Used EbooksWhat? Used ebooks?

When I first read this article about Amazon and Apple’s recent patent applications to enable the re-sale of used ebooks (and digital music), I was naturally quite perturbed. But after a little reflection, it is actually quite a logical step in the process of transforming publishing into electronic publishing.

When you think about it, the concept is only an electronic extension from street front second hand bookstores that have been an integral part of the book market ever since books were first printed. The only difference being that instead of a kindly second hand book store owner making a living from used books, it will be two mega-giant corporations that will rake in the profit.

It is easy to be somewhat bitter about this and saddened that yet another little store on your high street will perhaps be closing soon, but the reality is that change happens in all industries. Few tears were shed when local video rental stores disappeared and there was little sympathy for door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen being thrown into unemployment. Change is constant, and for those of us involved in publishing, the only constant will be change.

From Caxton and Gutenberg’s time until just a few years ago, little really changed in publishing, so the rapidly evolving landscape of the last few years has been a real culture shock. In such times the natural reaction is to want the world to stop and for everything to go back to how it was. The comfort of the past. However, the past never returns and the only way forward for publishing now is accepting change, adapting to it and understanding that the Internet, social networking, electronic distribution, lower prices and even more change are the new realities.

Used ebooks will be a reality soon. So accept it as just one more change along the way.

Used Ebooks – A Logical Progression
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6 thoughts on “Used Ebooks – A Logical Progression

  • 12/03/2013 at 12:40 pm

    I believe there has distinction made because there is a world of difference in scale, as you note in comparing a mega-corporation and a second hand book store owner selling these items. An ebook doesn’t support a status of ‘used.’ With a real book in a condition of ‘used’ or remaindered, there is an assumption of market limitation or physical degradation of the item, and also limits to physical availability or reach, with ebooks these types of status do not exist.

  • 12/03/2013 at 9:23 pm

    Tom has a valid point here. The pages in an electronic file do not get defaced in the same way as their physical cousins. How many second hand books have you come across where the cover is tatty and the pages have had their corners folded over, rather than use a book mark?

    Just a thought Derek … :)

  • 14/03/2013 at 9:17 pm

    Tom had me convinced for a moment, but there is an analogue for used eBooks.
    I can go to the local game shop and pick up a copy of Call Of Duty for half the original price and get the same gaming experience as the guy who first bought it.

    It’s not a perfect analogy – the disc might be scratched up a bit and folks who show up later in the game’s life cycle will have far more trash talking twelve year olds to deal with, but digital property is being resold already.

    I haven’t put an abundance of thought into this yet, but I kind of like the idea of the purchaser being able to re-sell the book. It reinforces the idea that they own a single copy, rather than renting a digital license to read it.

    Re-selling seems like good word-of-mouth advertising. Nobody will buy a book from you if you gave it a one star review.

    Speaking of word of mouth – thanks for the tweet, Derek!

  • 14/03/2013 at 9:37 pm

    Andrew, let me know just how you would go about ‘picking up’ a ‘used’ ebook ay the local 2nd hand shop!

    Anyway, I think my comparison still holds – a huge corporation selling the item in a way that it directly competes on the same screen as the non-used ebook vs a small business selling a one-off physical disc or cartridge in a physical location.

    • 14/03/2013 at 10:36 pm

      Is Amazon the one selling the eBook, or are they facillitating the sale on behalf of one of your readers (and pocketing a percentage)?

      • 15/03/2013 at 4:21 pm

        The article describes it as “a system for allowing users to sell or give e-books, music, movies and software to each other by transferring files rather than reproducing them”

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