Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Should Consumers Be Able to Buy and Sell Used E-books?

A debate has ignited in the bookosphere after news surfaced that Amazon had applied for a patent on technology that would let people sell "used" e-books through Amazon.

Author John Scalzi initially reacted harshly: "I’m awfully suspicious that it means nothing good for writers who want to get paid for their work using the current compensation model" and then reacted even more harshly: "I would rather you pirate the eBook than buy it used."

Consultant Mike Shatzkin rightly cautioned that just because Amazon has the technology doesn't mean they're going into this business, and at TeleReads Marilynn Byerly notes that a group called the Owners Rights Initiative is fighting to give digital owners the rights to resell digital works.

For me personally, it's hard to wrap my head around what a "used" digital files even means. A digital copy does not get worn, the pages don't yellow over time, there are not dog-eared corners. A "used" digital copy is exactly like a brand new digital copy. The idea of "used" digital anything is pretty meaningless.

While details have been somewhat scarce on the specifics of the technology Amazon possesses, what I'd guess it involves is the ability to transfer the ownership of a single digital copy from one person to another, deleting original copy so ownership is only retained by one person. When I'm done reading about the fiftieth shade of Grey, I can sell the copy to someone else and I no longer have access to it.

So. In this new world you would have "new" e-books for sale alongside "used' e-books, only the two are completely indistinguishable from one another. But the "used" e-book would inevitably be cheaper, because the seller is more motivated to sell. If I'm done reading something, I'm willing to take less than I paid for it if only because I want to ensure I get something back. It's no skin off my back to undercut the list price.

Authors and publishers are not currently compensated for used e-book sales, and if that paradigm were translated into the "used" e-book world, they would be undermined by completely identical and cheaper copies for sale alongside their "new" e-books. It's hard to imagine any scenario other than the pie shrinking even further for authors and publishers.

And yet... There are plenty of people who want to do away with DRM and sharing speed bumps entirely, which would make it extremely easy for people to sell or share their "used" e-books with anyone who wants it, whether that is a personal friend or someone they've met in a discussion forum or anywhere else on the Internet. People who are opposed to a used e-book paradigm should consider that one alternate scenario is one where non-DRM'd books are running rampant throughout the Internet (or rather, even more than they already are currently).

Lots of readers have been rankled by the fact that when you buy an e-book you don't have the same rights and flexibility as you do for a print book. It's hard to give it away and it's impossible to resell it. It's a license, not true ownership. It's frustrating when you just want to pass it on to a family member or friend like you can a paperback.

It's always seemed to me that the realities of digital publishing should account for the difference in physical form. Digital copies are fundamentally different than print copies, and arguing that we should treat them with the exact same rules strikes me as disingenuous. We have to strike a reasonable balance between the convenience of consumers and fairness to content creators.

Is a "used" e-book marketplace the right way of striking that balance? I'm not sure. A mechanism for transferring ownership of an e-book on a one-to-one basis is appealing, and as a reader I think I might like to have that option. I'd like it even more if authors were compensated for resales.

It's certainly not the worst solution I've ever heard. What do you think?

Art: "Novgorod Marketplace" by Appolinary Vasnetsov


V_E_L said...

No. Unless the author/publisher was getting compensation for teh book, that would be acceptable. If they did do it, thye dhuld not allow indie or self published books to be resold

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

It's going to be awfully hard for writers to make a living if, in theory, a hundred people can read the same copy of a book with no compensation for the author. This isn't like a library or even a used book store full of paperbacks, in my opinion. I really don't like it. :-(

Lauren B. said...

This is yet another reason why I think the consumption of all digital media (books, movies, music) is better off switching from a own-per-unit to a subscription model, since ownership of intangible data is so...fuzzy.

It would make these debates moot.

Instead of buying individual pieces of media and 'owning' them, instead you'd pay a fixed monthly fee for unfettered access to the library of media.

You're never watching 'your' Finding Nemo DVD, you're just renting it on demand any time you want. Ditto, you're never reading 'your' copy of 'Wolf Hall', you're just renting it on demand every time you open it on your Kindle.

