News on Reselling Ebooks 2019

Ebooks… they appeared rather recently but nowadays they play an important role in our life by giving us a cheaper, space-saving and weight-free option to enjoy their contents. When you purchase your eBook, you read it on your device and you finish it, your eBook stays unused since after. So what can you do about it? The first idea is to try to sell it to someone else. When you buy an eBook it means that you are purchasing the licence to this eBook but not the actual book. The copyright law on licensing can be very misleading: some terms can be very strict whereas other terms can be up to the licence creator.

If you buy a printed book in a store or online, you have no problem to resell it online, at an auction, to a friend of yours or to your neighbour or you can even donate it to a library. This is because you bought the right to this particular copy of the book and you have become the full-time owner of it. In case of eBooks, it is the publisher who controls your purchase when you have bought a licensed eBook. According to eBook licensing, the reader does not have the right to resell an eBook. The publisher has even the ability to remove the book from your device.

News from Amazon

This eBook tradition has been questioned now thanks to Amazon which was awarded a patent for the “electronic marketplace for used digital objects”. It is the most innovative company in the world and they did not disappoint us this time either. Once the used software market became legalized, Amazon seized the opportunity immediately with Apple filing for the similar patent straight afterwards (Itunes). The idea of this new arrangement is to allow readers to resell an eBook for a credit to their account or for money. According to the patent, it is now up to publishers and authors to decide if they allow an eBook to be resold. Moreover, it is possible to lend an eBook from one Kindle user to another. In case the borrower has made a decision to purchase this eBook, the part of the profit will be shared with the original owner of the eBook.

Is it Realistic?

The major difficulty with eBooks resale comes in with the removal of eBooks from personal devices. Once the act of resale of the digital content has happened, it means that the licence has been passed from the original owner to the new one. In this case how can a company make sure that the eBook has been truly removed from someone’s possession? EBooks can be copied to external hard drives so that the company might need to scan the entirety of the device to make sure that there are no other copies of eBooks there. This can make original owners concerned about their personal security. Therefore, it is a very costly procedure for any company to do so.

This event is a landmark in the books industry which can forever change the whole publishing industry. The most interesting thing is that Amazon has kept it rather low-profile and did not want to expose publicly this new service too much. The reason for this might be that copyright law concerning digital products is very ambiguous which does not simplify things neither for publishers nor for owners of eBooks. At the moment there is no clear distinction between purchasing and licencing where digital copyright plays the role of a new frontier. So there will be a need for a stricter regulation which will define such a difference; it might take some time for the disputes to appear in order to elaborate on the digital copyright law.

Economic factors

There is also another issue stemming from the economic factors: in the traditional used book market, the price of a book decreases since the condition of a book has degraded as well. With eBooks, the condition of the digital book stays exactly the same as when the first user purchased it before. These digital books are always in good condition. So why would someone buy a new eBook if there is exactly the same second hand digital version available at half price? This would lead to reduced prices for new eBooks in order to compete with the “used” eBook versions; in the end this will cause eBook prices dropping to a few cents. This is good for readers but is absolutely terrible for authors and publishers. They will not agree with such a situation and will pull out their digital works from the whole eBook market leaving it empty and non-existent.

Digital copyright

Therefore, in order to see how the situation will evolve in the future, we need to leave some time for it. It will take a couple of years for the potential disputes to arise. In the adjacent business for reselling music there are already disputes over digital copyright. In fact, the online marketplace ReDigi, specialised in reselling lawfully purchased digital copies of goods such as songs, was ordered to cease its resale service by the court because such major companies as Virgin Records saw its business endangered.  It is obvious that resale of digital content and products has a lot of unexplored potential but it will require the creation of a new clear digital copyright eco-system as well as the coordination between producers and consumers in order to establish a healthy market for resellable e-content.

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