Monday, April 01, 2013

April Fool

Amazon. it appears, now has a patent to sell secondhand e-books.  Yes, I know, the concept of a 'used' e-book is hard to get your head round, but Amazon now has developed technology that will mean if you 'own' an e-book  you could resell it when you'd finished with it. ( I have put 'own' in inverted commas, since buying an e-book only means having a license to read it which Amazon could revoke if it chose - the recent case where it had a misunderstanding with an e-book user and revoked not only the book in question but her whole Kindle library proved that.)

The idea would be that as a reader you could agree to have your copy deleted and sold on to someone else. And this e-book, unlike the second-hand copy of a physical book, would be pristine, exactly the same as the 'new' one bought previously.   Within days of a book being launched, it would be possible to buy a precisely similar copy secondhand, able to be downloaded in exactly the same way.  How many readers are going to line up to pay extra for the official copy?  Marketplace has been bad enough in terms of lost sales; this would certainly be worse..

The upside for readers, and for Amazon, is very clear.  The upside for authors and publishers - not so much.  The argument would be that if physical books can be sold secondhand why not e-books?  There would be no royalty paid to publishers and hence to authors.

Ultimately, with revenues from every source diminishing, only the largest and best-financed publishing houses could survive, and it's hard not to suspect that  this is behind of Amazon's plan.  

Of course, there would be the usual protests about copyright but so far there has been little support of either authors or publishers in court when faced with the might of Amazon.  If they choose to put their patent into operation it will be another nail in the coffin of publishing as we have known it and the difficult task of earning a living as a writer for anyone who doesn't write international best-sellers will become impossible.

And since this is April 1st, this is where I should say, 'Ha, ha!  April Fool!'  Only it isn't.


LD Masterson said...

Amazon terrifies me. And not just as an author.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sometimes I find it very hard to wrap my brain around all the marketing ploys.