I would *love* to pay $15 or whatever to read as many books in a month as I want.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Seems insane. How would you ever make any money?

Jessica Schley said...

I am so conflicted on this, because I've *always* thought that DRM and its associated restrictions hurts electronic sales--the ONLY time I will pirate or jailbreak a song or movie is when I flat-out can't do what I want with the file (put it on my nook and iPad at once, etc). Otherwise, paying money for the content is both easier and keeps viruses off my computer.

So I've championed publishers like Tor and many self-publishers, who are trying to go forward with DRM-free versions of their books to give their readers the greatest flexibility possible.

At the same time, it's one thing to have DRM-free items that you can read on any reader or give away, versus creating a secondary book market for ebooks. Amazon already makes it super easy to get rid of old media for an Amazon gift card--how soon will they begin compensating people for "returning" their ebooks? And with nothing to incentivize purchasing the new version (no dog ears, no underlining), the vast majority of people won't pay more for exact the same thing--and, I would wager, that even includes people who understand the author gets no payment for the "used" copy.

In addition, there won't be the "secondhand shipper" problem with the used ebook--usually you have to pay $4 shipping for a used book because the used book retailer isn't part of Amazon or It will make it easier to buy used.

The whole thing leaves me wondering if this is not just another attempt to drive down the price of new ebooks. The problem is, as usual, such tactics will disproportionately squeeze midlist authors who don't get giant pre-orders of their new titles.

Isaiah Campbell said...

Obviously, this is a dangerous innovation. The only way the author doesn't get screwed in this is if there's a secondary-reader royalty rate established, much like the royalty credits for songwriters. An author would get full credit of royalties on a books initial purchase, a .75 credit on secondary purchase, etc. etc.

There would also have to be some sort of time delay on the ability to resell e-books. For instance, a three or six month delay after initial publication date, that way authors aren't seeing their profit capabilities undermined by fast readers or unsatisfied customers.

And there has to be a limit on how many times an e-book file can be resold. That way there can still be sufficient demand vs. supply to maintain profits for authors.

Crystal said...

Well, since the comments on Scalzi's post have pretty much already run the gamut on this, I really have nothing to add...except that my gut reaction was: "So, Amazon is trying to monetize piracy now?"

misterfweem said...

There's a fundamental flaw in the argument against the resale of ebooks: Where's the uproar over the resale of physical books? Authors don't get any of that money, do they? In reading Amazon's patent, it's clear that once a person sells a bit of digital content, it's not theirs to have any more, unless they buy it again -- the same with physical books. The patnent also says they'll impose limits on the number of times a bit of digital content can be re-sold. Where content creators -- from authors to publishers -- ought to get aggressive in the digital resale market is not to try to quash it outright, but to try to get a slice of the pie in what appears will be a tightly-run marketplace, where Amazon's sales at least will be handled in a manner that should make collecting resale royalties a simple matter.

Bryan Russell said...

I think we already compensate buyers for the reduced shareability of e-books with a lower price point. You can buy it cheap, but you can't resell it or lend it (except by lending your device). Ownership has been redefined in the digital age.

I just bought Word 2013 from Microsoft, but what did I buy? A bunch of digital information streamed to my computer. Even the days of "I went to Seattle and all I got was this lousy CD" are over. The licensing model is now simply a fact of life in the digital age.

People want the best of both worlds: the advantages and cheapness of digital files along with the advantages of a physical paper product. But you can't have both. If you want a copy you can sell or lend, buy a paper copy. If you have an ereader and like digital (and digital savings), go that way.

Tout finis.

Richard Gibson said...

To me, a "used" e-book is just a copy. I don't quite see it the same way as me taking the physical book I paid for, and reselling it (or giving, or loaning, or whatever). I guess if there is a mechanism for ensuring that I no longer have it, there is room for discussion; otherwise it just seems like illegal copying.

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

My question is, "Do authors and publishers get paid when a book is sold used?" If the technology is to be used as you have described it, wouldn't it be the same for the author/publisher of an e-book?

My thought is, if the technology to pass on ownership of an e-book exists, wouldn't it create an opportunity for the author/publishers to demand to be compensated for the re-sale of the e-book?

