Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music

The paperback of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is exactly like the digital version except for this: If you hate the paperback, you can give it away or resell it. If you hate the e-book, you’re stuck with it.

The retailer’s button might say “buy now,” but you are in effect only renting an e-book — or an iTunes song — and your rights are severely limited. That has been the bedrock distinction between physical and electronic works since digital goods became widely available a decade ago.

That distinction is now under attack, both in the courts and the marketplace, and it could shake up the already beleaguered book and music industries. Amazon and Apple, the two biggest forces in electronic goods, are once again at the center of the turmoil.

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