Amazon. And like any other service I rent, it can be taken away from me on a whim.