How are authors/publishers compensated for e-books in the Amazon Prime lending program? If they are paid (albeit at a lower royalty rate), maybe it could be used as a payment model for the re-sale of the e-books.

Obviously, Amazon's practices have created reason for the content creators to distrust their every move. However, they have also opened up opportunities for authors to realize their dreams to finally become published.

On the other hand, I would love to see a subscription type service as proposed by Lauren B at 12:29.

Christine Monson said...

My first reaction was Yikes. No Way! But after reading some of the suggestions posted, I can see there are some compatible alternatives such as Lauren B.'s subscription model and Isaiah's idea of placing a time restraint before you can resale and/or the number of resales. (I really like this one.)

Nevertheless, if the author and publisher aren't being compensated then there are definately issues that need to be addressed before Amazon moves foreward, if they decide to do so.

Fred said...

Might as well just blog and give the story away for nothing. At least that way you don't have to pay for a cover and editing.

Ted Cross said...

I think the best thing to do is to sell eBooks as a package with the real books. I want to own the hard copy, but I don't want to also have to buy the eBook. I'd gladly pay a little more on the normal price of a book if it included both. I don't like the idea of reselling 'used' eBooks, because like you say, there is nothing truly 'used' about them.

Elissa M said...

I think reselling ebooks would be fine as long as authors get a royalty each time the book sells. It wouldn't be right for Amazon (or any seller) to make money without compensating the creator.

Electronic files and hard copy books are apples and oranges-- or maybe apples and blue jeans. They aren't the same thing and it's ridiculous to pretend they are.

Hart Johnson said...

I guess some LIMITED version of passing it on--you read it, then gift it to someone--that would match how a lot of readers use books, fits what I make sense. I don't think you should be able to sell one (though I suppose if you made a private deal for the gifting, that is up to you) but once it is gifted, it can't be gifted again, and if it was a 'promotional' version (free or seriously discounted) then the 'gifting' could be removed if the author/publisher decided.

Or maybe the gifting (or a few extra rounds of borrowing) would be an add-on purchase the original eBook purchaser could buy... it is $2.99 but for $3.99 you can lend it up to three times or gift it when you're done.... something like that.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Nathan wrote: For me personally, it's hard to wrap my head around what a "used" digital files even means. A digital copy does not get worn, the pages don't yellow over time, there are not dog-eared corners. A "used" digital copy is exactly like a brand new digital copy. The idea of "used" digital anything is pretty meaningless.
I saw Scalzi's response and reposted it around because it was a thoughtful rant (and I'm a professional writer with e-books and audiobooks too).

But when I saw this item on the problem, I remembered one other thing that makes "used" print books more valuable than pristine ones.

If a famous person (or subsequently famous person) has annotated a book with underlines and/or marginal comments, or if the author him/herself has added marginalia -- THAT copy becomes more valuable than a clean print copy.

One feature with Amazon Kindle that I'm using is the "share" feature that lets you highlight and "share" (with folks "following" you on Amazon Share who also have that book) snatches of text from the book.

The only books where I've seen others sharing text excerpts are some Harry Potter.

You can also insert a "comment" on shared text.

Those shares are not "attached" to your copy, but to the title. Anyone who has that title and is following you can see your shares. You can also post shared excerpts to Facebook and twitter.

Reading is becoming a social networking experience.

It's possible Amazon plans to develop something that allows you to sell "used" copies with access to some commentary by (whoever?).

Or maybe they just want to be sure nobody else can if Amazon doesn't do this?

Laura Benson said...

First of all, the author has been paid for that sold book. Should the author then be paid again for the same book that has been purchased? If that's the case, then library book sales would be highly illegal. Second hand bookstores wouldn't have a business. Authors will find every reason to try to make a dime on everything they can.

Does Calvin Klein get money on clothing that is sold at a goodwill or Salvation Army? No, he's already been paid for the sale of the clothing. Same thing with ebooks. Once the book is purchased, it should be able to be sold back or resold. Now, I'm anti-Amazon, so I don't think they should make a profit off of it. Maybe collect a fund to help save libraries or something. Which yeah, I know will never happen.

