I remember when Amazon began promoting used paper and hardback book sales. That set many an author’s hair on fire because of the possible effect on royalties. Then e-books came, and the biggest fear was piracy and ‘file swapping.’
As a result, there are at least two Supreme Court cases currently examining consumer rights as they relate to copyrighted electronic material.
In a similar vein, the Washington Post reported last week that a new avenue for ‘digital sales’ may be just around the corner:
“Consumers may someday be able to buy and sell old e-books, apps and songs the same way campus bookstores sell used textbooks — at least if an Amazon patent ever comes to life. The patent, which Amazon filed in 2009 and won on Jan. 29, imagines a digital resale marketplace where users can trade “digital objects” like e-books, songs, videos and apps. According to the patent, these items would live in the user’s “personalized data store,” presumably in the cloud. Selling a song would copy it to another user’s data store and delete it from the original owner’s.”
However, the journalist seems to believe Amazon is a long way from actually doing anything with their patent:
The patent doesn’t mean such a marketplace is coming anytime soon — or at all — but it does show Amazon’s interest in wading into the contentious muck of digital resale rights.
Um, the technology is already here and Amazon is damn near doing it right now. They currently offer e-book ‘borrowing’ from their virtual “Lending Library” for Kindle owners who subscribe to Amazon Prime.
With your Amazon Prime membership, you can borrow [a] book for free from your Kindle device. With Prime, Kindle owners can choose from over 270,000 titles to borrow for free – including all seven Harry Potter books and more than 100 current and former New York Times best sellers. Borrow a book as frequently as once per month, with no due dates.
What’s more, Kindle owners can “lend” any e-books they’ve purchased to another Kindle owner. So the book disappears from your device, then magically appears on someone else’s. When the person is done with the e-book, they ‘return it‘ to your device. Given all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon introduced Used e-book sales for ‘in the cloud’ users this year.
The thing is, if an author self-publishes through Amazon digital sales, Amazon gets a cut and the author makes royalties. But if the e-book is “resold” on Amazon, the author will most likely get nothing, yet Amazon will still get a cut from the fees they charge the seller … just as they do with traditional book sales on their site. This could either drive the price of new e-books up or down.
If you take history into account, it’s probably going to be ‘down.’
WRITERS: What say you?