Amazon’s offer to store your downloaded Kindle e-books in the cloud seems outstanding, especially given the eReader’s scant 2GB of onboard storage. A tale making the rounds today highlights the dangers of leaving your data completely in third-party hands, however, after a Norwegian woman had her Amazon.co.uk account erased and all her Kindle e-books wiped without warning — or explanation.
Media commentator and business IT manager Martin Bekkelund recounts the plight on his blog. The woman — identified as Linn — contacted Amazon customer service when she noticed her account was erased, only to be told that her “Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled” because is it “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.”
When Linn asked for details, claiming that she’d only ever used the single Amazon account, the company refused to tell her how her account was linked to the blocked account, the name of the blocked account, or even what the blocked account was blocked for.
The Amazon representative stonewalled Linn when she expressed her incredulity at the turn of events, saying simply that closing an account is permanent. “We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters,” she was told in conclusion.
BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow suggests that the account may have been closed because Linn was using a British email address to purchase eBooks from Norway.
No matter what the reason, the ordeal serves as reminder of one of the major issues with DRM-protected software: you’re often not buying the software itself, but instead a license to use it, and many companies maintain the right to yank your privileges at any time — even if they refuse to tell you why. If you want to limit the hold Amazon and others have on you, stick to DRM-free downloads as often as possible and just in case, don’t forget to back up whatever data you can.