I'll probably piss off a lot of authors, but really should you make double off of one book every time it switches hands?

Regina Richards said...

This would be a disaster for both publishers and writers. It might be disastrous for Amazon too if their profits from used digital eBooks don't compensate them for the loss of writers who will flee to sites where their eBooks can only be "rented" rather than purchased. Unless Amazon is confident that they have such a large market share that their position is unassailable, they may want to make sure their author's pocketbooks stay full enough to keep them from being lured away.

Isaiah Campbell said...

Laura @6:31:

Well, I'm not pissed off, but I am scratching my head at your reasoning.

You said that "the author has been paid for that sold book. Should the author then be paid again for the same book that has been purchased?"

However, what has been sold was not the book, rather what has been sold is the right to read the book digitally on your e-reading device. We aren't talking about an item which loses value once it has been accessed, such as a car rolling off a lot or a pair of pants. We are talking about the intellectual property of a written manuscript, as well as the art (if applicable).

By the same logic, music, once purchased, should be free to be distributed in all avenues without any compensation to the songwriters and artists. And if you purchase a CD, that is applicable. However, when a song is played in a venue, streamed on the internet, or even covered by another band and sold, the artist is paid royalties for his intellectual property.

The same should be true of books. Certainly, a book which suffers wear and tear after an initial read and is then resold has diminished its value to such an extent that it poses no great threat to the sales of an author's work. But an e-book, which does not diminish in value for any reason except perhaps time, poses a great threat to the author if it can be acquired at a cheaper price by cutting out the royalties.

In other words, an author's got to eat.

Laura Benson said...

Isaiah Campbell:

In other words, an author's got to eat.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that saying. Lawyer Milloy said the same thing when he wanted more millions from the New England Patriots. They traded him.

Why shouldn't we treat e-books as physical books? We pay just about the same amount for most of them. Considering it costs next to nothing to upload a document to site.

I also don't like "However, what has been sold was not the book, rather what has been sold is the right to read the book digitally on your e-reading device. We aren't talking about an item which loses value once it has been accessed, such as a car rolling off a lot or a pair of pants. We are talking about the intellectual property of a written manuscript, as well as the art (if applicable)."

If I'm paying $20 (The Casual Vacancy) for the right to READ a book, then I might as well just buy the damn hardcover and be done with e-books all together, because according to you, I'm basically renting it anyway?

I'm not trying to take money away from an author, I'm trying to help the consumer who gets completely lost in this myriad of challenges of the digital world. Scratch your head, but eventually there will be a backlash.

So all the books I've purchased for my Nook, I don't own, I've just been given the "right" to read it?

Lori said...

No. It's hard for authors as it is to make any money on hard copies. Especially first time writers to get a break. I say stick to the hard copy books. I have my first novel available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and both have asked if I would consider ebook. I said no...more money for them and minimal to zero for the author.

Geek Amicus said...

If authors aren't being compensated for the reselling, then there have to be some sort of boundaries set. Otherwise, no one will want to go through the hassle of getting published. What if, if you bought it used but then could not resell it. So you can pass it on, but it can only be passed on once. I also agree with the poster who said there should be some sort of time limit on how soon you could resell it so that it wouldn't bite into new book sales.

DRM is annoying if you can't get a book on to your own device, but other than that, I think it serves a purpose.

Anonymous said...

This is an issue only because publishers are fighting a rear guard action to maintain the price of ebooks in the ballpark of paper books. This, despite the lack of major costs such as printing, storage, shipping, and returns. A similar situation existed in the early days of PC software when common programs sold for hundreds of dollars. Piracy was rampant. Now, these programs are sold for twenty or thirty dollars, with benefits of online support, and the frequency of piracy is far, far less.

If ebooks commonly sold for a couple of dollars apiece I doubt that a market for used ebooks would exist.

Marilynn Byerly said...

For Laura and those confused about this whole issue.

When you resell a used paper book, you are selling the paper, the ink, and the glue, NOT the content. That is called "The First Sale Doctrine." In fact, you never owned the content of the book. You never had the right to reprint the contents of the book, or sell it as a screen play, or anything else like that.

