Thursday, 21 February 2013

Reselling 'used' ebooks?

Nathan Bransford has a great rundown of the used ebook kerfuffle started by the filing and granting to Amazon of a patent that will:

"let customers sell their previously read eBooks, audiobooks, music and movies the same way that consumers can now sell print books, DVDs and CDs, ..." (source

(where I originally read about this)

Redigi is a site that's already trying for legal resale of digital music, with the assurance that the song is properly removed from the original owner's devices when sold.  It's not much of a stretch to extend this to ebooks.

I highly recommend Nathan's article, which goes over some of the pros/cons of such a service as well as links to some very interesting responses.  

In reading the comments on one of the pages he links to (John Scalzi's blog) I also came across this tidbit of info, that Valve is being sued in Germany because it won't allow the resale of video games.  I find this especially interesting given that the new XBox 720 has been designed to not allow gamers to use second hand games on their systems (and the assumption is the PlayStation 4 will have a similar lockdown when it comes out later this year).

So what do you think?  Should people have the right to actually own (rather than license) their digital content, including the right to first resale (as they do with physical products)?  What do you think that would do to the sales of new content (which won't be any different from the used version, just more expensive)?  How do you think this would affect authors (or other artists) since they make no money from resales of their works?  

I'm curious how well the software checking for backups of the files would do, since for this to work they'd have to ensure you're not making/keeping a copy and then selling your files.



Eric said...

There are a couple of interesting things here. First, I thought part of the Kindle user agreement was that you don't actually "own" the content you buy and that you are actually licensing the use of the content when you "purchase" an ebook from Amazon. This has popped up in news and blogs a few times before. Amazon can revoke your viewing rights of this content at any time, which we've seen cases of in the news as well. If they are going to open up a secondary market, does that mean this basic user agreement will change?

What will it do to publishers? Are they likely to raise prices on the initial purchase to make up for lost sales? Or will they back away from ebooks, or at least from making them available on Amazon? I think the main attraction of used books is being able to read more books on the same budget. I'd rather see the publishers lower prices allowing us to buy more books for the same budget than encourage Amazon to create a secondary market that, really, only benefits Amazon's bottom line.

I used to buy or trade almost exclusively in used books. Rarely would I buy fiction from a store, but now I buy ebooks almost exclusively.

Jessica Strider said...

You're right with regards to Amazon's user agreement, so yes, they'd have to change the terms of service if they allow for reselling books. I'm actually curious if this will go anywhere, after all, how, as the reselling entity, do you make sure your sellers aren't keeping copies? Or that they haven't made a hard copy (copied a ton of books to a CD which they could then reimport them from)?

I do imagine DRM will eventually disappear in favor of a personalized watermark, which might deal with the above issue, as each copy would have the owner's name on it - as would any copies, depending on how hard watermarks are to mess with.

I'll be keeping my eye on this issue.