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On the Daggle blog, Danny Sullivan asks the question, “Why do Amazon & Apple hate families?” He points out that a number of the products services the companies offer are not exactly family-friendly—not in terms of inappropriate content, but because they make it harder for families to share devices.

For example, lots of children like to play games on their parents’ iPhones or iPads—but since those children can’t have iTunes accounts of their own (due to child-protection laws that place limits on what information Internet sites can collect from children under the age of 13), that leads to their games cluttering up their parents’ accounts. And even when older children get their own accounts, those games they bought earlier remain stuck to their parents’ accounts.

And as for Amazon, the combination of e-book DRM and separate accounts means that most books can’t be lent between family members without passing over the device.

Sure, some Amazon books can be lent to others. But so far, only one of the nine Kindle books I currently own have this option. As for the one that I can lend, I can do that once. After that, no more lending, to my understanding.

Lending is entirely up to the publishers, and the publishers, despite charging real book prices, aren’t providing real book benefits, such as the ability to send the book to whomever you want, much less resell the book.

Of course, a family could share an account for communal reading—but that could mean that the kids would have access to adult books.

Sullivan also points out that, though computers allow the same machine to be used by different people with different accounts, tablets and e-readers don’t. There’s no way to secure specific apps on an iPad against children, and there’s no way to share a family-owned Kindle among several Amazon accounts without deregistering it from one account to register it to another.

He concludes:

The ideal solution is that if you buy an app or an ebook, you also buy the right to permanently transfer that purchase to someone else. That’s how things work in the real world; in the digital world, where the physical costs are less, why shouldn’t the same rights apply?

At the very least, I wish Apple and Amazon would think more about the concept of family accounts, so that a purchase could be delivered or registered to one of several designated “family” devices, especially for when you’re dealing with younger children.

I find it a bit unlikely that digital transfer rights will ever happen. Among other things, it would enable a “used” goods market for digital media, and publishers already despise the one that exists for physical media. One of the “benefits” of e-books, from their point of view, is that there’s no way to resell them.

Of course, one of the commenters to the article comes up with the best solution available at the moment: “As soon as I buy a book from Amazon I strip the DRM from it. That solves all the lending problems!”

 
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