A digital book is only the contents. If you'd bother to check out the small print when you buy an ebook, you'd see that you aren't buying it, you are licensing the content, and what you can and can't do with that content is included, usually in the DRM information. That usually means you can't loan an ebook, you can't resell an ebook, and you can't post it online for free.

For more details and links to government laws and information on the subject, read my articles on copyright:

“A Reader’s Guide to Copyright,” A simple explanation of what copyright is and what the reader needs to know.

“The First Sale Doctrine and Ebooks,”  Is it legal to resell or share an ebook?

You can also see my articles on the Kindle used ebook system and what used ebooks outside of a Kindle system would mean for publishing, writers, and readers by clicking on the "copyright " label.

Anonymous said...

Patents are tricky. For example, there was a patent on something called the Berger Lamp for a long time. It's an infuser that takes impurities from the air and add scent to a room. They were very expensive for a long time because of this patent. When it ran out, everyone started selling them and they became more afforadable.

With that said, the odds are Amazon acquired this very important patent to keep others from selling used e-books. Whether or not Amazon will implement this is another question. Many large corporations acquire patents and never use them. They just want to hold them so no one else can use them. If that's the case, it's another brilliant move on Amazon's part.

However, if they want to start selling used e-books, and if authors are not going to get royalties, they are playing a different game now than they were with used print books. Authors and publishers can offset this by selling their own "used" e-books at a fraction of the cost. Or, authors could actually give away these books for free and cut Amazon completely. If it is done, it will create a large stir. But I don't see it happening anytime soon. Now, if one of the big six had been paying attention, they would have acquired the patent and never used it so Amazon wouldn't get it. But Amazon, as usual, is on top of everything.

harryipants said...

Obviously, this won't happen. It would actually destroy Amazon's book business, which would do immense harm to their business as a whole.
Seriously... there'd be no ebooks produced, apart from a few rubbish ones by desperate self publishers.
No publisher who needs to make money – which is most publishers – will produce ebooks if this starts happening.
It won't be able to happen to previously sold books, because they weren't sold, only the license to download and read them was sold. So we who've bought them so far can't resell them.
How would this work if it were to be implemented?
Some numbers.
Numbers are good.
Best case scenario for author/publisher...
Consumer buys $10 ebook from Amazon. Author/publisher share $7 however their contract states. Amazon make $3.
Consumer reads book, sells it back to Amazon for, say $4. Attractive deal for consumer. It only cost her $6 for the book.
Amazon sells the "used" copy, which is a faultless brand new copy of course, for, say $8.
Consumer loves this. Gets $10 book for $8. Amazon makes $4 on second-hand copy. More than they made on the new one.
At this point Author/publisher have made $7, and Amazon have made $7 from that one copy.
2nd owner of book sells it back to Amazon for $4.
Turned out a good deal for 2nd owner. It only cost them $4 to read the book.
Amazon sells it to 3rd Consumer for $8.
Amazon has now made a profit of $11 on a book that sells for $10 new.
Much more than the publisher and author combined.
At this point one book has profited the producers of the book.
Repeat forever.
So the publisher/author would sell very few copies of an ebook, and as this production would ensure a loss rather than a profit, they would not produce any ebooks at all, only print books.
Amazon would only try this if their ultimate goal was to stop ebooks being produced.
Probably not Amazon's business model is it?

Christi G said...

You can't sell "used" music files on itunes, and I doubt this will ever come to fruition either. Since you've really just bought a license to read a book's content, not bought the book itself, it doesn't make sense to sell "used" e-books.

thewriteedge said...

I heard on the news a couple of weeks ago about a library in Texas that has gone all digital -- it's reportedly the first digital library in the country. They will have a physical location, but it'll be a place where people can go and use Kindles, Nooks, etc. I guess that means they're going to loan e-books.

Libraries have to buy books in order for their patrons to check them out. Is it possible for publishers to work with libraries or maybe even come up with a new model for consumers to be able to share their "used" ebooks and the publishers still reap some benefit?

Matthew MacNish said...

No, no, no, no, no. This is not cool.

