As the way you find and consume eBooks continues to change–(seriously, it seems like every day there is something new about the
experience of just reading your stories)–the latest question making the
rounds is: “Is there such a thing as a ‘used’ eBook?”
Amazon and Apple have both filed patents for some type of service
that would allow a person to somehow sell off their eBooks when they’re done
with them. And then you have ReDigi, which created an online marketplace for
“pre-owned” music MP3s–and, apparently, is intent on doing the same for
But not so fast: A physical item has a shelf life. It is
perishable. It is a finite object. The more that it is used, the more that the object shows signs of wear and tear. Whatever your particular thoughts about the
morality of a whole business built on re-selling used physical books
(or CDs or clothing or whatever), at least those are limited to the number of
products that exist. You can only sell a used shirt one time.
(Well, yes, you can re-sell that shirt over and over. But
unless you’re running some kind of Producers-like Ponzi scheme, you can only
sell that shirt once each time that you sell it.)
Which brings us to digital products: They are unlimited.
They are infinite.
An author pours his or her heart and soul and blood and
sweat and tears and imagination into a work of art and, of course, they need to
be compensated for that or they can’t afford to keep doing it. If you buy a
copy of their book that is used, that’s one sale where they didn’t get any
But if a digital copy of an author’s book gets into that kind of
cycle, then the author is locked out of being compensated forever. Because it
only takes one, single digital book to make dozens of digital copies. Hundreds
of digital copies. Thousands of digital copies.
(That means “a lot.”)
And the courts agree. In cases held both in New York and in
Germany, judges called this process “copyright infringement.” Because, as one
judge put it, when a digital eBook is on one account and then it shows up on a
different person’s account, that item was not “transported” it was
What do you think about it? Were you hoping to start finding used eBooks at digital garage sales? Post your thoughts below!