Reselling Ebooks

Reselling ebooks raises questions for authors

Over the past week, debate has intensified over the practice of reselling ebooks. Amazon and Apple both filed patents last week to make reselling ebooks a reality, and the collective reaction by readers and book-buyers across the Internet was ambivalent. Selling and buying used books has long been a practice in the publishing world, but ebooks provide a series of new issues that need to be resolved before the practice can become widespread.

Reselling Ebook: Rights vs. Content

When you would buy a physical version of a book, you would buy the rights to owning one copy of that book. It could be resold to whoever you chose, at whatever price, but at least there was only one copy of it. Ebooks are a little more complicated with their ability to be copied and the multiple Digital Rights Management choices out there for authors. Every author’s worst nightmare is seeing their book go out there, become a hit, and everyone reading a pirated copy. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case so far for ebook readers. A lot of readers enjoy buying their books, which is good. But at what price do they want to pay for it?

If the book resells for a dime, wouldn’t it cut into the profit margins of the author, especially if it is being resold right next to the original full-priced ebook? Mark-downs are common for used copies of physical books, but that’s because they physically degrade. A “used” ebook would look just like the original one.

David Pogue over at The Times tries to sort through this complication—physical degradation of a book is necessary for its discount.  He goes through the patents filed by Amazon and Apple and doesn’t quite find a solution, but believes that publishers and writers will find a common ground that allows for used ebooks to help writers make a living, while also making their work more available and affordable.

What do you think about the possibility of used ebooks? As writers, do you want there to be a secondhand marketplace?

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Max R

- Archived Author -
Max R writes for the Lulu Blog

3 thoughts on “Reselling ebooks raises questions for authors”

  1. Hello;
    When someone buys an e-book receives an invoice.
    So when that person sells the book will pass some of the invoice information, like the name of the seller, the invoice number, and date of purchase to the new seller. That information can be added to a shared database, so that each ebook has its own reference number (unique) and can be used to control if the ebook is original or if it is a copy. You can only buy once, and you can only sell once, for each book. If you buy 10 e-books you can only sell ten e-books.
    The invoice identifies the current buyer.
    Do you think it is a good idea?

  2. There’s no such thing as a “used” ebook. The book is always “as new”. Therefore, in all honesty, there cannot be a market for “used” ebooks. In my view, ebooks should be configured in some way such that they cannot be copied and “resold”. They are already extremely cheap compared with printed editions.

  3. When I self published my book, I made the error of allowing people to download it. Those people shared the book which was widely read. However, I only ever got paid for about 50 copies. I know that thousands of people read my book, but I only saw commmission on 50 books. I really needed the money too, and these were people who could well afford to pay for the books. For that reason I am very anti e-books, and also for the reason that nothing beats holding a book.

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