Being a part of the anti-DRM crowd, I have to say it's not the same thing, either (not saying you said that, just ...).

Pirates will still pirate, and people who understand that we must financially support creative works if we want more cool creative works will still pay.

The only difference is who gets the money. I'd rather see it going to writers and publishers than digital distribution behemoths like Amazon. As much as I love Amazon, and I shop there a lot, they've already taken a big enough piece of the publishing pie.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

I'm confused how this 'technology' differs from Kindle Direct Publishing, in which Amazon Prime members can "lend" books to others, in a "lending library," all digital and virtual, with no extra compensation to the writers?

On the other hand, do writers/publishers currently get some compensation for resale of their books, by either used book stores or even, for example, the bookstores that buy and sell textbooks?

Perhaps the time has come to allow such virtual resale, with some compensation from the seller going to the writer, again? I see no reason, in the digital world, why the publisher needs to benefit from resales suddenly if they haven't until now...:)

But I share your concern/confusion as well. Since a "digital" used book is essentially the same as a new one, I can see the incentive among, say, Kindle users to keep or reopen some memory on their devices--the equivalent of clearing unwanted used books from your shelves--and get compensated.

But not the writers or publishers?

Rebekkah Niles said...

Here's a new twist on the issue: ReDigi is a company also looking to get into the used e-books sale. But with their sales, authors and publishers would get a cut with every sale--and that's part of what makes it even legally trickier, because giving the author and publisher a cut sort of violates the "Right of First Sale" doctrine. (Source: Publishers Weekly, "Sale of Used E-Books Getting Closer," Judith Rosen Feb. 16 2013.)

If an e-book is going to be resold, I'd rather the author and publisher get a cut. As a reader starving for more books but keeping an eye on a too-short budget, I like the idea of more affordable reading. I'll pay full-price for authors I know I like, but if I'm looking for a new author, or faced with an intriguing book from an unknown? I'm more likely to buy if it's cheap enough I can still spend the extra on an author I know I love.

But as a writer, I will pay full price to support other authors whose works I know I like, whenever I can afford to buy new. The conundrum comes when facing the question of whether or not most other people will, too.

Johanna Garth said...

I think it's such a complicated question because the impulse is to try to create the ebook market in the image of the paperback book market.

Not sure that can be done because, as you point out, the two are such different animals and yet, as a reader I do want to be able to treat my digital books just like my paperback ones, loan them to friends etc.

At the moment, pre-coffee, I don't have a great solution to offer, but thanks for giving me something interesting to think about on this rainy Friday.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I don't think this conversation should overlook what happened with the shift in music and piracy. Conceptually, the music industry didn't mind if I made a copy of a cd for a friend for free (peer to peer was ok). This was in no way controversial, and completely impossible to regulate. The issue really was when strangers were introduced to the equation with mp3 sharing. I think it's reasonable to understand why that is controversial.

So with my ebooks (as with all my content), I feel like I should be able to transfer my license (for a fee or for free) to someone within my network (there should be an easy way to regulate this - immediate family and an approved list of friends in order to limit it so everything isn't available to all my facebook friends), and I'm ok not having the right to do the same with a stranger.

Also, if we look at the developments in dvds over the last decade, we've seen how the studios are including enhanced content that's only available if you buy the movie or tv show. If ebook licenses do become transferable, we may start to see enhanced content available only to the first buyer - a way to incentivise the purchase. Also, probably windowing so the original purchaser couldn't transfer their license immediately.

Kristi Lea said...

Assuming that Amazon is attempting to offer the ability to re-sell Kindle-formatted books across Kindle devices, then they do actually have the ability to ensure that the original "owner" no longer retains a copy. They control the content and the cloud and can make sure that you remove all locally downloaded copies before re-selling.

(Yes, yes, rooted/jail-broken devices and PC's used by slightly more tech-savvy folks could easily be used to cicumvent the issue...just as with DRM and DVD copying and all that).

Now, having said that, I suspect that Amazon is first going to use this to scare sense into publishers who attempt to charge hardcover prices for new e-books (actually, I think the fact that this is getting publicity IS their scare attempt). If the publishers are going to insist on charging paper prices for electronic content, then perhaps the electronic content should come with the same resale rights as the paper.

