Would used e-books work, redux
January 10, 2012 | 12:15 pm
Since the ReDigi lawsuit surfaced a few days ago, some of the e-book blogs have been taking notice. EbookNewser simply asks “Could selling used e-books work?” (The answer is, probably about as well as ReDigi’s idea of selling used e-music. In the unlikely event courts bless it, then yes, we might very well see a used e-splosion. Wouldn’t hold my breath, though.)
TeleRead has already looked at these issues a couple of times, with a reprint of a post on first sale by Marilynn Byerly and my own look at digital resale efforts that didn’t get off the ground. Fundamentally, digital and resale currently just don’t mix.
Even if copyright laws permitted the copying necessary for such a resale (which they currently do not), it’s unrealistic to expect people not to try to have their e-cake and eat it too. Just as you can’t make uncrackable media DRM, you can’t really ensure someone is being honest about getting rid of all copies of media he has “resold”. (At least not without stacking restrictions on his computer until it is no longer a general-purpose device.)
Consumers should probably just come to accept that buying digital gives up one of the privileges associated with buying physical, and publishers should price e-books lower to make up for the lost opportunity for regaining revenue from a used resale. That won’t satisfy the people who go around waving the “Information wants to be free” flag, but it’s doubtful that anything realistic ever will.
On the Bookseller’s FutureBook, Martyn Daniels looks at ReDigi and a similar case against music streaming service Grooveshark as well. Grooveshark doesn’t sell used music, but allows customers to upload songs from their own collections and stream them to other people. Daniels has a bit of a different take on the matter, suggesting that having different kinds of resale rights for different levels of media will lead to consumer confusion and corner-cutting, and more disrespect of copyright.
Publisher [sic] be they music, games, ebooks all have to realise that the right to resell is a given and finding a way to allow that is a must. We already have digital rental and loans and restricting or denying resell is just plain lunacy. The resell markets could in fact blooster [sic] the price of the original sale and start to create value added ownership. It could even offer the independent bookstore a digital lifeline. The ebooks and publishing market is a very fragmented and getting consensus of vision let alone action is often a challenge in itself.
As I’ve said before, I just don’t see publishers being willing to open that particular can of worms. Fortunately for them, absent a change in copyright laws (or some really unexpected legal outcomes) they probably will not have to.