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Morning Links — Used e-books are getting closer

Posted By Joanna Cabot On February 19, 2013 @ 9:25 am In Amazon,ebook,Morning Roundup | 3 Comments

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy [1]Project Gutenberg Adds Dropbox Support [2] (Lifehacker)

Sales of Used eBooks Getting Closer [3] (Publisher’s Weekly)

eBook Challenges in Japan [4] (Good e-Reader)

Amazon’s Digital Metamorphosis: eBooks Up 70% [5] (The Verge)

Kindle Daily Deals [6]The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (and 3 others)

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Morning Links — Used e-books are getting closer"

#1 Comment By Frank Lowney On February 19, 2013 @ 11:22 am

Interesting that ePub 3 is seen as a breakthrough for Japanese readers, How many of the hardware/software eReaders available today support ePub 3 to any degree at all and, of those, how many support the vertical text cited as so critical to this market?
You’d think that the IPDF would have such information in the form of a matrix on its web site but I wasn’t able to find anything like that, I’d be grateful to know that I simply missed it.

#2 Comment By Frank Lowney On February 19, 2013 @ 11:38 am

ReDigi, Amazon and others will at least instigate greater clarity in whether we own digital objects or not. Ownership implies the power to dispose of an object in a myriad of ways, including re-sale. Even a license, as per the Oracle decision, may be seen as a digital object that can be owned. Thus, it would seem that digital retailers saying so doesn’t necessarily make it so.

#3 Comment By Michael W. Perry On February 20, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

Perhaps the biggest problem those who talk of licenses instead of ownership face is that the price of many ebooks often isn’t that much less than their printed kin. If customers pay $12.95 to own a printed book they can resale, it’s hard to argue that the $9.99 they paid for the digital version is no more than a personal license.

In my case, I assume that what I am really selling is the content. That’s why my prices are typically set so I earn about the same for the digital version as for the printed one. My recent Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments is $14.95 in print and $4.95 for Kindles and iPads. In both cases, each sale earns me a little over $3. I don’t try to get greedy with my ebook pricing because I assume that I’ll sell more at that lower price and hence come out ahead. I also like giving customers choices.

But publishers who’re making 70% profit on a $9.99 ebook, which is roughly $7, and only perhaps $2 on the printed version, will have a difficult time convincing the public or anyone else that for that $7 markup they actually have the right to sell the public less than they do for a $2 markup. What they are doing is unfair.

The real distinction should not focus on ownership v. licensing. I should be on the fact that used print books really are used. My latest used purchase, A Stone of Hope, came with a lot of marker swipes in the first few chapters and I also had to pay shipping just like a new book and wait about a week and a half. An equivalent ebook isn’t used in any real sense and the wait time and shipping costs are nothing.

That matters. Do the math and you’ll find Amazon could make quite a bit of money recycling ebooks. They could pay owners 25% of the retail price, resell that ebook for 35% of retail and virtually all their 10% markup would be pure profit for them.

But at the same time, that low price means that, within weeks after an ebook hits the market, the author and publisher are having to compete with pristine copies of their book selling for about one-third of retail and earning them nothing. That’s why there’s alarm about this scheme among writers and publishers. Used print book sales is clumsy, slow, and inefficient. ‘Used’ ebook sales have none of those disadvantages. Ebooks are literally just like new. They look no different from new and they are as easy to purchase. They narrow enormously the window of time after which a new book has to compete with cheaper used copies.

In all this keep in mind that our copyright and patent laws are intended to serve the broader public interest. inventors and authors need to make enough to encourage them in labors that serve that public. Patent trolls, who never bring products to market to match their vague patent claims, violate the purpose of patent laws. They do nothing for the public.

In a similar fashion, the fact that the ebook version of a short novel could so easily be resold to a new reader at a heavy discount perhaps every two weeks, with the author earning nothing, violates the basic principle of copyright, rewarding authors for serving the public. In that frenzy of reselling, the public interest may be getting served in some clumsy and foolish sense, but the rewarding isn’t taking place. And without rewards, writers will write less and publishers will publish less.

Keep in mind something else I’m trying to stress, an issue called transaction costs. Reselling digital books is only legitimate when the seller/reseller has control over possession of the ebook in question. Amazon can only resell an ebook because it sold the original and can strip the original off our Kindles. And in a system with that sort of detailed tracking, it’s trivially easy for Amazon to also give authors and publishers a fair share of those resales.

That isn’t true for the sale of print books. In the case of print books, legal possession would be too difficult, expensive, and clumsy to track to make it worthwhile for any involved. How is UNC Press going to know that I just sold that used copy of A Stone of Hope to a friend? It’d cost them more to track a book’s ownership over the years than they’d ever earn from its sale.

In short, it is legitimate to treat digital books differently from their print kin because they are different. The flip side of being able to get ‘used’ ebooks that are pristine as new is that we should have to pay the author something for that important distinction between digital and print.

Article printed from TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics: http://www.teleread.com

URL to article: http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/morning-links-used-e-books-are-getting-closer/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/morning-links-used-e-books-are-getting-closer/attachment/200px-moviegoer/

[2] Project Gutenberg Adds Dropbox Support: http://lifehacker.com/5984823/project-guttenberg-adds-dropbox-support-perfect-for-syncing-to-all-your-devices

[3] Sales of Used eBooks Getting Closer: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/56004-sale-of-used-e-books-getting-closer.html

[4] eBook Challenges in Japan: http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/ebook-challenges-in-japan/

[5] Amazon’s Digital Metamorphosis: eBooks Up 70%: http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/29/3930158/amazon-digital-metamorphosis-ebooks-up-70-percent-video-print-books

[6] Kindle Daily Deals: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000677541

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