If Amazon has the patent on the technology, and finds the legal right to do so, they could easily threaten to allow re-sale of those overpriced books. If you were a publisher, what would you do?

Also, digital content CAN age, can deteriorate, can become obsolete. Anyone have a PC game sitting on 5 1/2" floppy disks? Think you're going to play that again someday?

I'm not saying that I agree one way or another on whether this is good. Just suggesting a potential motivation.

misterfweem said...

No, I'm not reselling the paper, ink, and the glue. I am reselling the content if I resell a paper book. Because when I go to the thrift store or used book store, I am not buying a collection of glue, ink, and paper. I'm buying the content. I'm buying the book. I'm buying what the author wrote at a price point I can afford and in a manner that authors and publishers have no control over. Consequently, when I buy an ebook, I'm not buying a collection of zeroes and ones, I'm buying the content. To say otherwise is silly, no matter what the proper definition of publication rights might be.

Steve Fuller said...

I've always thought e-books should function like movies. Buy the book outright for $10-$20, or rent the book (for 21 days) for $3.99-ish. I get a lot of my e-books now through Overdrive, but I hate waiting. I would gladly pay 4 bucks to avoid the wait, but not thrilled about paying $15 for a book I'll read once and forget about.

Mira said...

Interesting question and comments.

I sort of feel like doing a 'wait and see' on this. For example, Amazon may never use the patent - as a commentor above said, they may just be tying up the rights.

If it does try re-sales, it may reimburse authors for them. There's no reason why it wouldn't, it gives the bulk of every sale to the indie author (and quite abit to the publisher) anyway. Amazon does not appear to be interested in bilking the author.

And/or - Amazon may decide to offer subscription for used book exchanges.

Or - It may ask authors to participate voluntarily, like Prime. Some authors might agree for the discoverability.

Or - Amazon may not even know what Amazon is going to do yet. :)

Should be interesting!

In different news, I'm halfway through the new Jacob book, Nathan. Wow, fast paced and fun. Loved the 'elephant in the room' - too clever, Nathan. :D

Anonymous said...

well I think consumers should be able to do so. There is a simple solution. Someone must develop an ebook format that is higly encrypted and can only be read by special software. Once one is done reading they have the right to sell their ebook with a unique serial number once. So basically every ebook will be tagged with a unique serial number.

myrgatroyd said...

As far as I know, no author has ever complained about the existence of used book stores, in fact, they often introduce readers to an author they have not previously read, and thereby increase his/her sales. People who buy a paper copy can lend it, sell it, copy it, or give it away. People who buy an e-book have no such rights, and the reading public will inevitably circumvent such restrictions

Lynn Guini said...

The dilemma that almost all commenters are missing the point on, is that with physical books, you can't give it to 10,000 people simultaneously. And, only 1 person can read it, at the same time... there is a "time & space" limit on people's exposure to that one copy of the book.

With digital, it can go onto a P2P ring and that single "used digital book" can be downloaded 100,000 times in 24 hours.

The difference is so fundamental that I am amazed there is even any supportive talk about this concept... it's a blatant violation of copyright law.

We clearly label our work as "not transferrable... may only be used by the original purchaser. No resale, distribution or republishing in whole or in part is allowed"

Unfortunately,the "hole" left out from Kindle appliances, is the link to the net. We used to use a reader that "checked" with our servers... was the only way to protect against theft.

Consumers put their greed before ethics continually, making idiotic comparisons between getting a book at the library and copying a digital work... there's no comparison.

It's just a feeble attempt to justify theft.

Once you have sat your butt down for the better part of a year, and eeked out a book, you will have nothing but contempt for those who hack and fradulently distribute illegal copies of books.

Now, the Publishing industry are the sole cause of this economic opportunity... inefficiency and greed create a pricing point that is ludicrous in today's world. We price at only a few dollars, usually around $5 for our works, plus load in a ton of really good succinct tools to support the book for those who buy... No reason not to shell out a measly $5... it's just replacing 1/2 of 1 trip to Starbucks...

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