From where I sit, you can’t actually “sell” an ebook


This comes up often and I grit my teeth every time.

You can’t have a discussion of any length about ebook sales and pricing and DRM in any sized group of digital publishing observers before you hear that it is somehow wrong or unfair that a “purchaser” can’t do everything with an ebook they’ve bought that they do with a print book they’ve bought.

That is: various “controls”, sometimes deliberate (DRM) and sometimes circumstantial (tech doesn’t always work smoothly) make it hard or impossible to lend, give, or re-sell an ebook in the same way that you do a printed book. Have enough of these conversations and you will become educated about “first sale” rights, which are enshrined in law, which basically say that when you buy something you own it and can lend, give, or re-sell it.

So the way the complaint often goes is that those damn publishers are putting this damn DRM on my ebooks so I can’t do all the things with them I can do with my print books.

This has always struck me as highly questionable on its face.

Full blog entry here.


Amazon moves its servers overseas, like to China.
So even is someone could argue for reselling an ebook based any some notion of ownership, sellers could claim that the book was delivered from an overseas source and exempt from the first sale doctrine.
Just accept the fact that you will never own anything ever again. Unless you manage to get a real copy into your hot little hands.

Because all the restrictions on "e-anything" came about because some slacker in his dorm room figured out what people wanted and gave them an elegant, efficient way to access it (the capitalistic, free market model) at a time when record companies were bloating prices for recordings on technology that was never any good (CDs) and artist were puking out junk due to contractual obligations (the crapitalistic model).

The legal argument is that unrestricted electronics can be shared to a far, far greater degree than a VCR tape or a printed book and cause definite financial harm ... to the record companies, who in turn take it out on the minions in their industries like grips and secretaries by cutting their wages when the economy takes a header.

So, the way to balance these interests is to stick DRM that damages your comput... oh wait, they fixed that ... protects the rights of the seller and if it works, the seller. If it doesn't work, you better hope you speak whatever language the offshored tech support line speaks.

But I'm not bitter.

I meant to say in the second paragraph "definite financial harm ... to the record and movie companies." Hence the grip reference.

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