One thing we’ve heard through the last few years is that one drawback with ebooks is their lack of sharing capabilities. Yes, if you purchase a book, often you can share the book among devices. But unlike actual paper books, you can’t bring it into your library once you finish and donate it. So, even though the ebooks cost just as much as the hardcopy versions, you’re pretty much “stuck” with it, and no way to re-sell or donate.
Recently, however, Amazon and Apple have both applied for patents to re-sell ebooks. This has caused a great swell of backlash from a lot of different people, the same way it did when Amazon began selling used books, often at prices as low as a penny. Yes, it’s great for the consumer, but not so great for the authors, who see their work devalued. Plus, the biggest fear concerns digital rights. Who owns the book when it can be shared with anyone? Amazon and Apple have prepared for this problem–only one person can ever have that particular copy of the book at one time. So, if you purchase a book and then sell it to someone else, the book is no longer yours. I guess each book will have a special DRM (digital rights management) code built into it, making it unique.
Authors still will only be paid for the first copy of each book, even though there could be potential for more revenues with re-sale. But in the printed world, an author is paid when someone buys the book from a store, for example, but wouldn’t be paid again if that person sold their copy to a used bookseller, for example.
The question becomes, why would someone pay for a NEW copy at full price, when a used copy at a greatly reduced price might become instantly available? (This is the same question for hard copies of books, really, but these books eventually become too worn for re-sale.) Digital copies remain pristine. It won’t matter if you’re the first person to read it, or the millionth…the copy will look exactly the same on your device. With hard copies, the book’s condition will eventually match the sale price, but with ebooks, it never will. And that’s a BIG problem.
Turns out that Apple and Amazon have thought of this. Their patents might limit the bottom price, depending on the date the original ebook was released. So, if an eBook sells for $10 one day, people re-selling will have to wait six months, for example, before they can sell it for half that price, and even longer to go down to the penny sale. They may also limit the number of times a book can be resold, essentially mimicking the way a hard copy might be resold.
This is just in the early stages, and there will probably be a great deal of change before eBooks are able to be resold. The complications are vast and must be settled with all parties involved–authors, publishers and booksellers.
Would YOU buy a used ebook?